Modernism 2nd Edition (The New Critical Idiom) by Peter Childs

By Peter Childs

Modernism : the hot severe Idiom 2d variation through Peter Childs. Routledge N. Y.,2008

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According to Fredric Jameson (1984: 78) Modernism is the middle part in a triad of cultural periods that begins with realism and ends with postmodernism and that parallels social and economic upheavals precipitated by technological innovations, such as the shift from steam to electric motors to electronic machines, and the development of a mass commodity culture. Modernity, in classical Marxism, is a double-edged phenomenon in which capitalism and the rise of the bourgeoisie eliminated feudalism and brought enormously significant forms of communication, transport and production but also created a serially exploited proletariat which would eventually overthrow it.

However, in his influential book Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, Houston A. Baker Jr locates the beginning of African-American modernism introduction in a speech by Booker T. Washington on 18 September 1895, which was given as the opening address at an Atlanta Exposition where he ‘offered guiding premises and discursive strategies’ that would be expanded in his autobiography Up from Slavery (1901). The extensive use of rhetoric and distinctive forms of expression are then what come to define African-American modernism for Baker, but the Renaissance was also highly notable for its engagement with issues such as black poverty, racism and AfricanAmerican identity.

In his 1982 book The Political Unconscious, Jameson again takes up the issue of modernism’s relation to history. In particular, he is interested in the division between realism’s transparent representation of history, based on a principle of verisimilitude, and modernism’s insistence on the difference of each individual’s experience and interpretation of life. Jameson argues that all interpretations are, in fact, ideological, but that many deny this and repress historical forces through ‘strategies of containment’, such as symbolism.

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