That’s right, class! It was March 2010.
Poetry and criticism were moribund in the modern era.
The New Critics, springing from T.S. Eliot’s Sacred Wood and the ravings of Eliot’s “master,” Ezra Pound, were nothing but a erudite smokescreen for a modernist clique who invaded the academy in the 1930s and 40s, led by Professors Tate, Crane, Ransom, and Engle.
The internet, however, made Virginia Woolf’s printing press, Ransom’s Kenyon Review, and little magazines like Poetry seem tame by comparison.
Now the whole world could experience new art and ideas overnight.
All it took was one website, Scarriet, to change everything.
Even into the 21st century, American culture was hopelessly stuck in the past of 1830s Paris. The glamor and “danger” of Bohemia had been recycled one too many times. 21st century America was like first century Rome, remember? When sculpture realistically depicted old, bald men?
The ideal had been replaced by the fetish. The genius had been replaced by the crank.
Starting in the middle of the 20th century, the films of Walt Disney featured hip jazz cats overturning middle class values. The ‘avant garde’ has long been a harmless cartoon. Now the “Disney Channel” shapes the lives of ADD drugged adolescents.
Long before the end of the 20th century, once-threatening rock music (by some accounts an LSD experiment by U.S. military intelligence) entertained the elderly as they shopped in brightly lit supermarkets.
The so-called avant garde has not advanced since New York in the 1890s. All that was outrageous and avant has been assimilated, marketed, and been in repeat for decades.
Culture has been backed into a corner.
Retro late-capitalist kitsch posters screaming “Freedom” are yellowing inside the prison cells of High Culture.
The same “avant” ideas are recycled over and over.
The latest hurrah in po-biz (Flarf, Conceptualism, Language Poetry) in 2010 is the “Found Poem” from 50 years ago and Duchamp’s ‘ready-mades’ from even earlier. Yet the avant garde keeps pretending it is “new” and “dangerous.” They naively believe they are an alternative to the “Quietists” and they will save society from “Official Verse Culture,” which, by Charles Bernstein’s own admission is T.S. Eliot—which is what Charles Bernstein in fact is: T.S. Eliot.
The spectacular Woodstock Concert and the moon landing happend in 1969.
The only new thing in 2010: now you can read about these remarkable events on a computer.
It was as if the larger life of mankind had ended in the mid-20th century, and the only major advance in all that time was the P.C.
In the humanities departments of universites, academia has long abandonded its enlightenment role and become a for-profit babysitter, selling psycho-babble degrees for an increasingly psycho-babble society.
Outmoded heroes of modernism adorn the minds of the intellectual curators of the age like celebrity photos of TV stars in teen bedrooms. Modernism has gone completely unexamined and uncritiqued. But it’s everywhere in academe, as history is increasingly forgotten.
Mid 20th century until now: Modernism is vaguely ‘avant garde’ and ‘radical,’ appealing to a certain conflicted type: the Modernist clique consists of European dead white males, like Mallarme, who can perplex the middle class—thus the Modernists are considered radical and conservative at the same time, a kind of magical formula for academics like Tate and Engle who were then taking over the English Departments and turning them into corporate supermarkets.
The radical, for decades, has been merely artsy-farsty.
A sweeping critique, a new examination of recent history, is needed. But when?
Poetry is practically invisible outside the po-biz ghetto.