February 27 - March 1, 2003

The academic study of modernism was for many years confined to the "high arts”. As a movement, it was commonly thought to begin and end with Picasso in the visual arts, with Joyce, Woolf, Pound and Eliot in literature, Stravinsky in music and Le Corbusier in architecture. In this view, modernism was a term that designated an artistic school, an aesthetic. As a backdrop to that set of innovative strategies, “modernity” was understood of as a specific historical period marked by the experience of rapid industrialization whose consequences were felt most centrally in the production of goods and the transformation in modes of communication and travel.

In contrast to this dual vision of modern art and society, more contemporary scholarship represents these phenomena an imbrication of modernism with modernity. Scholars address the influence of advertising on the modernist aesthetic (and vice versa), explore art’s capacity to register the “shock” of a radically changed temporality produced by modernity, analyze the psychological and cultural effects of the new technologies, in general, and any number of other projects that mark modernism as a set of cultural practices that both articulate and mediate the experience of modernity. As the editors of the journal Modernism/ Modernity explain, "Modernism was more than a repertory of artistic styles, more too than an intellectual movement or set of ideas; it initiated an ongoing transformation in the entire set of relations governing the production, transmission, and reception of the arts. Modernism has come to be seen as much more than an artistic movement: rather, it marked a fundamental change in the way people saw the world.”

This seminar will call on speakers from film studies, literature, and art history to help us explore how this more capacious sense of modernism has transformed our understanding of that period, the arts it produced and our own relation to the recent past. The seminar will explore recent work in the history of film describing the ways early film registered and engaged modernity both as object and mode of perception. Literary and art historians will analyze modernist responses to modernity and its technological innovations as both resource for and an obstacle to artistic creativity. Finally, we will ask how this new perspective complicates and enriches our understanding of modernist ideas on the autonomy of artistic form and practice.

Speakers on this topic will include Tom Gunning (Film Studies), Miriam Hansen (Film Studies and English), Joel Snyder (Art History), Yuri Tsivian (Art History, Film Studies), Robert Von Hallberg (English), Bill Brown( English).

Prereadings