The Textual Ethics of Dada: A Case Study

Published June 2016 in Britain’s principal international journal of radical literary studies, Textual Practice, Dr Wrighton’s new article advances the first textual ethics of Dada.

Letter to Sarah Freedman, ca. 1923-27’. Series 2, Box 1, Folder 15. Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

‘Letter to Sarah Freedman, ca. 1923-27’. Series 2, Box 1, Folder 15. Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.

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esponding to the total devastation and global upheavals of the world’s first industrial war, avant-garde poets in the first decades of the twentieth century undertook the extraordinary task of developing a ‘reality-shattering’ aesthetic and dismantling the verisimilitudes of realism in a ‘momentous turn to toward the ethical.’ Both multivalent, trans-modal, and often contradictory, these experimental and cross-genre innovations and poetic themes emerged in a new, trans-national Dada. Contributing to the burgeoning critical concern of the last decade in studies of twentieth century modernist poetry with the working through of ethics, this paper develops a case study for the textual ethics of Dada. The poems of the controversial ‘first American Dada,’ Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, it is argued, are a preeminent example of an ethical experimentation in Dada, for her poetry in its material and transmodal aesthetic takes as its subject the trauma of being, and performs the dialogic dimensions of inter-human relations. The analysis reveals that while it is resistant to the possibilities of a collective moral code, Dada poesis can profoundly attest to the ethical tension of language troubling humanity in a vital process of historical transformation. By examining three areas of art poesis – ethics and trauma, ethics of the textual body, ethics and desire – the essay advances the first textual ethics of Dada.

KEYWORDS:

Ethics
Dada
Avant-garde
Poetry

Journal: Textual Practice 
Publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
TP website

Download for free in PDF: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/FHSWjdKkuMP3xD37M3fD/full

 

BIO-SKETCH OF AUTHOR:

DR JOHN WRIGHTON is Principal Lecturer in English Literature in the College of Arts and Humanities, University of Brighton. He was recently seconded to the Modern Literature and Culture (MLC) Research Centre, Ryerson University, Toronto, as International Research Fellow, 2011-13. With a PhD in English from Aberystwyth University in 2008, he is the author of scholarly articles devoted to literary ethics, ecocriticism, Dada, avant-garde, and modernist poetry. He is author of Ethics and Politics in Modern American Poetry (Routledge, 2010).