Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Make It New: The Rise of Modernism
The City

One of the recurring themes of modernism is contradictory: both to resist and to embrace monumentality. The most obvious symbol in the modern world is the city and its skyscrapers. Ezra Pound wrote of New York in 1912: "Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will."

New York wasn't the only terrible and yet sublime metropolis. T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) unmasks a London landscape of spiritual aridity and isolation that could just as easily have been Paris, Berlin or Chicago:

          Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Whether it was a city of celebration or one of condemnation, these cities with their peculiar mixture of languages, architecture, machines, and customs, were the very cornucopia of modernity: you just had to be there.

Section 4 features works pertaining to:

Paris and the Eiffel Tower
Sonia Delaunay
Jean Cocteau
Eugène Atget
New York City and the Brooklyn Bridge
Hart Crane
Alfred Stieglitz
The Bloomsbury Group
World War I
The Russian Revolution
The Spanish Civil War



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