Postmodernism in The English Patient Essay examples
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Postmodernism in The English Patient
Postmodernism is one of the most controversial and influential intellectual movements to appear in the last fifty years. In order to understand postmodernism, it would be wise to begin with a definition of modernism. Modernism is a philosophy based on the belief that through Enlightenment values of rationality and the absolute truth of science, the human race will evolve into a utopia. Modernists are Eurocentric, humanistic, and optimistic. Postmodernism is essentially a rejection of modernism and all Enlightenment values. More importantly, postmodernism looks upon the "modern" world with increased cynicism and disappointment. Key themes in postmodern thought include irony,…show more content…
Although Katharine hates lies, she is living one by involving herself in an affair. Almasy explains to Katharine while in the bath, his hatred of ownership. However, later in the film after she tries to break off the relationship he becomes insanely jealous and tells her he "wants the things which belong to him" (Minghella, English). The most significant irony comes near the end of the film when Almasy, on his deathbed, confesses to Carvaggio that he was responsible for Katharine's death (Minghella, English). Almasy is overcome with grief in the cave when he tells Katharine "every night I cut out my heart, but in the morning it was full again," essentially saying his "organ of fire" consumed his every thought (Minghella, English). He tells Carvaggio "she died because of me. Because I loved her," and he had the power to control the situation but chose not to (Minghella, English). The English Patient is filled with situations of significant irony used to promote postmodernism.
Relativism, skepticism, and self-consciousness are major postmodern themes found in the film. The relativism in the film deals with a lack of universal truth and no real distinctions between "good" and "bad". Kip remarks to Hana near the end of the film that both Almasy and Hardy are "what is good about England", when he
For other uses of the word, see Modernism (disambiguation). For the period in sociology beginning with industrialization, see Modernity.
Related terms are modern, contemporary, and postmodern.
Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by reactions of horror to World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief.
Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and even the sciences, were becoming ill-fitted to their tasks and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world. The poet Ezra Pound's 1934 injunction to "Make it new!" was the touchstone of the movement's approach towards what it saw as the now obsolete culture of the past. In this spirit, its innovations, like the stream-of-consciousness novel, atonal (or pantonal) and twelve-tone music, divisionist painting and abstract art, all had precursors in the 19th century.
A notable characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness and irony concerning literary and social traditions, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc. Modernism explicitly rejected the ideology of realism and makes use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody.
Some commentators define modernism as a mode of thinking—one or more philosophically defined characteristics, like self-consciousness or self-reference, that run across all the novelties in the arts and the disciplines. More common, especially in the West, are those who see it as a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology. From this perspective, modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was 'holding back' progress, and replacing it with new ways of reaching the same end. Others focus on modernism as an aesthetic introspection. This facilitates consideration of specific reactions to the use of technology in the First World War, and anti-technological and nihilistic aspects of the works of diverse thinkers and artists spanning the period from Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) to Samuel Beckett (1906–1989).
While some scholars see modernism continuing into the twenty first century others see it evolving into late modernism or high modernism, which is then superseded by postmodernism.
Beginnings: the 19th century
According to one critic, modernism developed out of Romanticism's revolt against the effects of the Industrial Revolution and bourgeois values: "The ground motive of modernism, Graff asserts, was criticism of the nineteenth-century bourgeois social order and its world view [...] the modernists, carrying the torch of romanticism." While J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), one of the greatest landscape painters of the 19th century, was a member of the Romantic movement, as "a pioneer in the study of light, colour, and atmosphere", he "anticipated the French Impressionists" and therefore modernism "in breaking down conventional formulas of representation; [though] unlike them, he believed that his works should always express significant historical, mythological, literary, or other narrative themes."
