This article evaluates the methods and ideological positions that define the critical movement known as the New Modernist Studies (NMS). It treats the NMS as characteristic of recent attempts to politicize aesthetics within the corporate university. The piece argues that the NMS has consolidated its brand by strategically making anachronistic and shopworn claims for the relevance of modernist aesthetics for postmodern politics. The methodological hallmarks of the movement include the liberalization of previously radical political thought, the reduction of past theoretical interventions into portable dualisms and reified fixed principles, and the substitution of homological equivalences between aesthetics and politics in the place of mediating, dialectical, and/or constellating thought. While the NMS's self-branding impulse has generated popular, ready-to-apply models for new scholars in the humanities, it has also ironically brought many of its arguments closer in form to the positions of the neoliberal and neoconservative orthodoxies it positions itself against. In particular, its tendency to reduce politics to clashes between oppressive state powers and individuals seeking personal freedom limits its ability to push beyond the commonsense framework of the status quo.
Max Brzezinski; The New Modernist Studies: What's Left of Political Formalism?. the minnesota review 1 May 2011; 2011 (76): 109–125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-1222083
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