Modernism and Its Counter-Narratives

Modernism has fundamentally to do with the emergence of new kinds of objects and events and, at the same time, new conceptualizations of their appearance, of changing event structures and temporalities, and of the relationships between objects, their producers and maintainers, and their audiences and consumers. A history and theory of modernism, then, must involve the category of the producing, using, viewing subject as well as the object, which itself includes buildings and projects, texts and discourses, and the contexts of their production and reception.

One of the most significant, sustained attempts to thematize the changed conceptualization of subjects and objects in modernity in a systematic aesthetic and critical theory is found in the body of work generated by Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno, which is also related to the earlier writings of Georg Simmel and the later work of Manfredo Tafuri and Fredric Jameson. Theirs is a vivid diagnosis of the everyday life of the subject and object under industrial capitalism, as well as the specialized work of art and its necessary contradictions. At the same time, Martin Heidegger’s understanding of technology and his concern with the nature of working and production provided the basis for further work by Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze, and a later generation of theorists of the modern and the postmodern. This course will use these texts to generate theories of modern architecture. Our question is not “How does modern architecture reflect the conditions of modernity,” but rather, positioned in modernity, “What can architecture (as subject, as object, as technique) do?’

This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.