Monday, August 24, 2009

Greta Tasedan
Engl 814

Cambridge Introduction to Modernism

"Of Modern Man I sing" croons Walt Whitman, making his allegiance to the Modernist literary movement indisputable. In the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, the word Modern (Latin root word modo) is defined as "just now" (xxvii). Together with Ezra Pound's slogan "make it new," these two phrases encompass the very idea of the convoluted definition of modernism. In the Cambridge Introduction to Modernism so many different contributing factors are mentioned when attempting to describe the development of "Modern Man" with a capitol "M." One of the most important developments of modernism is the leaps and bounds taken in technology. In an era which boasts of the invention of "the electric light, the telegraph, the telephone, the portable camera, the cinema, the bicycle, the automobile, the airplane, and the machine gun (Lewis 11), one of the most important developments was that of easier communication, travel, and overall globalization.
Although the focus of the course is modernism in London, modernism in London might not have thrived as it did without the development of more reliable and speedy forms of communication. Ezra Pound, an expat from America, was instrumental in bringing modernism to Europe. Without the ability to travel relatively easily, Pound may have opted to run the modernist movement from America! Without the developments in communication, Pound might have never discovered his passion for the ideals of Mussolini and may never have been inspired to travel to Italy. How different things might have been.....
In Cambridge Introduction to Modernism, Lewis quotes Russian literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky as saying, "art's distinctive contribution is defamiliarization," (26) meaning that "most people see the world through inherited conventions" (26). These inherited notions are partially the effect of a society with very little communication with the outside world. Before this magnificent modernist era of technological creation and the development of globalization, would Shklovsky's theories have been as readily available for review as after the advent of the telephone?
While these technological developments helped spread the tenets of modernism, is modernism reliant on technology, Shklovsky, or even Ezra Pound for life? Is modernism dead with the advent of post-modernism? In the Cambridge Companion to Modernism Michael Levenson calls modernism the "movement that would never age and never end" (1). Although Levenson makes it clear he believes the modernist era is over when he asks, "Do we call for a return to modernism," (1) he has no idea how correct his statement describing the longevity of Modernism is. With this statement he has summed up the soul of modernism in its entirety. Modo or "just now" implies a state of immediacy, which ends just as abruptly to make room for the next moment of "just now." "Just now" is a state of being which occurs perpetually. At one point romanticism was modern, just as post-modernism is modern in the moment in which a new and revolutionary idea is considered. Thus, we, and all our predecessors back to Milton and beyond, were participants in the greatest literary movement of all time, Modernism with a capitol "M."

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