Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction

By Norman F. Cantor | Go to book overview

Preface

I hope that scholars, critics, and college teachers will find this book useful and illuminating because of its synthetic quality, its bringing together of information from a wide variety of disciplines and because of its effort to depict the development of culture and thought in the twentieth century in broad and comprehensive categories. Whatever the controversial quality of such interdisciplinary interpretation, it can be valuable to see conventionally known facts in a somewhat different and original perspective.

This book is not, however, only expository. It does have a specific thesis relating to the nature of Modernism and its destiny. I am aware that this thesis is controversial and that it will be challenged by some. I hope that out of the ensuing debate, greater attention to and clarification of the issues raised in this book will arise. We now know enough about the details of twentieth-century cultural and intellectual history to begin to find a pattern of development that will in turn give a context to the meaning of current cultural trends. If this book contributes to that end, it will have served scholars, critics, and college teachers.

Aside from views on the nature and destiny of Modernism, the other idea in this book that might be construed as controversial is that I have tried to take rightist political culture seriously as well as leftist doctrine. Granted that what the right has accomplished intellectually still falls short of the elaboration of Marxist theory, I believe that a rightist position also merits intellectual consideration. I hope that by trying to delineate the history of rightist doctrine, I will make a contribution to novel speculation from that end of the political spectrum. Although I am not a supporter of Marxism, I have tried to present an informed overview of Marxist theory, some of which represents an important contribution to the culture of this century.

This book is written in such a way as to make it readily accessible to the educated layman, the college student, and the beginning graduate student in the humanities and social sciences. My hope is that the layman will find this discussion useful and stimulating, and that the student will see that it was critically necessary to have this background.

During three decades of teaching undergraduate and graduate students in medieval and English legal history, I have had frequent occasion to refer to some basic doctrine or leading thinker of the twentieth century and to get an uncomfortable or even bewildered response that reveals at best a vague name recognition but no real comprehension. It seemed to me it would be valuable to put into the hands of laymen and students a relatively concise account that

-v-

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Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • List of Illustrations xiii
  • 1 - The Nineteenth-Century Foundations of Twentieth-Century Culture 1
  • 2 - Modernism 35
  • 3 - Psychoanalysis 135
  • 4 - Marxism and the Left 183
  • 5 - Traditions on the Right 261
  • 6 - Structuralism, Deconstruction, and Post-Modernism 337
  • Conclusion 391
  • Cultural Analysis through Film 405
  • Select Bibliography 419
  • Index 429
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