The dominant trends of industrial Victorian England were opposed, from about 1850, by the English poets and painters that constituted the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, because of their "opposition to technical skill without inspiration.":815 They were influenced by the writings of the art critic John Ruskin (1819–1900), who had strong feelings about the role of art in helping to improve the lives of the urban working classes, in the rapidly expanding industrial cities of Britain.:816 Art critic Clement Greenberg describes the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as proto-Modernists: "There the proto-Modernists were, of all people, the pre-Raphaelites (and even before them, as proto-proto-Modernists, the German Nazarenes). The Pre-Raphaelites actually foreshadowed Manet (1832–83), with whom Modernist painting most definitely begins. They acted on a dissatisfaction with painting as practiced in their time, holding that its realism wasn't truthful enough."Rationalism has also had opponents in the philosophers Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55) and later Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), both of whom had significant influence on existentialism.:120
However, the Industrial Revolution continued. Influential innovations included steam-powered industrialization, and especially the development of railways, starting in Britain in the 1830s, and the subsequent advancements in physics, engineering, and architecture associated with this. A major 19th-century engineering achievement was The Crystal Palace, the huge cast-iron and plate glass exhibition hall built for The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. Glass and iron were used in a similar monumental style in the construction of major railway terminals in London, such as Paddington Station (1854) and King's Cross station (1852). These technological advances led to the building of later structures like the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) and the Eiffel Tower (1889). The latter broke all previous limitations on how tall man-made objects could be. These engineering marvels radically altered the 19th-century urban environment and the daily lives of people. The human experience of time itself was altered, with the development of the electric telegraph from 1837, and the adoption of standard time by British railway companies from 1845, and in the rest of the world over the next fifty years.
But despite continuing technological advances, from the 1870s onward, the idea that history and civilization were inherently progressive, and that progress was always good, came under increasing attack. Arguments arose that the values of the artist and those of society were not merely different, but that Society was antithetical to Progress, and could not move forward in its present form. The philosopher Schopenhauer (1788–1860) (The World as Will and Representation, 1819) called into question the previous optimism, and his ideas had an important influence on later thinkers, including Nietzsche. Two of the most significant thinkers of the period were biologist Charles Darwin (1809–82), author of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859), and political scientist Karl Marx (1818–83), author of Das Kapital (1867). Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection undermined religious certainty and the idea of human uniqueness. In particular, the notion that human beings were driven by the same impulses as "lower animals" proved to be difficult to reconcile with the idea of an ennobling spirituality. Karl Marx argued that there were fundamental contradictions within the capitalist system, and that the workers were anything but free.
The beginnings of modernism in France
Historians, and writers in different disciplines, have suggested various dates as starting points for modernism. Historian William Everdell, for example, has argued that modernism began in the 1870s, when metaphorical (or ontological) continuity began to yield to the discrete with mathematician Richard Dedekind's (1831–1916) Dedekind cut, and Ludwig Boltzmann's (1844–1906) statistical thermodynamics. Everdell also thinks modernism in painting began in 1885–86 with Seurat's Divisionism, the "dots" used to paint A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. On the other hand, visual art critic Clement Greenberg called Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) "the first real Modernist", though he also wrote, "What can be safely called Modernism emerged in the middle of the last century—and rather locally, in France, with Baudelaire in literature and Manet in painting, and perhaps with Flaubert, too, in prose fiction. (It was a while later, and not so locally, that Modernism appeared in music and architecture)." The poet Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), and Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary were both published in 1857.
In the arts and letters, two important approaches developed separately in France. The first was Impressionism, a school of painting that initially focused on work done, not in studios, but outdoors (en plein air). Impressionist paintings demonstrated that human beings do not see objects, but instead see light itself. The school gathered adherents despite internal divisions among its leading practitioners, and became increasingly influential. Initially rejected from the most important commercial show of the time, the government-sponsored Paris Salon, the Impressionists organized yearly group exhibitions in commercial venues during the 1870s and 1880s, timing them to coincide with the official Salon. A significant event of 1863 was the Salon des Refusés, created by Emperor Napoleon III to display all of the paintings rejected by the Paris Salon. While most were in standard styles, but by inferior artists, the work of Manet attracted tremendous attention, and opened commercial doors to the movement. The second French school was Symbolism, which literary historians see beginning with Charles Baudelaire (1821–67), and including the later poets, Arthur Rimbaud (1854–91) Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell, 1873), Paul Verlaine (1844–96), Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–98), and Paul Valéry (1871–1945). The symbolists "stressed the priority of suggestion and evocation over direct description and explicit analogy," and were especially interested in "the musical properties of language."Cabaret, which gave birth to so many of the arts of modernism, including the immediate precursors of film, may be said to have begun in France in 1881 with the opening of the Black Cat in Montmartre, the beginning of the ironic monologue, and the founding of the Society of Incoherent Arts.
