Camera Works: Photography and The Twentieth-Century Word

Camera Works: Photography and the Twentieth-Century Word is a work of literary and cultural studies by Michael North, a professor of English at UCLA. It is the winner of the 2006 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize.

In Camera Works: Photography and the Twentieth-Century Word, North examines the relationship between literary modernism and new media technologies in the early twentieth century such as photography, advertising, and film. In doing so, North not only makes the case for "a deep and wide modernist interest... in new media of all kinds," but also provides a new way of reading modernism that locates some of its more formally innovative elements within writing's confrontation with the challenges and complications introduced by new media into "the supposed autonomy of the visual and thus into the supposed autonomy of the aesthetic."

Focusing on technologies of mechanical recording and reproduction, which North asserts did nothing less than to reorganize human perception, the author argues that the codification and stylization of the recorded media, which paradoxically served, for example, to distance and aestheticize the world while simultaneously bringing it closer and making it more familiar, are encoded in modernism's heightened awareness of writing's own literariness, which called attention to its status as mediation and thus "complicated the process of representation" by destabilizing the word.

Conceding that any aesthetic movement as complex as modernism must be the result of numerous influences, North proposes that it was this "complicat the process of representation," produced in writing's confrontation with new media technologies that both extended human perception and undermined confidence in perception itself, that gave rise to a modernist fascination with experimentation and formal innovation as a means of repairing or renegotiating this separation, what North calls a "far more radical modernity of means."

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Camera Works: Photography And The Twentieth-Century Word - Contexts
... winner of the 2006 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize, Michael North's Camera Works is widely recognized as an important contribution to the emergent field of "new modernist studies." Beginning ... to the Scene of the Modern, which might even be regarded as a companion piece to this study, Camera Works shows not only how fully modernism ...

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