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Make It New: The Rise of Modernism
Portals of Discovery

"A man of genius," says Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce's novel Ulysses, "makes no mistakes." Even his errors are "portals of discovery." But what is discovered may be recognizable only in hindsight. The genius of modernist art was to extend the boundaries of what is valid or feasible in art.

In the summer of 1919 T. S. Eliot made a list of what he thought "comprises modern culture:" Byzantine, Polynesian, African, Hebridean, and Chinese art; Stendahl, Mozart, Bach, Flaubert, Russian ballet and Russian novels. This list highlights one of the great ironies of the so-called modern age: that many artists turned first to the deep past, to cultures before "culture," in order to "make new" for the present time what was best of the old.

The American poet Ezra Pound spent his whole life writing his own curriculum for becoming modern. His point was that individual study of modern arts was equal in importance to what you could study in a university; and sometimes easier to get at. As Louis Armstrong said of his curriculum, jazz, "If you gotta ask [what it is], you ain't never gonna know."

Section 1 features works by:

Edward Muybridge
Joseph Conrad
T.S. Eliot
Ford Madox Ford
Gerard Manley Hopkins
William Butler Yeats
Charles Baudelaire
Stéphane Mallarmé
Arthur Rimbaud
Paul Verlaine
Paul Cezanne
Raoul Dufy
Pablo Picasso
Georges Rouault

 

 
 

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