Interpretations of Interpretation—Craig Owens Postmodern Romanticism

Bowman, Matthew (2022) Interpretations of Interpretation—Craig Owens Postmodern Romanticism. In: Romantic Legacies in the Twentieth Century, 12-14 April 2023, London, UCL. (Unpublished)

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Long semi-repressed, the end of the 1970s saw the reemergence of allegory within art criticism; on this occasion, however, allegory was briefly awarded a new, positive valorization in sharp contrast to the rebukes that was standard within aesthetics. Allegory’s reappraisal was conjoined with the growing importance of the still-new October journal and, in particular, the appearance of younger artists whose practices seemingly required interpretation according to a framework that was rapidly theorized as postmodern.

Arguably, the clearest manifestation of this reemergence was Craig Owens’ 1980 two-part essay “The Allegorical Impulse.” Yet in its specific repudiation of what it takes to be Greenbergian modernism, it both announced postmodernism’s priority of allegory over symbol and allegorical interpretation against hermeneutics. Taken together, both positions seemingly constitute Romanticism’ final knell, specifically the Frühromantik that responded during the 1790s to Kant’s and Fichte’s philosophies.

This paper will contend, perhaps despite itself, that Owens’ essay is a retrieval of the Frühromantik problematic rather than its final overturning. Somewhat unknowingly, Owens was part of the deconstructive reassessment that, in the 1970s, forged or acknowledged links between Poststructuralism and Romanticism in such a manner that questioned the symbol/allegory and hermeneutic/allegory divisions. Rather than its end, then, “The Allegorical Impulse” is Romanticism’s closure, one that reflects back upon the activity of art criticism as such. In this paper, I will seek to exploit the complexity of this closure, its incessantness, to outline how Owens reproduces, inverts, and destabilizes the Romantic oppositions he depends upon and demonstrates the continuing relevance of Romanticism in postmodernism.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Craig Owens, postmodern, romanticism, The Allegorical Impulse, Greenbergian modernism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Business & Applied Social Science > Department of Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Matthew Bowman
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2023 08:15
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2023 08:15

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