Eric J. Rettberg F'10

Eric J. Rettberg

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2010
Doctoral Candidate
University of Virginia
Ridiculous Modernism: Nonsense and New Literature, 1900-1950

Modernism was often greeted derisively by a skeptical public that thought ridiculous the idea that these new literary and artistic works were art, that saw them instead as nonsense. “Ridiculous Modernism” departs from the typical critical dismissals of such charges and argues that various ideas of nonsense were actually central to many of the literary achievements of modernism. Modernists were not mere victims of the idea that their work was nonsense. Rather, they were slyly defining themselves both within and against that idea. By exploring nonsense as a multifaceted cultural phenomenon that fascinated many of the most influential modernists, this project emphasizes sides of modernism often obscured by critical emphasis on heightened artistic seriousness during the period.