The life and times of Charles Henri Ford, Blues, and the belated renovation of modernism

Howard, Alexander (2012) The life and times of Charles Henri Ford, Blues, and the belated renovation of modernism. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis focuses on Charles Henri Ford (1908‐2002). Spanning much of the 20th
century, Ford’s multiform and multimedia aesthetic sensibility incorporated poetry, visual
art, filmmaking, photography, and magazine editing. Despite the breadth and depth of his
numerous interests and achievements, scant critical attention has been paid to Ford. The
little criticism that deals with Ford focuses on his experimental novel The Young and Evil
(1933) and his magazine: View (1940‐47).

This thesis addresses this imbalance. It seeks to recover a marginalized poet whose work
unsettles contemporary and critical assumptions concerning modernist literary and
aesthetic production. In order to do so, focus is shifted from View to Ford’s first modernist
little magazine: Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms (1929‐30). Blues made an indelible
mark on Ford and informed many of his subsequent poetic and aesthetic projects. This
thesis considers the significance of Blues and a selected assortment of Ford’s subsequent
projects and literary career moves. Divided into six chapters, and utilizing a reverse
chronology, I trace Ford’s various literary endeavors back through the decades.

The first chapter focuses on Ford’s poetic and editorial ventures in the 1980s. This chapter
re‐positions Ford’s late work in relation to a flexible and sociable version of modernism.
The second chapter focuses on Ford’s sociable poetics in particular as it culminated in the
1970s. The third chapter draws on the implications of the second and considers the ways
in which the modernist Ford is an aesthetic precursor to the postmodern Warhol. The
thesis then moves into the 1940s and 1950s to give an account of Ford’s perpetual
aesthetic awkwardness. Ford’s conspicuous absence in the annals of literary history is
attributable to his poetic and aesthetic unorthodoxy, which precluded easy incorporation
into generally accepted critical narratives of modernism and avant‐gardism. Ford’s
marginalization has meant that his attempt to renovate modernism has gone unnoticed.
Conducted in Blues, Ford’s (belated) renovation of modernism is the focus of the final
chapters of this thesis. The fifth chapter contextualizes Blues. The sixth and final chapter
offers a series of readings focused on Ford’s original literary apprenticeship: Blues.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > American Studies
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0185 By period > PS0221 20th century
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2012 05:56
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015 13:56
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/39712

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