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Michael Levenson

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In this wide-ranging and original account of Modernism, Michael Levenson draws on more than twenty years of research and a career-long fascination with the movement, its participants, and the period during which it thrived. Seeking a more subtle understanding of the relations between the period's texts and contexts, he provides not only an excellent survey but also a significant reassessment of Modernism itself.

Spanning many decades, illuminating individual achievements and locating them within the intersecting histories of experiment (Symbolism to Surrealism, Naturalism to Expressionism, Futurism to Dadaism), the book places the transformations of culture alongside the agitations of modernity (war, revolution, feminism, psychoanalysis). In this perspective, Modernism must be understood more broadly than simply in terms of its provocative works, experimental forms, and singular careers. Rather, as Levenson demonstrates, Modernism should be viewed as the emergence of an adversary culture of the New that depended on audiences as well as artists, enemies as well as supporters.

Michael Levenson is William B. Christian Professor of Modern Literature and Critical Theory, University of Virginia. His publications on Modernism span some twenty years and include Modernism and the Fate of Individuality: Character and Novelistic Form from Conrad to Woolf. He lives in Charlottesville, VA.

“This is the account of Modernism we've all been waiting for. Levenson's analysis of the transformative changes that made radical artistic experiments not just conceivable, but necessary, is a model of clarity and elegance. With subtlety and freshness, this crucial book will keep us thinking for a long time to come.”—David Trotter, University of Cambridge



“An extraordinary scholarly and critical achievement of astonishing reach and relevance, this will surely become the indispensable book on Modernism.  Nobody has ever taken on this whole vast, amorphous subject and shown so clearly and convincingly what happened, who the key participants were, and why it matters.  A brilliant synthesis of this crucial period of aesthetic history.”—Robert M. Polhemus, Stanford University

“As a Grand Companion to the sites of modernism, this comprehensive, judicious and incisive book is in a class of its own.  Sound in its representations and characterizations, it remains fresh, insightful, lucid and stylish.  Its range of topics and the contents of coverage – pan-European and trans-Atlantic, ‘high’ and ‘low,’ verbal, visual and cinematic – are altogether exemplary.”—Vincent Sherry, Washington University in St. Louis

“With striking intellectual subtlety, Levenson presents a powerfully synthetic view of modernism, in which the field is characterized by tensions, contradictions, simultaneities, and distinctions.  Comparative in the best sense, its analyses across careers, periods, and countries are genuinely revelatory.  This is a tremendous book.”—Rebecca Beasley, University of Oxford

"[Levenson] adds a new, distinct perspective to the field . . . an important work for anyone going into graduate study."—A.P. Pennino, Choice

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2012 for Art and Architecture within the Humanities category.
ISBN: 9780300111736
Publication Date: October 25, 2011
336 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
13 b/w illus.