In his call for artists to “make it new,” Ezra Pound voiced the imperative that seemingly all art in the modern era is subject to, particularly modernist art. Artworks are accordingly understood and judged in light of expectations of newness, expectations containing unexamined metaphysical assumptions and other received ideas about what art is or should be. Such assumptions are the critical focus of Audrey Wasser’s recent book The Work of Difference: Modernism, Romanticism, and the Production of Literary Form. Starting from this question of newness, Wasser investigates the ontological status of literature while “aiming to disrupt the metaphysical assumptions of romanticism—namely, the assumptions of what counts as the unity and integrity of any object, and how causation as such is determined” (6). Eschewing the post-Kantian romantic paradigm that dominates ontological criticism, she develops a theory of literary production informed by Gilbert Simondon, Pierre...

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