Inside Modernism: Relativity Theory, Cubism, Narrative

Thomas Vargish

In this engaging book, a professor of literature and a physicist offer a broad, new, interdisciplinary account of Modernism. Thomas Vargish and Delo E. Mook encompass physics, the visual arts, and literature in a thought-provoking analysis of the period from the 1880s to World War II. Uncovering common structures and values underlying each of these disparate fields, the authors define Modernism and its historical location between nineteenth-century intellectual conventions that preceded it and the Postmodernism that followed. Bridging boundaries that traditionally divide disciplines, Vargish and Mook create a uniquely coherent and comprehensive view of the aesthetics and intellectual values that characterize the culture of Modernism.The authors develop a method to compare without prejudice complex achievements in various disciplines. They select three cultural diagnostics: Relativity Theory from physics, Cubism from the plastic arts, and advanced narrative fictions by such writers as Forster, James, Woolf, joyce, and Kafka. From these cultural diagnostics, Vargish and Mook derive six common characteristics, or values. These are described and analyzed in accessible, nontechnical terms that do not distort the treatment of the concrete productions: models of the cosmos, paintings, novels. A dynamic definition of Modernism emerges from their discussion of these values, and the authors show how their method of cultural investigation can be extended into disciplines not yet considered and into other historical periods as well.

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