The World Arena: The Olympic Art Competitions and the Sport of International Literature
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CitationOsgood, Miles. 2019. The World Arena: The Olympic Art Competitions and the Sport of International Literature. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractIn “The World Arena,” I argue that a competitive, athletic ethos pervades twentieth-century literature, as writers found in international sport an image of modernity itself. For the diverse writers of this new genre of “athletic literature,” sport reflected the global political conflicts that defined the century as well as the international cultural field where literary success itself was won. To trace the origins of this genre, my project recovers the history of the Olympic Art Competitions of 1912 to 1948, when writers and artists competed for medals at the Olympic Games. My research draws from the archives of the Olympic Studies Centre in Lausanne and my own digital database of Olympic results, using rulebooks, official reports, and exhibition catalogues to reveal the hidden history of the “Pentathlon of the Muses.” The full list of roughly 300 judges, 3,000 competitors, and countless festival contributors reveals the widespread popularity and prestige of the athletic arts in the modernist period, as artists from old-guard academies and avant-garde movements around the world took the field against one another. Along the way, the Olympics inspired writers and artists at large to model themselves after athletes: determined the play their own games strategically, they showed off their training, struck up rivalries, represented their countries before international crowds, and touted their victories. Across studies of writers including H.D., Robert Graves, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway, Ralph Ellison, Marianne Moore, James Joyce, Mulk Raj Anand, and Kamau Brathwaite—along with artists and musicians including Laura Knight, George Grosz, Miles Davis, Bunya Koh, and David Alfaro Siqueiros—“The World Arena” determines what it took to win Olympic gold in the arts and what it takes to become a world champion of world literature.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029748
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