Lisa Siraganian

Research

I study twentieth-century culture--particularly modernism and its post-1945 legacy--through the dual lenses of the visual and written arts. I’m particularly interested in the deep interrelations and developments across these fields. My publications and teaching have considered poets such as Gertrude Stein and Charles Olson, novelists such as Wyndham Lewis and William Gaddis, artists such as Juan Gris and Marcel Duchamp, and filmmakers such as Atom Egoyan and Ang Lee.

 

Shortlisted for the Modernist Studies Association Book Prize, my first book, Modernism’s Other Work: The Art Object’s Political Life (New York: Oxford UP, 2012) challenges deeply held critical beliefs about the meaning—in particular the political meaning—of modernism's commitment to the work of art as an object detached from the world. I argue that modernism’s core aesthetic problem—the artwork’s status as an object, and a subject’s relation to it—poses fundamental questions of agency, freedom, and politics. These political questions have always been modernism’s alternative work, even when, indeed, especially when, writers boldly assert the art object’s immunity from the world. Poets with positions as different as Stein’s suffragism, Williams’s social credit theory, Olson’s New Deal liberalism, and Amiri Baraka’s Black Nationalism all believe that their views on the artwork’s ontology connects to their politics—a connection they articulate in terms of breath, air, and readers’ bodies. Versions of this work have been published in The William Carlos Williams Review, an edited book collection, and Modernism/Modernity: “Out of Air: Theorizing the Art Object in Gertrude Stein and Wyndham Lewis.” Click here for a recent review in Radical Philosophy.

 

My next book, CorpoHumanism: Literary Theories of Corporate Personhood, continues to investigate the art object’s connection to the world but in relation to other institutions and forms of personhood. Substantially researched during my fellowship at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2011-12), the book examines the impact of the legal theory of corporate personhood in 20th-century narrative and aesthetic debates. This project builds on my recent articles: “Wallace Stevens’s Fascist Dilemmas and Free Market Resolutions” (ALH, 2011), and “Ang Lee and James Schamus’s Neo-Indies: The Ultimate Movie Machine” (Post45). Both essays examine the role corporations (“corporate persons”) and business strategies play in 20th-century innovations of literary and aesthetic form.