This chapter looks at the different ways in which intent functions in aesthetic creation and experience, what counted as signs of sincere intent in the early twentieth century, and what aspects of modernism threatened the effortless functioning of such signs. It argues that in the early twentieth century the signs of sincere intent were under contention, as they always are at moments of cultural change and ideological contestation. In any new aesthetic movement or cultural context, one which appears to break with the past rather than just modulate it, the signs of sincere intent—because they are contextually and socially understood and negotiated—have to be renegotiated. Radically new works, works that are most in violation of the time’s default aesthetic, will present unclear signs of intent, clouding their sincerity.
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