Influential in the early days of modernism were the theories of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). Freud's first major work was Studies on Hysteria (with Josef Breuer, 1895). Central to Freud's thinking is the idea "of the primacy of the unconscious mind in mental life," so that all subjective reality was based on the play of basic drives and instincts, through which the outside world was perceived. Freud's description of subjective states involved an unconscious mind full of primal impulses, and counterbalancing self-imposed restrictions derived from social values.:538
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was another major precursor of modernism, with a philosophy in which psychological drives, specifically the "will to power" (Wille zur Macht), was of central importance: "Nietzsche often identified life itself with 'will to power', that is, with an instinct for growth and durability."Henri Bergson (1859–1941), on the other hand, emphasized the difference between scientific, clock time and the direct, subjective, human experience of time.:131 His work on time and consciousness "had a great influence on twentieth-century novelists," especially those Modernists who used the stream of consciousness technique, such as Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf (1882–1941). Also important in Bergson's philosophy was the idea of élan vital, the life force, which "brings about the creative evolution of everything.":132 His philosophy also placed a high value on intuition, though without rejecting the importance of the intellect.:132
Important literary precursors of modernism were Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–81), who wrote the novels Crime and Punishment (1866) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880);Walt Whitman (1819–92), who published the poetry collection Leaves of Grass (1855–91); and August Strindberg (1849–1912), especially his later plays, including the trilogy To Damascus 1898–1901, A Dream Play (1902) and The Ghost Sonata (1907). Henry James has also been suggested as a significant precursor, in a work as early as The Portrait of a Lady (1881).
Out of the collision of ideals derived from Romanticism, and an attempt to find a way for knowledge to explain that which was as yet unknown, came the first wave of works in the first decade of the 20th century, which, while their authors considered them extensions of existing trends in art, broke the implicit contract with the general public that artists were the interpreters and representatives of bourgeois culture and ideas. These "Modernist" landmarks include the atonal ending of Arnold Schoenberg's Second String Quartet in 1908, the expressionist paintings of Wassily Kandinsky starting in 1903, and culminating with his first abstract painting and the founding of the Blue Rider group in Munich in 1911, and the rise of fauvism and the inventions of cubism from the studios of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and others, in the years between 1900 and 1910.
Explosion, early 20th century to 1930
An important aspect of modernism is how it relates to tradition through its adoption of techniques like reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody in new forms.
T. S. Eliot made significant comments on the relation of the artist to tradition, including: "[W]e shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of [a poet's] work, may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously." However, the relationship of Modernism with tradition was complex, as literary scholar Peter Childs indicates: "There were paradoxical if not opposed trends towards revolutionary and reactionary positions, fear of the new and delight at the disappearance of the old, nihilism and fanatical enthusiasm, creativity and despair."
An example of how Modernist art can be both revolutionary and yet be related to past tradition, is the music of the composer Arnold Schoenberg. On the one hand Schoenberg rejected traditional tonal harmony, the hierarchical system of organizing works of music that had guided music making for at least a century and a half. He believed he had discovered a wholly new way of organizing sound, based in the use of twelve-note rows. Yet while this was indeed wholly new, its origins can be traced back in the work of earlier composers, such as Franz Liszt,Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss and Max Reger. Furthermore, it must be noted that Schoenberg also wrote tonal music throughout his career.
In the world of art, in the first decade of the 20th century, young painters such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse were causing a shock with their rejection of traditional perspective as the means of structuring paintings, though the impressionist Monet had already been innovative in his use of perspective. In 1907, as Picasso was painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Oskar Kokoschka was writing Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, Hope of Women), the first Expressionist play (produced with scandal in 1909), and Arnold Schoenberg was composing his String Quartet No.2 in F sharp minor (1908), his first composition without a tonal centre.
