Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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Aesthetic Form & Uneven Modernities

Carmela Gross, EXTRAS, 25 enamelled metal signs (each 20cm x 45cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

Today’s events form the second stage in the project Aesthetic Form & Uneven Modernities, following on from workshops held in Brazil, and drawing together researchers from Leeds, Birkbeck and São Paulo. We are very pleased to welcome to Leeds: Luiz Renzo Martins, Ana Paula Pacheco and Marcos Soares (DESFORMAS Study Centre – Centro de Estudos Desmanche e Formação de Sistemas Simbólicos – Universidade de São Paulo) and Steve Edwards (Department of Art History, Birkbeck, University of London).

Our project explores how aesthetic forms reveal or manifest uneven experiences of temporality and how social contradictions emerge through aesthetic activity. By bringing together two contrasting sites of modernisation, our aim is to reconceptualise the debates on cultural modernity. The differences between these two societies enable us to consider distinct historical experiences, but also their mutual imbrications.

Deploying the reciprocal lens offered by the UK/Brazil contrast, our discussion focuses on the uneven yet interrelated ways that time has been experienced. There is a Brazilian focus for two of our sessions today: one analyzing the recent political crisis; the other considering a key debate on underdevelopment prompted by sociologist Cisco de Oliveira, with important contributions by literary critic Roberto Schwarz. This day also initiates our working group on ‘uneven and combined development’ (convened by Gail Day and Daniel Hartley).

The programme of events concludes with another approach to the questions of socio-aesthetic form with the launch of Daniel Hartley’s new book The Politics of Style: Towards a Marxist Poetics.

All of these events take place in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies (University Road, University of Leeds). They are free to attend and open to all. If you wish to join us, please email Gail Day.


Brazil 2013-2016: crisis, coup and class expropriations – a ‘season in hell’
Room 2.09

A presentation from Luiz Renato Martins (DESFORMAS Study Centre, and Visual Arts Department in the School of Arts & Communication, Universidade de São Paulo).

In November 2009, the front cover of The Economist announced: “Brazil takes off”. Just 4 years later, in September 2013, it asked: “Has Brazil blown it?” What happened?

This presentation goes beyond conservative perplexity. In July of 2003, only six months after Lula’s taking office, a sharp critical essay by the Brazilian sociologist Francisco de Oliveira anticipated the outcome of the new PT government: the growth, in the periphery of globalized capitalism, of a new kind of accumulative pattern, based in the appropriation of major portions of public funds, transference of assets, privatizations and other forms of ‘truncated accumulation’. All this came about with the emergence and under the leadership of a ‘new class’.

In the light of such insights, and against the tide of the PT’s narrative on the recent impeachment of Brazil’s president Dilma Roussef (May 2016), Martins focuses on the decomposition of the PT’s political hegemony, starting with the great mass demonstrations of June 2013. He aims to show how and why, after a decade of striking political ‘success’, this new class became dysfunctional and no longer able to answer the interests of the dominant bourgeois bloc.


Aesthetic Form & Uneven Modernities
Room G.04

With a focus upon the relevance of uneven and combined development to literary and artistic production, our working group responds to a renewed contemporary interest in Trotsky’s theoretical innovation, one visible in the fields of literary criticism (Warwick Research Collective; Ruth Jennison), history (Neil Davidson), and politics and international relations (Justin Rosenberg; Alexander Anievas & Kerem Nişancioğlu; Adam David Morton). This workshop considers a key debate on underdevelopment by Cisco de Oliveira and Roberto Schwarz, and Schwarz’s earlier contribution on Brazilian culture. Readings:

  • Roberto Schwarz, ‘Preface with Questions’, New Left Review 24, November-December 2003, pp 31-39
  • Francisco de Oliveira, ‘The Duckbilled Platypus’, New Left Review 24, November-December 2003, pp 40-57
  • Roberto Schwarz, ‘Misplaced Ideas: Literature and Society in Late Nineteenth-Century Brazil’, Misplaced Ideas: Essays on Brazilian Culture (London: Verso, 1992 [1973]).

For further details on the readings, please contact Gail Day.


The Politics of Style: Towards a Marxist Poetics
Room G.04

Daniel Hartley (Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre for World Literatures at the University of Leeds) presents his new book (Brill: Leiden, 2016; Haymarket: Chicago, 2017). Introduced by Steve Edwards (editor Historical Materialism book series). Followed by a wine reception.

Hartley’s study develops a Marxist theory of literary style. The first part explains why Raymond Williams, Terry Eagleton and Fredric Jameson came to see style as central to political criticism. It delineates the historical and conceptual preconditions for the emergence of a ‘politics of style’, and uncovers an underground current of stylistics within the Marxist tradition from Marx to Barthes.

The second part sets out precisely what each thinker has written on style and demonstrates how this came to figure in their overall intellectual and political projects, focusing above all on a detailed reconstruction of Williams’s best-known concept, the ‘structure of feeling’.

Finally, the third part sets out an independent theory of style and makes an ambitious attempt to establish it as a foundational element of a new Marxist poetics.

Exploring the question of style as a social relation, the presentation will focus especially on the analysis of Raymond Williams’ approach.

Recommenced reading: Chapter 5, pp 97-142 (if pressed for time, focus on sections 1.0-1.1 and section 2). Please contact Gail Day for details of the reading.

This event is part of a series of workshops, seminars and reading groups which focuses on exploring the cultures of capitalism. See here for more information.

Image: Carmela Gross, EXTRAS, 25 enamelled metal signs (each 20cm x 45cm). Image courtesy of the artist.

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