Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

email signup Blog Video Facebook Twitter Instagram
Fall 2003 Newsletter

Make It New: The Rise of Modernism


Sylvia Beach and James Joyce at Shakespeare and
Co., Paris. c. 1921. Alliance Paris, n.d. Maurice
Saillet Collection of Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare
and Company.

Modernism is a peculiar phenomenon. First, it is the name for an historical period, running roughly from the 1890s to the Second World War, which saw unparalleled progress in technological innovation matched by unparalleled originality in aesthetic invention. The practice of Modernism in the arts was international in scope and cut across all media and all political philosophies. Second, Modernism was a temporal term but one that has not suffered the degradation of time. As Julian Barnes writes in his essay for our exhibition catalog, Modernism is still with us nearly a century later, still a force to be reckoned with. Maybe Modernism endures because it imparted a new value to "the new." Modernist art declared, perhaps for the first time in human history, that what was new was valuable for itself alone. The Ransom Center has a unique relationship to Modernism, for much of the archival collecting of the Center has been in the field of Modernist arts and letters. The history of the Ransom Center as an institution is in large part the story of the rise of Modernism. Hence, it is especially appropriate that the newly renovated Ransom Center should host this important exhibition at this time. A 160-page book on the exhibition will be published by the Ransom Center and distributed by the University of Texas Press.  

-Kurt Heinzelman

Table of Contents