A primary influence that led to Cubism was the representation of three-dimensional form in the late works of Paul Cézanne, which were displayed in a retrospective at the 1907 Salon d'Automne. In Cubist artwork, objects are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form; instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Cubism was brought to the attention of the general public for the first time in 1911 at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris (held 21 April – 13 June). Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Henri Le Fauconnier, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger and Roger de La Fresnaye were shown together in Room 41, provoking a 'scandal' out of which Cubism emerged and spread throughout Paris and beyond. Also in 1911, Kandinsky painted Bild mit Kreis (Picture with a Circle), which he later called the first abstract painting.:167 In 1912, Metzinger and Gleizes wrote the first (and only) major Cubist manifesto, Du "Cubisme", published in time for the Salon de la Section d'Or, the largest Cubist exhibition to date. In 1912 Metzinger painted and exhibited his enchanting La Femme au Cheval (Woman with a Horse) and Danseuse au Café (Dancer in a Café). Albert Gleizes painted and exhibited his Les Baigneuses (The Bathers) and his monumental Le Dépiquage des Moissons (Harvest Threshing). This work, along with La Ville de Paris (City of Paris) by Robert Delaunay, was the largest and most ambitious Cubist painting undertaken during the pre-War Cubist period.
In 1905, a group of four German artists, led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, formed Die Brücke (the Bridge) in the city of Dresden. This was arguably the founding organization for the German Expressionist movement, though they did not use the word itself. A few years later, in 1911, a like-minded group of young artists formed Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in Munich. The name came from Wassily Kandinsky's Der Blaue Reiter painting of 1903. Among their members were Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, and August Macke. However, the term "Expressionism" did not firmly establish itself until 1913.:274 Though initially mainly a German artistic movement, most predominant in painting, poetry and the theatre between 1910 and 1930, most precursors of the movement were not German. Furthermore, there have been expressionist writers of prose fiction, as well as non-German speaking expressionist writers, and, while the movement had declined in Germany with the rise of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, there were subsequent expressionist works.
Expressionism is notoriously difficult to define, in part because it "overlapped with other major 'isms' of the modernist period: with Futurism, Vorticism, Cubism, Surrealism and Dada." Richard Murphy also comments: "the search for an all-inclusive definition is problematic to the extent that the most challenging expressionists" such as the novelist Franz Kafka, poet Gottfried Benn, and novelist Alfred Döblin were simultaneously the most vociferous anti-expressionists.:43 What, however, can be said, is that it was a movement that developed in the early 20th century mainly in Germany in reaction to the dehumanizing effect of industrialization and the growth of cities, and that "one of the central means by which expressionism identifies itself as an avant-garde movement, and by which it marks its distance to traditions and the cultural institution as a whole is through its relationship to realism and the dominant conventions of representation.":43 More explicitly: that the expressionists rejected the ideology of realism.:43–48
There was a concentrated Expressionist movement in early 20th century German theatre, of which Georg Kaiser and Ernst Toller were the most famous playwrights. Other notable Expressionist dramatists included Reinhard Sorge, Walter Hasenclever, Hans Henny Jahnn, and Arnolt Bronnen. They looked back to Swedish playwright August Strindberg and German actor and dramatist Frank Wedekind as precursors of their dramaturgical experiments. Oskar Kokoschka's Murderer, the Hope of Women was the first fully Expressionist work for the theatre, which opened on 4 July 1909 in Vienna. The extreme simplification of characters to mythic types, choral effects, declamatory dialogue and heightened intensity would become characteristic of later Expressionist plays. The first full-length Expressionist play was The Son by Walter Hasenclever, which was published in 1914 and first performed in 1916.
