Summer 1951 • Vol. XIII No. 3 Nonfiction |

Advance-Guard Writing, 1900-1950

Se quoque principibus permixtum agnovit Achivis, Eoasque acies et nigri Memnonis arma. —Aeneid When I undertake an essay on advance-guard writing, I understand that I must seem to be a spectre of the past oddly haunting the literary scene. One of the purposes of the following study, however, is to show that just this impression is inevitable, and false; for it is the present response of the audience to the present advance-guard "offense." It is the nature of advance-guard that in the present circumstances it must strongly exist and yet be regarded as weakly existing. To come to this rather peculiar conclusion, let us ask: What is advance-guard? What, schematically, is its history during the past half-century? And what is its contemporary direction? And let us first distinguish between advance-guard and artistic originality in general, for advance-guard is a species of art differentiated by a certain social relation. As artist, an artist does not know that he is advance-gu

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