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Global Avant-Garde and Modernist Studies (Cluster)

The GAMS cluster facilitates transnational and interdisciplinary scholarship on avant-garde and modernist literatures and arts.

The radical aesthetic and conceptual innovations that began to appear toward the end of the nineteenth century were long treated as essentially European events, originating in a handful of capital cities and then, perhaps, spreading elsewhere. In recent decades, however, scholars have demonstrated the transnational character of these movements, largely rejecting the old Eurocentric model. This global turn has dovetailed with other innovations in the study of modernism and the avant-garde, including: an increasing interdisciplinarity that emphasizes the interactions between literature, media, and the arts; the erasure of the once strictly-policed border between high art and such popular cultural forms as film, jazz, design, fashion, or comics; a much richer sense of the politics of this period, to include, for example, issues of race, gender, and sexuality; and, not least, increasingly flexible conceptions of periodization derived from new understandings of what is modern and who was avant-garde.

In addition to revisiting canonical Euro-American movements and figures, then, the cluster emphasizes their circulation and transformation (Japanese Dada, Maghreb Surrealism); movements whose geographic centers lay elsewhere (such as Estridentismo in Mexico or New Sensationism in East Asia); post-WWII avant-gardes such as Brazilian concretism, pan-Arab modernisms of the 1960s, or Afro-Futurism.

The cluster is open to students and faculty not only from diverse artistic and national fields, but also to a wide range of methodological approaches. Our goal is to enrich our collective understanding of the methodological obligations of, as well as the exciting possibilities for, future studies of modernism and the avant-garde.

How to apply

Current PhD students interested in participating in this cluster should contact Associate Professor Alejandra Uslenghi at

Who to contact

Please contact one of the directors, listed below, with questions about this cluster.

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.


GAMS 400

A seminar devoted to the theory and historiography of avant-garde and modernist movements. Content will vary according to instructor, but the course will be programmatically interdisciplinary and transnational, with cluster-affiliated faculty running special sessions in their areas of expertise. The course will be open to non-cluster students and may be co-listed with a department or program.

GAMS 420

The Global and Avant-Garde Studies Colloquium, a one-credit, three-quarter course that will meet approximately monthly throughout the year. The colloquium will consist of a mixture of co-sponsored events; presentations of works-in-progress by faculty and graduate affiliates; and a reading group.

Approved elective

The requirement for a third course can be fulfilled by any one of the appropriate graduate seminars approved annually by the cluster’s steering committee, drawn from a wide range of relevant departments and programs: African-American Studies, Art History, Art Theory and Practice, Asian Languages and Cultures, Communication Studies, Comparative Literary Studies, English, French and Italian, German, History, the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Philosophy, Radio/Television/Film, Spanish and Portuguese, and Slavic.