Futurism is yet another modernist movement. In 1909, the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro published F. T. Marinetti's first manifesto. Soon afterwards a group of painters (Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, and Gino Severini) co-signed the Futurist Manifesto. Modeled on Marx and Engels' famous "Communist Manifesto" (1848), such manifestoes put forward ideas that were meant to provoke and to gather followers. However, arguments in favor of geometric or purely abstract painting were, at this time, largely confined to "little magazines" which had only tiny circulations. Modernist primitivism and pessimism were controversial, and the mainstream in the first decade of the 20th century was still inclined towards a faith in progress and liberal optimism.
Abstract artists, taking as their examples the impressionists, as well as Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) and Edvard Munch (1863–1944), began with the assumption that color and shape, not the depiction of the natural world, formed the essential characteristics of art.Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. The arts of cultures other than the European had become accessible and showed alternative ways of describing visual experience to the artist. By the end of the 19th century many artists felt a need to create a new kind of art which would encompass the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. The sources from which individual artists drew their theoretical arguments were diverse, and reflected the social and intellectual preoccupations in all areas of Western culture at that time.Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich all believed in redefining art as the arrangement of pure color. The use of photography, which had rendered much of the representational function of visual art obsolete, strongly affected this aspect of modernism.
Modernist architects and designers, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, believed that new technology rendered old styles of building obsolete. Le Corbusier thought that buildings should function as "machines for living in", analogous to cars, which he saw as machines for traveling in. Just as cars had replaced the horse, so modernist design should reject the old styles and structures inherited from Ancient Greece or from the Middle Ages. Following this machine aesthetic, modernist designers typically rejected decorative motifs in design, preferring to emphasize the materials used and pure geometrical forms. The skyscraper is the archetypal modernist building, and the Wainwright Building, a 10-story office building built 1890-91, in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, is among the first skyscrapers in the world.Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building in New York (1956–1958) is often regarded as the pinnacle of this modernist high-rise architecture. Many aspects of modernist design still persist within the mainstream of contemporary architecture, though previous dogmatism has given way to a more playful use of decoration, historical quotation, and spatial drama.
In 1913—which was the year of philosopher Edmund Husserl's Ideas, physicist Niels Bohr's quantized atom, Ezra Pound's founding of imagism, the Armory Show in New York, and in Saint Petersburg the "first futurist opera", Mikhail Matyushin's Victory over the Sun—another Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, composed The Rite of Spring, a ballet that depicts human sacrifice, and has a musical score full of dissonance and primitive rhythm. This caused uproar on its first performance in Paris. At this time though modernism was still "progressive", increasingly it saw traditional forms and traditional social arrangements as hindering progress, and was recasting the artist as a revolutionary, engaged in overthrowing rather than enlightening society. Also in 1913 a less violent event occurred in France with the publication of the first volume of Marcel Proust's important novel sequence À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–1927) (In Search of Lost Time). This often presented as an early example of a writer using the stream-of-consciousness technique, but Robert Humphrey comments that Proust "is concerned only with the reminiscent aspect of consciousness" and that he "was deliberately recapturing the past for the purpose of communicating; hence he did not write a stream-of-consciousness novel."
Stream of consciousness was an important modernist literary innovation, and it has been suggested that Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931) was the first to make full use of it in his short story "Leutnant Gustl" ("None but the Brave") (1900).Dorothy Richardson was the first English writer to use it, in the early volumes of her novel sequencePilgrimage (1915–67). The other modernist novelists that are associated with the use of this narrative technique include James Joyce in Ulysses (1922) and Italo Svevo in La coscienza di Zeno (1923).
However, with the coming of the Great War of 1914-18 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, the world was drastically changed and doubt cast on the beliefs and institutions of the past. The failure of the previous status quo seemed self-evident to a generation that had seen millions die fighting over scraps of earth: prior to 1914 it had been argued that no one would fight such a war, since the cost was too high. The birth of a machine age which had made major changes in the conditions of daily life in the 19th century now had radically changed the nature of warfare. The traumatic nature of recent experience altered basic assumptions, and realistic depiction of life in the arts seemed inadequate when faced with the fantastically surreal nature of trench warfare. The view that mankind was making steady moral progress now seemed ridiculous in the face of the senseless slaughter, described in works such as Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1929). Therefore, modernism's view of reality, which had been a minority taste before the war, became more generally accepted in the 1920s.
