The Ego in the Crowd. Competing Realities in the Avant-Garde Manifesto

Bradshaw, Wayne (2018) The Ego in the Crowd. Competing Realities in the Avant-Garde Manifesto. In: European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies. p. 130. From: EAM 2018: Realisms of the Avant-Garde, 5 - 7 September 2018, Münster, Germany.

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Abstract

The manifesto was an essential part of the poetics and politics of the artistic and literary avant-gardes of Europe in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Symbolism, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism and Vorticism were among the many artistic movements caught up in the period of intense manifesto writing between 1909 and 1919 that Mary Ann Caws describes as the “manifesto moment”. These polemics played a similar role in the development of the revolutionary political movements that gripped the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From the Communist Manifesto, through the manifestos of successive waves of anarchist and nationalist terrorism, to the Manifesto of the Italian Fasci of Combat and National Socialist Programme, demagogues and revolutionists have seemed dedicated to clothing their ideologies in the rhetorical style of the manifesto. The appeal of the manifesto to both revolutionaries and revolutionary artists may account for the radical proclivities of many avant-gardists but does not explain why this genre could equally appeal to charismatic authoritarian leaders on one hand and popular mass movements on the other. This paper suggests that there are two competing realities implicit in the manifesto as used by writers, artists and revolutionaries in the early twentieth century. An egoistic reality belonging to the manifesto writer jostles for supremacy with the collective identity invoked by the manifesto. The manifesto – whether artistic or political, Communist or fascist – simultaneously gives voice to both the authorial ego and the crowd it addresses and proposes to speak for. This paper suggests that Tristan Tzara, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Wyndham Lewis – like their contemporary political demagogues – attempted to use the manifesto to exert their own will over a crowd that they addressed, but by doing so generated a collective identity that stood in direct opposition to their individual authorial will.

Item ID: 79129
Item Type: Conference Item (Abstract / Summary)
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2023 00:15
FoR Codes: 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470525 Other European literature @ 100%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1302 Communication > 130203 Literature @ 100%
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