What We Talk About When We Talk About The Avant-Garde

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What are we trying to signal to potential readers when we call a work or its author “avant-garde?” The term is lately used to foreground a studied and even exclusionary difficulty in the writing, but what about its potential as a vector for the strange and the playful, a pushback against the normal and a voice for those unheard? Jake Marmer looks at Charles Bernstein’s recent collaborative and hyperlinked collection of essays and thinks about what that label gets right and gets wrong about its subjects.


Theodora Messalas is a New York-based writer and editor who could easily be talked into going to grad school. More from this author →