20 jul. 2011


Modernism never really died. There was a classic period from about 1910 to the early 1930s, the highlight of the avant-garde and the period when The Waste Land Ulysses, and Spring and All were published. Let's call that historical modernism.

Then there is everything lying behind this. Manet and Baudelaire, Flaubert and Mallarmé, Rimbaud, the Jena school of German Romanticism. Everything that made historical modernism possible. Modernism made these nineteenth century developments central. To call Baudelaire the first modern poet only makes sense if there is a modern poetry later.

Once historical modernism died, late modernism could take shape. Blanchot, Beckett, Celan, Octavio Paz and Lezama Lima. The social realism and existentialism of the 30s and 40s was an interruption, a distraction. Late modernism can draw equally from historical modernism and from the capital M Modernity of the 19th Century. It was a consolidation. The Latin American boom of the 1960s was still modernist too. Cortázar, say. So let's say there is larger arc of modernism, from Hölderlin to Gamoneda.

Later I'll try to define what this modernism means. My initial sense is that it's a kind of ambition. But an ambition to do what?

3 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

An ambition to make art works explicitly addressing the boundaries of their media and their "artness."

Just as a quick formulation. I'm thinking particularly of Kandinsky's move to complete abstraction.

John dijo...

I might date modernism to . . . well, to Vasari, with his promotion of progress in the arts, which is . . . a traditional starting point of modernism, with the Renaissance. Closer to our time and sensibility, Robert Schumann's friends called themselves "David's Gang," opposed to the "Philistine" (Goliath) bourgeois culture. Progress and opposition seem to be common strains. People like Ron Silliman still hold to the "progressive" line, as well as to the oppositional line, but as many people have pointed out, when progress entails stylistic variants on Gertrude Stein's breakthroughs, and the oppositionalists have a stronghold in the state-supported academy, the concepts may be losing their force.

Andrew Shields dijo...

A comment on my blog suggested another answer to me: Vermeer. But then he only became really popular once Modernism began to kick in, so that's a bit slippery. It would be like saying that Hölderlin is the beginning of something, when he only really began a hundred years after he stopped being productive.