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10 Pages

FLEURS DU MAL OR SECOND-HAND ROSES?: Natalie Barney, Romaine Brooks, and the ‘Originality of the Avant-Garde’

Bridget Elliott and Jo-Ann Wallace

Equally disturbing is the conspicuous shortage of women writers and artists who have been classified as avant-garde in the standard literary and art historical surveys of the early twentieth century. Even though women have traditionally occupied marginal spaces in patriarchal culture, it seems that (despite a few exceptional exceptions, like Gertrude Stein and Meret Oppenheim) they have frequented the wrong margins. Instead of appearing as strikingly original and fashionably vanguard, the work of women writers and artists has, more often than not, been described as derivative, deviant, old-fashioned, and second-rate. Evidently, mainstream bourgeois culture draws important distinctions between those privileged outsiders who are recognized as daringly advanced and a whole host of insignificant ‘others’ whose differences are simply uninteresting.