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For more than three hundred years, manifestoes have defined the aims of radical groups, individuals, and parties while galvanizing revolutionary movements. As Janet Lyon shows, the manifesto is both a signal genre of political modernity and one of the defining forms of aesthetic modernism. Ranging from the pamphlet wars of seventeenth-century England to dyke and ACT-UP manifestoes of the 1990s, her extraordinarily accomplished book offers the first extended treatment of this influential form of discourse. Lyon demonstrates that the manifesto, usually perceived as the very model of rhetorical transparency, is in fact a complex, ideologically inflected genre-one that has helped to shape modern consciousness. Lyon explores the development of the genre during periods of profound historical crisis. The French Revolution generated broadsides that became templates for the texts of Chartism, the Commune, and late-nineteenth-century anarchism, while in the twentieth century the historical avant-garde embraced a revolutionary discourse that sought in the manifesto's polarizing polemics a means for disaggregating and publicizing radical artistic movements.
More recently, in the manifestoes of the 1960s, the wretched of the earth called for either the full realization or the final rejection of the idea of the universal subject, paving the way for contemporary contestations of identity among second- and third-wave feminists and queer activists.