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Inventing Futurism:
The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism
Christine Poggi

Co-Winner of the 2010 Howard R. Marraro Prize, Modern Language Association

Hardcover | 2008 | $55.00 / £37.95 | ISBN: 9780691133706
400 pp. | 7 x 10 | 24 color illus. 131 halftones. | SHOPPING CART

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In 1909 the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published the founding manifesto of Italian Futurism, an inflammatory celebration of "the love of danger" and "the beauty of speed" that provoked readers to take aggressive action and "glorify war--the world's only hygiene." Marinetti's words unleashed an influential artistic and political movement that has since been neglected owing to its exaltation of violence and nationalism, its overt manipulation of mass media channels, and its associations with Fascism. Inventing Futurism is a major reassessment of Futurism that reintegrates it into the history of twentieth-century avant-garde artistic movements.

Countering the standard view of Futurism as naïvely bellicose, Christine Poggi argues that Futurist artists and writers were far more ambivalent in their responses to the shocks of industrial modernity than Marinetti's incendiary pronouncements would suggest. She closely examines Futurist literature, art, and politics within the broader context of Italian social history, revealing a surprisingly powerful undercurrent of anxiety among the Futurists--toward the accelerated rhythms of urban life, the rising influence of the masses, changing gender roles, and the destructiveness of war. Poggi traces the movement from its explosive beginnings through its transformations under Fascism to offer completely new insights into familiar Futurist themes, such as the thrill and trauma of velocity, the psychology of urban crowds, and the fantasy of flesh fused with metal, among others.

Lavishly illustrated and unparalleled in scope, Inventing Futurism demonstrates that beneath Futurism's belligerent avant-garde posturing lay complex and contradictory attitudes toward an always-deferred utopian future.

Review:

"In Inventing Futurism, art historian Christine Poggi describes how the Futurist movement's raw passion for technology was moulded by the atmosphere of political foreboding of the times. . . . The visions and concerns of the Futurists, Poggi tells us in this . . . always illuminating study, emerged out of the uncertainty and confusion produced by modernity."--Ziauddin Sardar, Nature

"[T]he book's important contribution to the field [is] most notably its close readings of particular works. The prodigious application of primary documents (many of them previously unpublished or unaddressed in any detail) to illuminate specific images and objects, is sustained throughout with impressive pertinence. . . . Poggi's account is a new way of considering works that have become, in spite of their author's most earnest intentions, old. . . . Inventing Futurism makes an intelligent case for taking seriously that optimistic alchemy, one that consistently wrought the vacillations of ambivalence into an aesthetics of decision."--Ara H. Merjian, European Legacy

"Poggi's analyses of some of Boccioni's and Balla's works . . . have been developed here to a level of great sophistication and can be thoroughly recommended. I also found some of her observations on works by the lesser-known Fillìa quite pertinent."--Gunter Berghaus, Modern Language Review

Endorsement:

"Christine Poggi's Inventing Futurism cuts a sharp cross-disciplinary swath through the founding avant-garde of the twentieth century. With meticulous scholarship, interpretive depth, and attention to nuance, it brilliantly upends the once-standard clichés regarding a Futurism reducible to the acritical worship of modernity."--Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Stanford University

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii
CHAPTER ONE: Futurist Velocities 1
CHAPTER TWO: Folla/Follia: Futurism and the Crowd 35
CHAPTER THREE: Umberto Boccioni's The City Rises: Picturing the Futurist Metropolis 65
CHAPTER FOUR: Photogenic Abstraction: Giacomo Balla's Iridescent Interpenetrations 109
CHAPTER FIVE: Dreams of Metallized Flesh: Futurism and the Masculine Body 150
CHAPTER SIX: Futurist Love, Luxury, and Lust 181
CHAPTER SEVEN: Return of the Repressed: Vicissitudes of the Futurist Machine Aesthetic under Fascism 232
CHAPTER EIGHT: Epilogue 266
Notes 273
Works Cited 349
Index 361
Photography Credits 375

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    File created: 11/10/2014

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