Fall 2023

Dana-Palmer Seminar Room


12:45 pm - 2:45 pm

CompLit 188/ROM-STD 188: Futurisms (A comparative history)

Jeffrey Schnapp

From its foundation in Feb. 1909 through WWII, futurism developed into the first truly international cultural-political avant-garde.  Its aim was a revolutionary transformation of all spheres of life and its influence extended to the whole of Europe, Asia, and the Americas.  Combating the tradi­tionalism and pro­vin­cialism of turn-of-the-century European culture, the move­ment sought to found a cosmopolitan (but often nationalist) countercul­ture based on the exaltation of youth, speed, violent revolt, innovation, and expe­ri­menta­tion. Hence the move­ment’s name: the label “Future-ism” denoting at once adoration of the new and struggle against the prevalence of “past-ism” or passatismo/passéisme (the idolatry of the past). In its first decade of ex­is­tence Futurism became the first full-fledged cultural/political avant-garde of our cen­tury, ga­ther­ing together pain­ters, musi­cians, archi­tects, political revo­lu­tion­aries, and poets from seve­ral European nations. A key progenitor of later move­ments such as Dada­, Vorticism, Sur­real­ism, and Fluxus, Fu­tur­ism had a powerful forma­tive influence not only on the cul­tural atmo­s­phere of Italy during the Fascist era (1922-1945), but also on 20th century cul­ture as a whole. Its contemporary legacies are many and extend from popular culture to the experimental art of our time.

This seminar will examine the movement’s various manifestations in Italy, France, England, Russia, Spain, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. In addition to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, a wide range of writers and visual artists will be considered, including A. G. Bragaglia, Apollinaire, Mayakovsky, Malevich, Lissitzky, and Léger. Topics will include: machines and culture; the theater of surprise and futurist performance art; Futurism’s ties to anarchism, bolshevism, and fascism; words-in-freedom poetics; experiments with typography, photography, radio, and film; futurism’s interest in transforming the character of books; futurism’s impact on exhibition design; and futurism’s legacies in postwar culture.


4 Credits

In Person