Professor Christopher Butler is Professor of English Language and Literature at Christ Church College, University Oxford. His many publications include Early Modernism: Literature, Music, and Painting in Europe, 1900-1916 (OUP, 1994), Interpretation, Deconstruction, and Ideology (OUP, 1984), and Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2002).
Modernism: A Very Short Introductionby Christopher Butler
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Is a tower block, your unmade bed, your lavatory basin, or the bicycle chained to the gate next door a work of art? Why should a novel have a beginning, a middle, and an end; or even a story? Whether we recognise it or not, virtually every aspect of our life today has been influenced in part by the aesthetic legacy of Modernism. In this Very Short Introduction Christopher Butler examines how and why Modernism began, explaining what it is and showing how it has gradually informed all aspects of 20th and 21st century life. Butler considers several aspects of modernism including some modernist works; movements and notions of the avant garde; and the idea of 'progress' in art. Butler looks at modernist ideas of the self, subjectivity, irrationalism, people and machines, and political definitions of modernism as a whole. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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I was instructed to read this book as a prelude to a university literature course on American Modernism. However, I came away learning very little. I do not feel as if I was truly able to distinguish between modernism, variations of modernism, and fake/not-modernist styles that just happened to be during similar periods. The book is an "introduction" in that it overwhelms the reader with countless authors, artists, composers, etc. Unless you have read or are already familiar with the artists/the work, these references will mean very little and will simply blur together. It seems like a better fit for people who already have a solid understanding of the period and the artists, and want a broader look at the movement or just a review. The writing style was also not particularly conducive to comprehension. If you're an absolute novice, I'd look for something else.