Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).
This thesis examines the involvement of Alfred Stieglitz – photographer, editor, art collector, impresario, talker – and his circle in the development of American modernism in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Through the analysis of photographs and artworks in other media by the Stieglitz group, the journal Camera Work, the gallery 291, a vast correspondence and art theory, criticism and social thought of the period, Stieglitz and his circle are situated in the context of an international debate about modernism. Notably, the Stieglitz strand of American modernism is considered in terms of a dialogue with German culture and philosophy, constellations that, it is claimed, proved formative for Stieglitz. The thesis argues that underlying all of his various endeavours is a specific unifying structure of thought: the romantic critique of capitalism. Romantic anti-capitalism was particularly current at the time in Central Europe as an emotional response to modernity that drew its values from the past. Most poignantly, Georg Lukács expressed it in his early, pre-Marxist writings, such as the essay collection, Soul and Form (first published in German in 1911). It is equally the aim of this thesis to theorise the interpretive category of romantic anti-capitalism, to investigate it as a Weltanschauung, an ideology and a type of discourse. As a period term itself, the category of worldview, poses a problem in its overlap with the topic of the study. It is hence treated both as a method and as an object of enquiry. Romantic anti- capitalism as a whole, neither clearly progressive nor reactionary in political terms and inherently ambiguous, allows us to disentangle the myths that have been reiterated in many previous studies of Stieglitz and his circle and define his outlook with new precision.
University College London (UCL)
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