In and Out of Sight: Modernist Writing and the Photographic Unseen
In a post-digital media landscape tracked endlessly by streams and feeds of images, it is clearer than ever that photography is an art poised between arresting singularity and ambiguous plurality. Drawing on work in visual culture studies that emphasizes the interplay between still and moving images, In and Out of Sight provides a provocative new account of the relationship between photography and modernist literature--a literature which has long been considered to trace, in its formal experimentation, the influence of modern visual technologies.
Making pioneering claims about the importance of photography to the writing of Gertrude Stein, Jean Toomer, John Dos Passos, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alix Beeston traverses the history of photography in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From the composite experiments of Francis Galton to the epic portrait project of August Sander; from the surrealist self-fashioning of Claude Cahun to the reappropriation of lynching photographs by black activist groups; from the collectable postcards of Broadway stars to the glamour shots of Hollywood celebrities-these and other serialized photographic projects provide essential contexts for understanding the fragmentary, composite forms of literary modernism.
In a series of richly detailed literary analyses, Beeston argues that the gaps and intervals of the composite literary text model the visual syntax of photography--as well as its silences, absences, and equivocations. In them, the social and political order of modernity is negotiated and reshaped. Moving in and out of these textual openings, In and Out of Sight pursues the fleeting, visible and invisible figure of the woman-in-series, who recasts absence and silence as forms of presence and witness. This shadowy figure emerges as central to the conceptual space of modernist literature--a terrain not only gendered but radically constructed around the instability of female bodies and their desires.
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aesthetic African American Alfred Stieglitz Anna Anna’s Archive Babylon Revisited Barthes Cahun Cambridge Cane’s characters cinema Claude Cahun composite portrait composite text Cosmopolitan Culture death discourse Duke University Press early Ellen Étienne-Jules Marey Evans’s face female body Fern’s Fiction Figure film Fitzgerald’s Hollywood Follies girl fragments frame Galton’s gendered Georgia O’Keeffe Gertrude Stein Helen Hollywood Ibid Image courtesy Jean Toomer John Dos Passos Kabnis Karintha Kathleen Kracauer Last Tycoon Lena’s literary Literature London machine Manhattan Transfer Melanctha metaphor Minna modern modernist writing narrative narrator Negro novel O’Keeffe object Passos’s picture Portrait in Georgia prose piece race racial reading repetition representation Roland Barthes scene Scott Fitzgerald screenplay serialized short-story sequence skin social Sontag Stahr Stein’s Stieglitz still–moving story structure studies Surrealist Susan technologies text piece textual theater Three Lives tion trans twentieth century Victoria visual voice Walker Evans woman woman-in-series women York Ziegfeld