“David Jones: Theory of Art; Theory of Culture”
7-8 March, 2019, Booth Special Collections, Georgetown University Library (3700 O St NW, Washington, DC 20057, USA)
The work and thought of the British artist and WWI veteran David Jones (1895-1974) commands a unique perspective on the deeply intertwined questions of the theory of art and the theory of culture in the 20th century. Jones not only had extensive first-hand experience of total war, both as a private in the trenches of WWI and as a Londoner during the Blitz, but also communicated his experience in an interpenetrated corpus of visual art, prose, and poetic writing. Jones’s sense of artistic form crosses the boundaries of the visual and the verbal in order to respond to the crisis of what he described as “unmaking” in his 1937 poem of WWI, In Parenthesis.As Mark Greif’s (2015) and Alan Jacobs’s (2018) recent studies indicate, the postwar period presented a unique “crisis” for artists and intellectuals in the West who found themselves confronted with challenges to traditional narratives about human identity and the nature of human flourishing. The work of David Jones places the theory of art at the very center of this crisis, drawing on the thinking of neo-Artistotelian-Thomist philosophers such as Jacques Maritain to regard the fine arts in light of the gamut of human making and so broaden the discussion to show how art encompasses more fundamental questions of human work, technology, religion, leisure, and politics.
This seminar situates the contribution of Jones’s cultural and aesthetic theory and multimedia corpus in the immediate context of 20th-century artistic practice and theories of art and culture. It will particularly seek to show the unique light that Jones sheds on the understanding of war in the 20th century, narratives of modern secularization, and experiments in visual and poetic form that respond to the ruptures and new continuities that these cultural shifts incur.
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