The Modernist Cult of Ugliness: Aesthetic and Gender Politics

Palgrave (2002)
"Cult of ugliness," Ezra Pound’s phrase, powerfully summarizes the ways in which modernists such as Pound, T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, and T. E. Hulme—the self-styled "Men of 1914"—responded to the "horrid or sordid or disgusting" conditions of modernity by radically changing aesthetic theory and literary practice. Only the representation of "ugliness," they protested, would produce the new, truly "beautiful" work of art. They dissociated the beautiful from its traditional embodiment in female beauty, and from its association with Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde. Their cultivation of ugliness displaced misogyny and homophobia. Higgins takes in texts such as John Ruskin’s art criticism, Eliot’s literary journalism, Lewis’s pro-fascism pamphlets, and the poetry of Pound, Conrad Aiken, and Langston Hughes. She demonstrates that even vigorous champions of beauty were committed to aesthetic practices that disempowered female figures in order to articulate new truths of male artistic mastery.
Keywords Ugliness  Aesthetics
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Call number BH301.U5.H54 2002
ISBN(s) 0312240376   9780312240370
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