In literature and visual art some Modernists sought to defy expectations mainly in order to make their art more vivid, or to force the audience to take the trouble to question their own preconceptions. This aspect of modernism has often seemed a reaction to consumer culture, which developed in Europe and North America in the late 19th century. Whereas most manufacturers try to make products that will be marketable by appealing to preferences and prejudices, high modernists rejected such consumerist attitudes in order to undermine conventional thinking. The art critic Clement Greenberg expounded this theory of modernism in his essay Avant-Garde and Kitsch. Greenberg labeled the products of consumer culture "kitsch", because their design aimed simply to have maximum appeal, with any difficult features removed. For Greenberg, modernism thus formed a reaction against the development of such examples of modern consumer culture as commercial popular music, Hollywood, and advertising. Greenberg associated this with the revolutionary rejection of capitalism.
Some Modernists saw themselves as part of a revolutionary culture that included political revolution. In Russia after the 1917 Revolution there was indeed initially a burgeoning of avant-garde cultural activity, which included Russian Futurism. However others rejected conventional politics as well as artistic conventions, believing that a revolution of political consciousness had greater importance than a change in political structures. But many modernists saw themselves as apolitical. Others, such as T. S. Eliot, rejected mass popular culture from a conservative position. Some even argue that modernism in literature and art functioned to sustain an elite culture which excluded the majority of the population.
Surrealism, which originated in the early 1920s, came to be regarded by the public as the most extreme form of modernism, or "the avant-garde of Modernism". The word "surrealist" was coined by Guillaume Apollinaire and first appeared in the preface to his play Les Mamelles de Tirésias, which was written in 1903 and first performed in 1917. Major surrealists include Paul Éluard, Robert Desnos,Max Ernst, Hans Arp, Antonin Artaud, Raymond Queneau, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp.
By 1930, Modernism had won a place in the establishment, including the political and artistic establishment, although by this time Modernism itself had changed.
Modernism continues: 1930–1945
Modernism continued to evolve during the 1930s. Between 1930 and 1932 composer Arnold Schoenberg worked on Moses und Aron, one of the first operas to make use of the twelve-tone technique, Pablo Picasso painted in 1937 Guernica, his cubist condemnation of fascism, while in 1939 James Joyce pushed the boundaries of the modern novel further with Finnegans Wake. Also by 1930 Modernism began to influence mainstream culture, so that, for example, The New Yorker magazine began publishing work, influenced by Modernism, by young writers and humorists like Dorothy Parker,Robert Benchley, E. B. White, S. J. Perelman, and James Thurber, amongst others. Perelman is highly regarded for his humorous short stories that he published in magazines in the 1930s and 1940s, most often in The New Yorker, which are considered to be the first examples of surrealist humor in America. Modern ideas in art also began to appear more frequently in commercials and logos, an early example of which, from 1916, is the famous London Underground logo designed by Edward Johnston.
One of the most visible changes of this period was the adoption of new technologies into daily life of ordinary people in Western Europe and North America. Electricity, the telephone, the radio, the automobile—and the need to work with them, repair them and live with them—created social change. The kind of disruptive moment that only a few knew in the 1880s became a common occurrence. For example, the speed of communication reserved for the stock brokers of 1890 became part of family life, at least in middle class North America. Associated with urbanization and changing social mores also came smaller families and changed relationships between parents and their children.
Another strong influence at this time was Marxism. After the generally primitivistic/irrationalist aspect of pre-World War I Modernism, which for many Modernists precluded any attachment to merely political solutions, and the neoclassicism of the 1920s, as represented most famously by T. S. Eliot and Igor Stravinsky—which rejected popular solutions to modern problems—the rise of Fascism, the Great Depression, and the march to war helped to radicalise a generation. Bertolt Brecht, W. H. Auden, André Breton, Louis Aragon and the philosophers Antonio Gramsci and Walter Benjamin are perhaps the most famous exemplars of this Modernist form of Marxism. There were, however, also Modernists explicitly of 'the right', including Salvador Dalí, Wyndham Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, the Dutch author Menno ter Braak and others.
