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Scrap Modernism: Appropriation, Assemblage, and the Politics of Representation in Depression-Era America

Gilger, Kristin
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Gilger, Kristin
Wicke, Jennifer
Felski, Rita
Olwell, Victoria
"Scrap Modernism: Appropriation, Assemblage, and the Politics of Representation in Depression-era America" demonstrates how the repurposing of found materials provided an aesthetic means of responding to the catastrophic social and economic effects of the Great Depression. Exploring what I call the “scrap aesthetic,” this project analyzes major texts by such writers as John Dos Passos, Mina Loy, Zora Neale Hurston, and Muriel Rukeyser alongside cultural materials and artifacts that include handmade scrapbooks, African American folklore, movie theater newsreels, and visual art. I draw upon this unique combination of material and archival sources to show how experimental scrap practices make visible the presence of marginalized ethnicities, anticapitalist movements, and the homeless poor, thereby radically remaking America as a conceptual homespace. My project ultimately reinterprets modernism by uncovering the crucial correspondences between the aesthetic economies of appropriation and assemblage and the actual economic conditions of the Depression and argues that scrapping signifies modernism’s sustained engagement with mass culture, partisan politics, the formation of national memory, and movements for a more just economic order.
University of Virginia, Department of English, PHD (Doctor of Philosophy), 2014
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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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