Sunday, April 04, 2010

What Ever Happened to Modernism?

Book news from Yale University Press:
"The quality of today's literary writing arouses the strongest opinions. For novelist and critic Gabriel Josipovici, the contemporary novel in English is profoundly disappointing — a poor relation of its groundbreaking Modernist forebears. This agile and passionate book asks why.

Modernism, Josipovici suggests, is only superficially a reaction to industrialization or a revolution in diction and form; essentially, it is art coming to consciousness of its own limits and responsibilities. And its origins are to be sought not in 1850 or 1800, but in the early 1500s, with the crisis of society and perception that also led to the rise of Protestantism.

With sophistication and persuasiveness, Josipovici charts some of Modernism's key stages, from Dürer, Rabelais, and Cervantes to the present, bringing together a rich array of artists, musicians, and writers both familiar and unexpected—including Beckett, Borges, Friedrich, Cézanne, Stevens, Robbe-Grillet, Beethoven, and Wordsworth. He concludes with a stinging attack on the current literary scene in Britain and America, which raises questions not only about national taste, but contemporary culture itself."
What Ever Happened to Modernism? is scheduled for a September publication. Read more on Yale UP's dedicated webpage. (Link via).

Update: My review is now online.


  1. This sounds like an extremely interesting and challenging read. I certainly think it is generally true that modern writers have not picked up the mantle left by their "moderist" predecessors - having said that the modernists were always a small minority so i wonder if this has been taken into account. I look forward to having a read.

    A pleasure to discover your blog

    Thanks indeed for sharing


  2. Thanks Hannah. I can assure you this is not a challenging read in the sense of it being difficult, technical or jargon-heavy; quite the opposite.

    And are not artists of note always in a small minority?

  3. Stephen,

    I have been thinking lately that all this talk about "modernity", "post-modernity" and the like is all so much ideology, and identity politics, and really not all that good for finding out how to promote human flourishing at all...

    Sure, there is a whole history of technology and shifting social forms, but, truly, has there ever been anything like a unified cultural moment? Hell no.

    We new a new discourse, with new tropes, that engage, in a detailed manner, how it is that we actually exist in teh world, and how to get our species behind the project of doing things better...


    PS-check my blog and subscribe or i'll cry myself to sleep...maybe.

  4. Thanks Michael, but we're not talking "modernity" or "post-modernity" here but Modernism in the arts, a particular "human flourishing" that has been replaced by a monoculture corporate pap celebrated by people who ought to know better.

    I notice that your blogroll has a distinct lack of literary blogs and a predominance of science/theory. This may explain why you've misunderstood what was posted above.



Please email me at steve dot mitchelmore at gmail dot com.

Blog Archive

Contact steve dot mitchelmore at Powered by Blogger.