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Michael Levenson
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this wide-ranging and original account of Modernism, Michael Levenson draws on more than twenty years of research and a career-long fascination with the movement, its participants, and the period during which it thrived. Seeking a more subtle understanding of the relations between the period's texts and contexts, he provides not only an excellent survey but also a significant reassessment of Modernism itself.

    Spanning many decades, illuminating individual achievements and locating them within the intersecting histories of experiment (Symbolism to Surrealism, Naturalism to Expressionism, Futurism to Dadaism), the book places the transformations of culture alongside the agitations of modernity (war, revolution, feminism, psychoanalysis). In this perspective, Modernism must be understood more broadly than simply in terms of its provocative works, experimental forms, and singular careers. Rather, as Levenson demonstrates, Modernism should be viewed as the emergence of an adversary culture of the New that depended on audiences as well as artists, enemies as well as supporters.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17177-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. introduction: the spectacle of modernism
    (pp. 1-11)

    Modernism may have disappeared as a living cultural force, but it maintains its provocation for all who try to understand it. To live within our own modernity is to be anxious about our place in time, the future of culture, and the fate of the changes that the modernists sought to achieve.

    This book offers a new account of Modernism. Thanks to the work of many scholars over the past two decades, it is now possible to offer a broader and more synthetic history than would have been possible in an earlier generation. In this respect, the present book is...

  4. 1 the avant-garde in modernism
    (pp. 12-54)

    The account of the avant-garde here builds upon assumptions laid out in the introduction, above all the conviction that the tumultuous events of cultural modernity appeared not merely as a succession of disturbing artifacts or critical provocations but as constituents of an oppositional social milieu, as a radically alternative practice that presented a counterhistory for modernity. In this view, the telling events were not the text, the painting, the film, or the quartet, no matter how extreme, but the artifacts as emblems of a widening counterworld. The growing perception, as conspicuous in the dominant press as in the avant-garde journals,...

    (pp. None)
  6. 2 narrating modernity: the novel after flaubert
    (pp. 55-105)

    In 1884, Henry James published “The Art of Fiction” inLongman’s Magazine, an essay marking a decisive stage in the self-understanding of modern narrative. Three years earlier, withThe Portrait of a Lady, James had widened his ambition; the later essay reflects a maturing of literary historical consciousness. The English novel, he writes, until recently “had no air of having a theory, a conviction, a consciousness of itself behind it—of being the expression of an artistic faith, the result of choice and comparison.”¹ A self-aware art, holds James, came late to England from across the Channel, and this notion...

  7. 3 the modernist lyric “i”: from baudelaire to eliot
    (pp. 106-168)

    In Paris in the 1880s, in salons and literary reviews and steadily in the wider press, an early epitome of a modernist circle found its shape. A series of extreme gestures—prophetic, obscure, insinuating—emanated from a loose confederation of poets. Baudelaire, recently republished and recently dead, became the cherished precursor, even as his enthusiasm for Poe was revived. Poets who had worked separately came to acknowledge one another, and when Verlaine christened them “poètes maudits” (accursed poets), they assumed, whether they chose it or not, the look of a collective insurgency.

    The emergence of Symbolism, a history that we...

  8. 4 drama as politics, drama as ritual
    (pp. 169-218)

    The vorticist journalBlastfirst appeared in June 1914. There would be only one other issue, diminished and chastened by the violence of the war, published a year later. But in that initial unrepentant publication, among the manifestos, poems, and woodcuts, came an open call to the suffragettes.

    During the years before the First World War, the challenge of young artists was preceded and overshadowed by the public action of suffragettes, and the manifesto inBlastreveals again the uneasy relation between radical art and radical politics. The formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903, the demands...

    (pp. None)
  10. 5 modernism in and out of war
    (pp. 219-266)

    In this chapter I take up another perspective on Modernism, one that recognizes a great change in the movements that we sort under its name. Until this point, I have emphasized the uneven development in the culture of experiment before the Great War. Not only did the spectacles of Modernism move from one capital to another, but the leading impetus shifted from lyric to drama to painting, from novel to film, from the provocation of ideas to that of images and then to the categories of art. In the preceding three chapters, the method of this study has been to...

  11. 6 the ends of modernism
    (pp. 267-282)

    Modernism was always ending—ending, one might say, as soon as it began. The eruption of novelty immediately faced the question of how novelty could live in time. Was Modernism a permanent revolution? This is how it has often been understood, as a vocation of experiment, an endless pursuit of the new. Harry Levin spoke of the “ultraism” of the movement: a compulsion to keep reaching beyond the last achievement.¹ Certainly this image captures an abiding aspect of the modernist decades. The career of Picasso, passing so swiftly from “analytic” to “synthetic” Cubism; the passage of Woolf from the comic...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 283-304)
    (pp. 305-306)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 307-320)