Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism: Art, Theater, Philosophy

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Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is the founder of modern theater, and his plays are performed all over the world. Yet in spite of his unquestioned status as a classic of the stage, Ibsen is often dismissed as a fuddy-duddy old realist, whose plays are of interest only because they remain the gateway to modern theater. In Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism, Toril Moi makes a powerful case not just for Ibsen's modernity, but for his modernism. Situating Ibsen in his cultural context, she shows how unexpected his rise to world fame was, and the extent of his influence on writers such Shaw, Wilde, and Joyce who were seeking to escape the shackles of Victorianism.

Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism also rewrites nineteenth-century literary history; positioning Ibsen between visual art and philosophy, the book offers a critique of traditional theories of the opposition between realism and modernism. Modernism, Moi argues, arose from the ruins of idealism, the dominant aesthetic paradigm of the nineteenth century. She also shows why Ibsen still matters to us today, by focusing on two major themes-his explorations of women, men, and marriage and his clear-eyed chronicling of the tension between skepticism and the everyday.

This radical new account places Ibsen in his rightful place alongside Baudelaire, Flaubert, and Manet as a founder of European modernism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The best literary criticism makes us see authors and literary works in a new light and inspires us with a desire to reread them. This is the critical alchemy that Toril Moi achieves with her accessibly written yet genuinely scholarly book Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism. A sustained study of a single major author, the book also has global sweep and interdisciplinary breadth. Moi situates Ibsen and Norway within the European republic of letters, overturns the conventional reading of Ibsen as a realist predecessor of modern theater, and produces a compelling answer to the perennial question, "What is modernism?" By reframing Ibsen as a modernist, Moi gives fresh meaning to Ibsens work across disciplines and to his influential engagement with modern visual culture."—MLA Prize Committee

"One of the joys of enrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism is that it is rhetorically sophisticated and tightly argued. Moi's prose is lively and engaging, she knows her Ibsen well, and her theoretical background has enabled her to offer an interesting, intellectually rewarding reading experience."-Jan Sjavik, Modern Language Quaterly

"Moi's clear-eyed revaluation of the playwright...is particularly good on Ibsen's women, refusing to idealise them and placing them at the heart of his investigative project."—Plays International

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199202591
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 847,953
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Toril Moi was born and raised in Norway, and worked in England in the 1980s, before moving to Duke University in 1989, where she is now the James B. Duke Professor of Literature and Romance Studies. She is the author of influential books on feminist theory. The second edition of her landmark study of Simone de Beauvoir will be published in January 2008.

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Table of Contents

An Ibsen Chronology
Part I: Ibsen's Place in History
1. Ibsen and the Ideology of Modernism
2. Postcolonial Norway? Ibsen's Cultural Resources
3. Rethinking Literary History: Idealism, Realism, and the Birth of Modernism
4. Ibsen's Visual World: Spectacles, Painting, Theater
Part II: Ibsen's Modern Breakthrough
5. The Idealist Straitjacket: Ibsen's Early Aesthetics
6. Becoming Modern: Modernity and Theater in Emperor and Galilean
Part III: Ibsen's Modernism: Love in an Age of Skepticism
7. "First and Foremost a Human Being": Idealism, Theater, and Gender in A Doll's House
8. Losing Touch with the Everyday: Love and Language in The Wild Duck
9. Losing Faith in Language: Fantasies of Perfect Communication in Rosmersholm
10. The Art of Transformation: Art, Marriage, and Freedom in The Lady From the Sea
Epilogue: Idealism and the "Bad" Everyday
Appendix 1: Synopsis of Emperor and Galilean
Appendix 2: Translating Ibsen

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