Can someone explain Modernism without me having to pull up a dictionary?


Can someone explain Modernism without me having to pull up a dictionary?

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Your question is too broad. Modernism is a catch-all term that applies in many areas it means different things depending on what you’re talking about.

Plus you’re using the internet right now, so it’s not like you have to pull up a dictionary. Literally just say the word modernism to your phone with the appropriate button press prefix or service name preceding it.

I guess I’m looking for the philosophical definition then..?

Philosophy: The world changed very rapidly in the beginning on the 20th century, mega cities were formed, the atom was split and it looked like technology was going to turn the world into a Jetsons episode so modernism erupted on the scene with ideas and utopian visions of a perfect future that would transcend us all by progress.

Modernism was an early to mid 20th century artistic movement that was a reaction against the Victorian-era ideals of the prior generation. The previous movement was all about ideals and “shoulds” and putting the world into convenient categories. Modernism was about acknowledging that the world was kind of going to hell in a handbasket (see World War 1) and asking “what should we do?” or even “what CAN we do?” There was a lot of emphasis on futility, anxiety, and hypocrisy that artists saw in the world around them, and how rapid developments in technology didn’t necessarily make humanity better because it dehumanized the average person (think Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”).

This is just a cursory overview. There’s a lot more to it than that but my description is how I see the essence of it.

Modernism is both a philosophical movement and an art movement that arose from broad transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement reflected a desire for the creation of new forms of art, philosophy, and social organization which reflected the newly emerging industrial world, including features such as urbanization, new technologies, and war. Artists attempted to depart from traditional forms of art, which they considered outdated or obsolete. The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 command to “Make it New” was the touchstone of the movement’s approach.

Modernist innovations included abstract art, the stream-of-consciousness novel, montage cinema, atonal and twelve-tone music, and divisionist painting. Modernism explicitly rejected the ideology of realism and made use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists also rejected religious belief. A notable characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness concerning artistic and social traditions, which often led to experimentation with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating works of art.

While some scholars see modernism continuing into the 21st century, others see it evolving into late modernism or high modernism. Postmodernism is a departure from modernism and rejects its basic assumptions.