Modernism in Art and Literature


Part II: Essay   Consider the following passage from Hugo Ball’s “Dada Manifesto”:   I let the vowels fool around. I let the vowels quite simply occur, as a cat miaows . . .  Words emerge, shoulders of words, legs, arms, hands of words. Au, oi, uh. One  shouldn’t let too many words out. A line of poetry is a chance to get rid of all the filth that clings to this accursed language, as if put there by stockbrokers’ hands,  hands worn smooth by coins. I want the word where it ends and begins. Dada is  the heart of words. Each thing has its word, but the word has become a thing by  itself. Then consider the following excerpt from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons:    A SOUND.  Elephant beaten with candy and little pops and chews all bolts and reckless reckless  rats, this is this.   Write a 3-page (maximum) essay that uses Ball’s statements about poetry and “words” to read or analyze Stein’s “A Sound.” Specifically what do you think Ball means by “the word has become a thing by itself” and how does this statement relate to Stein’s writing practice (or your reading practice)?  In terms of structure, you might begin by analyzing Ball’s argument about dada and poetic language:   -What is it?  -How does it sound?  -Where does it come from?  -What does it refer to? -What motivates poetic language? -What are its politics?   Once you have thought through Ball’s ideas, apply his theories to Stein’s word portrait of “sound.”    -How does Stein evoke “sound” here?  -How does she use words?   -How important are the sounds of the words themselves in her poem “A Sound?”   -How important are the visual images evoked by the poem?   -How do sound, word, and image interact?    These questions are meant to guide your analysis, but you need not answer all of them and may wish to answer others that I have not asked.  Whatever approach you use, make sure your essay responds to the prototypically modernist idea that the “word had become a thing by itself.”   Tips:   -Give your essay a title. -Keep it short (3 pages maximum). -Write an introduction, a conclusion, and 2-3 body paragraphs. -Make sure your essay makes an argument that is supported by examples and evidence from the texts, i.e. close reading details.

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