The Senses of Modernism: Technology, Perception, and Aesthetics

By Sara Danius | Go to book overview

1

The Antitechnological Bias and Other
Modernist Myths

Literature and the Question of Technology

Shortly before the outbreak of the Great War, the French intellectual Charles Péguy remarked that the world had changed more in the last thirty years than it had since the death of Christ. In a similar spirit, Louis Aragon remarked upon the pulsations of the new. “Each day alters the modern feeling of experience,” he wrote in Le paysan de Paris (1926), translated as Nightwalker. “A mythology takes shape and comes undone.”1 These observations epitomize the self-consciousness of those generations of Europeans whose historical experience spanned the last decades of the nineteenth century and the beginnings of the twentieth. They witnessed the emergence of that phase of modernity sometimes called big-scale or imperialist capitalism, a historical period in which the new was fated to be out of date at a pace previously unseen.

In the postmodern age, the kind of temporal and historical experience upon which Péguy's and Aragon's observations build is no longer applicable. New perspectives emerge and modernist culture lays itself open to historical reflection. Not everyone might agree that we live in a postmodern era, to be sure, but probably no one will dispute the fact that modernist literature, painting, sculpture, film, music, and architecture have long since, and for a variety of reasons, entered the halls of tradition. Clearly, it is no longer self-evident that “Modernism is our art,” as Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane claimed in 1976, when they published their magisterial anthology Modernism, 1890–1930.2 If the modern world increasingly invites an anthropological perspective, this is because

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The Senses of Modernism: Technology, Perception, and Aesthetics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Antitechnological Bias and Other Modernist Myths 25
  • 2: Novel Visions and the Crisis of Culture 55
  • 3: The Education of the Senses 91
  • 4: The Aesthetics of Immediacy 147
  • Coda 189
  • Notes 197
  • Index 235
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