‘Modernism’ and the ‘Avant-garde’ are not synonymous terms’. Tony Pinkney is absolutely right in saying so, in stressing the relevance of Bürger’s book (which, alas, had not been published at the time I wrote my article), and in pointing to the terminological ‘slide’ in the opening sentences of ‘The Spell of Indecision’. I believe, however, that the reason for the slide is not conceptual (after all, it must be clear that I am discussing Modernity-and-Modernism, not the Avant-garde), but lexical in character: in Italian, the standard term for ‘Modernism’ is ‘Avanguardia’, and that adjective early in my article is probably the punishment for trying to write in two languages at once. Ironically, the Italian draft employed the neologism ‘Modernismo’ precisely in order to avoid the conceptual confusion which Pinkney deplores—a linguistic choice, I am sorry to add, that an Italian critic promptly unmasked as a ridiculous act of submission to Anglo-American cultural imperialism.

In the only other case of conflation—the ‘hopeless list’ of ‘Dada, Surrealism, Pound, Eliot’—things are different. On this specific and limited issue (the structure, genealogy and diffusion of ‘collage’ and anti-organicist images) I still think that Modernism and the Avantgarde do overlap, and Pinkney’s objection (‘this is to fetishize the modernist image as a thing in itself, ignoring the radically different social relations of literary production within which it functions’) strikes me, to be honest, as the sort of bombast which is turning Marxist criticism into a noisy and empty metaphysics. If I may venture an opinion, the cheerless diet to which Pinkney seems to submit himself—plenty of Matthew Arnold and Sacred Fount, and universal dismissals like ‘Baudelaire, Flaubert, or whatever’—may have something to do with his desire for strong theoretical potions.

I must admit that in reading Pinkney I twice wished him to be right: when he described me as an obsolete Lukacsian, and as a bourgeois critic. Obsolete Lukacsian and bourgeois critic: that is the best of both worlds.

Franco Moretti