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Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


A concept denoting rejection or modification of traditional forms or beliefs in the light of more “modern” ideas. European historians tend to use it in two interrelated but broadly distinguishable contexts. The first encompasses a broad span of intellectual and cultural innovations centered on the epoch from the 1880s to the 1920s, while the second involves more specifically religious developments during the generation before 1914. [1] cultural modernism. So wide in geography and genre was the scope of this movement (which itself encompassed a number of other “isms”) that it defies brief definition. However, Peter Gay has recently suggested two basic elements: “calculated offences against conventionality” and “exploration of subjective experience.” Both characteristics hint at the debt that modernist creativity owed to the romanticism of the early nineteenth century. The second of them also implies a reaction against the particular kind of science-orientated positivism that had subsequently underpinned the ascendancy of literary and artistic naturalism from the 1840s onward. To the extent that modernism sometimes reflected an alternative version of scientific inspiration, this stemmed principally from the revolution in physics occurring around 1900. That intellectual convulsion, stimulated principally by Max Planck and Albert Einstein, questioned crucial elements within the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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