Modernism ushered in some of the most exciting innovations in art and literature, from Fauvism, Cubism, and Dada, to the novels of James Joyce and Franz Kafka, to such provocative works as Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain." But Modernism also left many people puzzled in its wake. How can a routine bathroom fixture be considered a work of art? Shouldn't a novel have a beginning, a middle, and an endor at least a story? In this Very Short Introduction, Christopher Butler provides a coherent account of Modernism across various aesthetic and cultural fields. Butler examines how and why Modernism began, explaining what it is and showing how virtually all aspects of 20th and 21st century life have been influenced by its aesthetic legacy. Butler considers several aspects of modernism, including some classic modernist works, movements and notions of the avant garde, and the idea of "progress" in art. Finally, Butler sheds light on modernist ideas of the self, subjectivity, irrationalism, people and machines, and the political dimensions of modernism as a whole.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
About the Author
Christopher Butler is Professor of English Language and Literature at Christ Church College, University of Oxford.
Table of Contents
1. The Modernist work
2. Modernist movements and cultural tradition
3. The Modernist artist
4. Modernism and politics
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.