Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction

By Norman F. Cantor | Go to book overview

capacity, but of political redundancy and ideological feebleness. Post-Modern culture exhibited this feature, and that is also why the iconology and themes of the art and literature of today are so much random recycling of the past, consisting of nostalgic appropriations and pastiches of segments of the past, without, however, any clear attendant theory of culture or philosophy of humanity. Only a new paradigm and a new vision will enable us to break out of the closure into which we seem to have drifted since the mid-seventies.


Conclusion

The first four decades of the twentieth century were characterized and shaped by a cultural revolution called Modernism that is represented in all major aspects of the humanities, the arts and the physical and behavioral sciences. Modernism was a self-conscious, broad-based rebellion against the main dimensions of Victorian mentality.

This age of high Modernism was the creative age of the twentieth century. Everything since then in the cultural and intellectual realms that is enduring and creative is largely the playing out and elaboration of the Modernist revolution. We are still spending the intellectual capital of Modernism.

The erosion of the Modernist revolution in the thirties and forties was the consequence of neo-Victorian modes of thinking arising from the two world wars, the Great Depression, and Marxism and Fascism. Although Marxism sought an affiliation with Modernism in a common adversary culture against the bourgeois ethos, it could on the whole not sustain this symbiosis because of the intrinsic oppositions between Marxism as a neo-Victorian mode of thought and Modernism. There was a closer affiliation between Fascism and Modernism but there were also ingredients in Fascism that strongly conflicted with Modernism and in any case Fascism was for the most part eliminated or at least discredited by the policies of Nazism and its demise.

Structuralism in significant ways constituted a reversion to nineteenth- century idealism. Deconstruction, a late development within structuralism, has a certain Modernist edge but the Modernist movement has not been reconstituted in a post-Modernist era, although certain manifestations of Modernism in literature and the arts are still appreciated and cultivated. Post-Modernism is characterized by omnivorous learning and an asserted freedom to appropriate whatever it wants in the past, leading to peculiar mixtures of Modernist and neo-Victorian elements.

Post-Modernism necessarily lacks Modernism's commitment to anti-Victorian rebellion. We are living now in a cultural age of diversity, eclecticism, and uncertainty of consciousness and goals, although skills and learning abound. We are in need of, and perhaps close to the point of the emergence of, a new paradigm, the construction of novel cultural theory. Although the left is currently flourishing academically and intellectually, it is from the right that novel creative movements are more likely to come.

Modernism was a release from the entropic quality of Victorian culture. It

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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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