Significant Modernist literary works continued to be created in the 1920s and 1930s, including further novels by Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Robert Musil, and Dorothy Richardson. The American Modernist dramatist Eugene O'Neill's career began in 1914, but his major works appeared in the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s. Two other significant Modernist dramatists writing in the 1920s and 1930s were Bertolt Brecht and Federico García Lorca. D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover was privately published in 1928, while another important landmark for the history of the modern novel came with the publication of William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury in 1929. In the 1930s, in addition to further major works by Faulkner, Samuel Beckett published his first major work, the novel Murphy (1938). Then in 1939 James Joyce's Finnegans Wake appeared. This is written in a largely idiosyncratic language, consisting of a mixture of standard English lexical items and neologisticmultilingualpuns and portmanteau words, which attempts to recreate the experience of sleep and dreams. In poetry T. S. Eliot, E. E. Cummings, and Wallace Stevens were writing from the 1920s until the 1950s. While Modernist poetry in English is often viewed as an American phenomenon, with leading exponents including Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, H.D., and Louis Zukofsky, there were important British Modernist poets, including David Jones, Hugh MacDiarmid, Basil Bunting, and W. H. Auden. European Modernist poets include Federico García Lorca, Anna Akhmatova, Constantine Cavafy, and Paul Valéry.
The Modernist movement continued during this period in Soviet Russia. In 1930 composer Dimitri Shostakovich's (1906–75) opera The Nose was premiered, in which he uses a montage of different styles, including folk music, popular song and atonality. Amongst his influences was Alban Berg's (1985–1935) opera Wozzeck (1925), which "had made a tremendous impression on Shostakovich when it was staged in Leningrad." However, from 1932 Socialist realism began to oust Modernism in the Soviet Union, and in 1936 Shostakovich was attacked and forced to withdraw his 4th Symphony. Alban Berg wrote another significant, though incomplete, Modernist opera, Lulu, which premiered in 1937. Berg's Violin Concerto was first performed in 1935. Like Shostakovich, other composers faced difficulties in this period. In Germany Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) was forced to flee to the U.S. when Hitler came to power in 1933, because of his Modernist atonal style as well as his Jewish ancestry. His major works from this period are a Violin Concerto, Op. 36 (1934/36), and Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942). Schoenberg also wrote tonal music in this period with the Suite for Strings in G major (1935) and the Chamber Symphony No. 2 in E♭ minor, Op. 38 (begun in 1906, completed in 1939). During this time Hungarian Modernist Béla Bartók (1881–1945) produced a number of major works, including Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) and the Divertimento for String Orchestra (1939), String Quartet No. 5 (1934), and No. 6 (his last, 1939). But he too left for the US in 1940, because of the rise of fascism in Hungary.Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) continued writing in his neoclassical style during the 1930s and 1940s, writing works like the Symphony of Psalms (1930), Symphony in C (1940) and Symphony in Three Movements (1945). He also emigrated to the US because of World War II. Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992), however, served in the French army during the war and was imprisoned at Stalag VIII-A by the Germans, where he composed his famous Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the End of Time"). The quartet was first performed in January 1941 to an audience of prisoners and prison guards.
In painting, during the 1920s and the 1930s and the Great Depression, modernism is defined by Surrealism, late Cubism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, Dada, German Expressionism, and Modernist and masterful color painters like Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard as well as the abstractions of artists like Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky which characterized the European art scene. In Germany, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz and others politicized their paintings, foreshadowing the coming of World War II, while in America, modernism is seen in the form of American Scene painting and the social realism and regionalism movements that contained both political and social commentary dominated the art world. Artists like Ben Shahn, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, George Tooker, John Steuart Curry, Reginald Marsh, and others became prominent. Modernism is defined in Latin America by painters Joaquín Torres García from Uruguay and Rufino Tamayo from Mexico, while the muralist movement with Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Pedro Nel Gómez and Santiago Martinez Delgado