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  1. Compare the fractured shapes and distorted perspectives of Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (NAEL plate C-17) with an anglo-modernist text, such as T. S. Eliot’s Waste Land (NAEL 8, 2.2295) or James Joyce’s Ulysses (NAEL 8, 2.2200-39). What does modernist writing have in common with the visual arts of the time?
  2. Compare the formal experimentation undertaken in Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) with that pursued by Picasso or Eliot. In his review of Stravinsky’s piece, Eliot calls Stravinsky “the greatest success since Picasso” and describes Le Sacre as fusing the modern and the prehistoric: it “seems to transform” primitive rhythms “into the scream of the motor horn, the rattle of machinery, the grind of wheels, the beating of iron and steel, the roar of the underground railway, and the other barbaric cries of modern life; and to transform these despairing noises into music.” Is this strategy similar to or different from the ones pursued by Picasso and Eliot in The Waste Land and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon?
  3. The Blast manifesto instances some of the contradictory impulses of modernism: it is populist yet elitist, collective yet individualist, nationalist yet anti-nationalist, authoritarian yet progressive. Explore these and other tensions in the manifesto.
  4. Compare the fin-de-siècle advertisements available in the Web Resources section with the visual style of Blast. How does a concern with self-promotion influence both the rhetoric and the style of this manifesto? Why would such self-promotion be important to a movement like vorticism?
  5. Much of Blast enumerates various things, people, and ideas that the vorticists bless and blast. Compose your own version of Blast: What would you bless, and what would you blast? What do you learn from this experiment in updating the Blast manifesto?
  6. Futurism influenced the vorticists, but the vorticists also declared their difference. Compare the vorticists’ stated aesthetic principles, particularly in Blast, with F. T. Marinetti’s futurist manifesto. Compare also the work of vorticist artists, such as Wyndham Lewis, Edward Wadsworth, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, with that of the continental futurists, such as Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, and Gino Severini. What are the differences and similarities between the two movements? Why do you think the vorticists were so eager to distinguish themselves from the futurists?
  7. One way in which the vorticists tried to distinguish themselves from the futurists was by criticizing the futurists’ rejection of the past; yet modernist declarations such as Blast often called for as radical a break with the past as did F. T. Marinetti’s futurist manifesto.  Modernist works such as James Joyce’s Ulysses and T. S. Eliot’s Waste Land have extraordinarily complex relationships to the European literary tradition. In what ways do writers like Joyce and Eliot break with traditional literature? In what ways do they make use of or pay homage to it?
  8. In his “Vortex. Gaudier-Brzeska,” how does Gaudier-Brzeska attempt to reconcile vorticist principles initially meant to shake up complacency during a time of peace to the very different situation of warfare? How does he use vorticist aesthetics to explain the violence of war, as well as his own reactions to the objects around him?
  9. Modernist poetry drew inspiration from contemporaneous movements in the visual arts such as cubism and futurism. The creative use of typography, as well as the emphasis on the image, accentuated the visual element of poetry. At the same time, Ezra Pound’s “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste” (NAEL 8, 2.2003) emphasizes the musical qualities of free verse and famously calls for composition “in the sequence of a musical phrase, not in the sequence of a metronome.” Such analogies both to painting and to music proliferate in modernist theories and descriptions of poetry. How do imagist poets such as T. E. Hulme, Pound, and H. D. reconcile these competing demands—the demand for the painterly image, on the one hand, and for the musical cadence, on the other? Does an imagist poem, such as Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” (NAEL 8, 2.2008) or H. D.’s “Oread” (NAEL 8, 2.2008), appeal more to the ear or to the eye?
  10. Mina Loy’s poem “Brancusi’s Golden Bird” offers a striking example of the interrelations between avant-garde visual art and modernist literature. Compare Loy’s poem with Brancusi’s bird sculpture. How does she approximate the abstraction and other qualities of Brancusi’s work in her poem? Are there notable differences as well between these visual and poetic works of art?
  11. Despite the importance of women such as H. D., Amy Lowell, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein to modernist literature, women writers in English produced few manifestos of the kind that drove movements like futurism and vorticism. In fact, these avant-garde manifestos were sometimes misogynistic; F. T. Marinetti’s futurist manifesto directly scorns feminism. How does Mina Loy attempt to adapt a futurist-style rhetoric to a pro-feminist program for social change in her “Feminist Manifesto” (in NAEL 8, 2.2015)? How do her social goals connect with and break from those outlined by Marinetti? How does her manifesto differ from the Blast manifesto?

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