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Modernism (c. 1900-1950) Major Idea: reality is not objective and universal; reality is subjective and relative: inward, distorted by individual psychology.

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Modernism (c. 1900-1950)

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modernism c 1900 1950
Modernism (c. 1900-1950)
  • Major Idea: reality is not objective and universal; reality is subjective and relative: inward, distorted by individual psychology.
  • Causes: pace of change, urbanization, secularization, reaction to World War I (radical rejection of all traditional authority by the “Lost Generation”), particularly nationalism and militarism, and conventional notions of “honor.”
t s eliot the waste land 1922
T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)

April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers…

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

virginia woolf mrs dalloway 1925
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

For it was the middle of June. The War was over, except for some one like Mrs. Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin; or Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John, her favourite, killed; but it was over; thank Heaven—over. It was June. The King and Queen were at the Palace. And everywhere, though it was still so early, there was a beating, a stirring of galloping ponies, tapping of cricket bats; Lords, Ascot, Ranelagh and all the rest of it; wrapped in the soft mesh of the grey-blue morning air, which, as the day wore on, would unwind them, and set down on their lawns and pitches the bouncing ponies, whose forefeet just struck the ground and up they sprung, the whirling young men, and laughing girls in their transparent muslins who, even now, after dancing all night, were taking their absurd woolly dogs for a run; and even now, at this hour, discreet old dowagers were shooting out in their motor cars on errands of mystery; and the shopkeepers were fidgeting in their windows with their paste and diamonds, their lovely old sea-green brooches in eighteenth-century settings to tempt Americans (but one must economise, not buy things rashly for Elizabeth), and she, too, loving it as she did with an absurd and faithful passion, being part of it, since her people were courtiers once in the time of the Georges, she, too, was going that very night to kindle and illuminate; to give her party. But how strange, on entering the Park, the silence; the mist; the hum; the slow-swimming happy ducks; the pouched birds waddling; and who should be coming along with his back against the Government buildings, most appropriately, carrying a despatch box stamped with the Royal Arms, who but Hugh Whitbread; her old friend Hugh—the admirable Hugh!


Un Chien Andalou, Luis Brunel and Salvador Dali, 1929

the bauhaus and modern architecture end of victorian decoration and historical allusion
The Bauhaus and Modern Architecture (end of Victorian decoration and historical allusion)
  • Worship of the State in which all power resides.
  • State is symbolized by a leader with a charismatic “cult of personality” (schools, media, spectacles).
  • Contempt for human relations, emotions, and beliefs that do not contribute to the state (schools, media).
  • Complete control of ALL behavior AND thought (secret police, surveillance technology).
  • Seeks not just pretended agreement but genuine subordination of free will to the State (brainwashing, re-education, prison camps). [See Orwell’s 1984]
  • Not just Nazi, also Communists under Stalin and Mao—anywhere else?
totalitarianism absolute control over the minds of citizens including art and literature
Totalitarianism: Absolute control over the minds of citizens (including art and literature)

Nazi and Socialist Realism (above)

george orwell 1984
George Orwell, 1984

'How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?' Winston thought. 'By making him suffer,' he said. 'Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.

Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now.

There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.'

what is fascism
What is Fascism?
  • Symbol: bundle of sticks (see next slide).
  • Technologically Progressive, Militaristic, Disciplined, Orderly.
  • Extreme Nationalism, Anti-individualism.
  • Hatred of “Outsiders” or “Internal Enemies,” Desire for Revenge.
  • Sense of Destiny, Utopianism, Pro-“Christian” (in public).
  • Populist (Celebration of the “Volk”), Racial Blood-Knowledge, Historical Mysticism (see slide).
fascist politics
Fascist Politics
  • Use simple language and images (see next slide).
  • Conceal Implications of Ideology from Mainstream.
  • Appeal to ordinary people on the following issues: traditional morality, family values, patriotism, and religion.
  • Portray nation as imperiled by mysterious, conspiratorial forces of evil that are everywhere and nowhere (link tolerance of this evil opposing political parties).
  • Attack intellectual opponents as enemies of the nation and ordinary people. Surveillance of communications.
  • Eliminate social programs as support for weak & immoral.
  • Sustain powerful economic interests through government spending on military technology, infrastructure, and surveillance.
  • Pressure media to suppress alternative viewpoints.
the fascist leader
The Fascist Leader
  • Great Orator, “Presence” (see next slide).
  • Creates emotional bond with each individual, and fosters bonds between them against a common enemy.
  • Understands Crowd Psychology, “The Will.”
  • Speaks to Emotional Weaknesses.
  • Seems to Suffer on the People’s Behalf.
  • Calls on People to Sacrifice for the Nation.
  • Frightens dissenters into silence, pretended agreement.
  • See Triumph of the Will.
keynesian economics
Keynesian Economics
  • Response to Great Depression
  • Opposed to Laissez-Faire Capitalism
  • Full employment and political stability require government intervention in the economy:
    • Deficit Spending (Infrastructure, Military)
    • Government as Employer (Bureaucracy, Military)