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By John Bierhorst

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Extra info for A Nahuatl-English Dictionary and Concordance to the 'Cantares Mexicanos: With an Analytic Transcription and Grammatical Notes

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How we see it (in space and/or time) and how we see ourselves in relation to it become problems rather than givens in Picasso’s canvas. As noted previously, Marxist theorists of the avant-garde have suggested that such nonorganic work produces an important ideological effect by disrupting the powerful naturalizing function of realist art. As James Kavanagh suggests, realism itself is a “paradigmatic form of ideology” in that “it has the function of producing an obvious ‘reality’ that social subjects can assume and accept, precisely as if it had not been socially produced and did not need to be ‘known’ at all” (311).

To strike the radical pose in the New York art world of the early 1960s, in other words, was simply to submit to a passé fashion. What this study is interested in is how these poets dealt with this problem and how they created a position between the radical art of the historical avant-garde and the radical chic of the 1960s which turned “revolutionary” gestures into marketable commodities. Lehman’s approach, which allows him to crown the New York School poets as “the last avant-garde,” is problematic in at least two ways.

While Bürger sees self-criticism as a means of revealing art’s autonomy and reconnecting art and life, Murphy sees it as a microcosmic parallel to a macrocosmic challenge. For Murphy, the avant-garde uses self-criticism as a means of deconstructing not only the institution of art, but more broadly the “dominant social discourses” which legitimate and stabilize “the social imaginary”: We can understand these dominant discourses in terms of a determining set of social practices and ideological forms of representation which are instrumental in the social construction of reality and subjectivity—and hence in the process of socialization and “interpellation” (Althusser) .

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