The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought

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9780226224817: The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought

A lively and accessible history of Modernism, The First Moderns is filled with portraits of genius, and intellectual breakthroughs, that richly evoke the fin-de-siècle atmosphere of Paris, Vienna, St. Louis, and St. Petersburg. William Everdell offers readers an invigorating look at the unfolding of an age.

"This exceptionally wide-ranging history is chock-a-block with anecdotes, factoids, odd juxtapositions, and useful insights. Most impressive. . . . For anyone interested in learning about late 19th- and early 20th- century imaginative thought, this engagingly written book is a good place to start."—Washington Post Book World

"The First Moderns brilliantly maps the beginning of a path at whose end loom as many diasporas as there are men."—Frederic Morton, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

"In this truly exciting study of the origins of modernist thought, poet and teacher Everdell roams freely across disciplinary lines. . . . A brilliant book that will prove useful to scholars and generalists for years to come; enthusiastically recommended."—Library Journal, starred review

"Everdell has performed a rare service for his readers. Dispelling much of the current nonsense about 'postmodernism,' this book belongs on the very short list of profound works of cultural analysis."—Booklist

"Innovative and impressive . . . [Everdell] has written a marvelous, erudite, and readable study."-Mark Bevir, Spectator

"A richly eclectic history of the dawn of a new era in painting, music, literature, mathematics, physics, genetics, neuroscience, psychiatry and philosophy."—Margaret Wertheim, New Scientist

"[Everdell] has himself recombined the parts of our era's intellectual history in new and startling ways, shedding light for which the reader of The First Moderns will be eternally grateful."—Hugh Kenner, The New York Times Book Review

"Everdell shows how the idea of "modernity" arose before the First World War by telling the stories of heroes such as T. S. Eliot, Max Planck, and Georges Serault with such a lively eye for detail, irony, and ambiance that you feel as if you're reliving those miraculous years."—Jon Spayde, Utne Reader

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Everdell (The End of Kings, 1983) presents one of the more accessible studies of early Modernism (up to WW I), relying on a ``big name'' approach to dissect the meanings of one of the most slippery terms in all of cultural criticism. Using geographical benchmarks to elaborate on the subject of Modernism, Everdell first presents imperial Vienna, then Paris, and finally St. Louis as examples of Modernist trends precipitating, emerging, and evolving. Dismissing Virginia Woolf's assertion that the Modern era began ``on or about December 1910,'' Everdell nimbly places such supposedly pre-Modern thinkers and artists as Mach (whose name is still used to denote the speed of sound), Seurat, and Whitman in the long evolutionary trend of Modernism, demonstrating their influence on developments like relativity theory (Einstein), the invention of film (Thomas Edison), and High Modernism (Pound, Eliot, Williams). This inclusive view expands the commonly accepted Modernist canon; it also stresses the crucial nature of influence, showing, for instance, Picasso's cubism and Kandinsky's abstract expressionism prefiguring their interwar works, and the atonal music of Arthur Schoenberg exerting influence on Philip Glass. Everdell presents an intriguing chapter on Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, governor of Cuba, and his grisly contribution to Modern culture in 1896: the concentration camp. Hitler and Stalin get only passing references, but it is the exclusion here of Michel Foucault in the discussion of penal institutions that seems glaring. Similarly, the absence of Ferdinand de Saussure in a chapter on phenomenology, which includes Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl, omits a giant in the field of sign study. Still, these are minor lapses in what is otherwise a sturdy and erudite overview of one of the most complex periods of thought. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

By 1912, nothing but fragments remained of the once-smooth masonry of culture, destroyed by radicals who dared to ask explosive new questions and to adopt destabilizing new perspectives. In a work of remarkable breadth, Everdell recounts the feats of these provocateurs--including Rimbaud and Freud, Joyce and Stein, Planck and Einstein, Schoenberg and Kandinsky--who destroyed the old cultural edifice and erected the structure called modernism in its place. While making full allowance for differences in aims and methods, Everdell nonetheless shows that all of the founders of modernism were groping toward a new conception of the universe as an aggregate of disparate and isolated elements. Whether in Kandinsky's untamed artistry, Joyce's experimental fiction, or Planck's quantum physics, the open vistas of tradition vanished, replaced by acute but disconnected glimpses of a startling world. By discerning the deep-down kinship of set theorists in mathematics, of symbolists in poetry, and of pointillists in painting, Everdell has performed a rare service for his readers. Dispelling much of the current nonsense about "postmodernism," this book belongs on the very short list of profound works of cultural analysis. Bryce Christensen

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Book Description The University of Chicago Press, United States, 1998. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New edition. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In the early 1870s, mathematicians like Cantor and Dedekind discovered the set and divided the mathematical continuum; in 1886, Georges Seurat debuted his visionary masterpiece, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte ; by the end of 1900, Hugo de Vries had discovered the gene, Max Planck had laid claim to the quantum, and Sigmund Freud had laid bare the unconscious workings of dreams. Throughout the worlds of art and ideas, of science and philosophy, Modernism was dawning, and with it a new mode of conceptualization. With astounding range and scholarly command, William Everdell constructs a lively and accessible history of nascent Modernism -- narrating portraits of genius, profiling intellectual breakthroughs, and richly evoking the fin-de-siecle atmosphere of Paris, Vienna, St. Louis, and St. Petersburg. He follows Picasso to the Cabaret des Assassins, discourses with Ernst Mach on the contingency of scientific law, and takes in the riotous premiere of Stravinsky s Rite of Spring . But how are we to define the inception of an era predicated upon such far-flung and radically disparate innovations? Everdell is careful not to insist on the creative interrelation of these events. Instead, what for him unites such germinally modernist achievements is a profound conceptual insight: that the objects of our knowledge are - contrary to the evolutionary seamlessness of nineteenth-century thought -- discrete, atomistic, and discontinuous. The gray matter was found to be made out of neurons, poems out of disjunctive images, and paintings out of dots of color, all by innovators whose worlds were just beginning to align. Theoretically sophisticated yet marvelously entertaining, TheFirst Moderns offers an invigorating look at the unfolding of an age. Bookseller Inventory # BTE9780226224817

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