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Review Article Heart of Darkness: Modernism and Its Historians* Robert Wohl
University of California, Los Angeles Think now History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors And issues (T. S. ELIOT, 1922)
Twenty years ago, historians could happily ignore the concept of modernism. I offer myself as an example. When asked in 1982 to participate in a conference on modernism being held at the Claremont Colleges in California, I cavalierly declared in my paper, and then went on to repeat later in the essay that was published in the resulting volume: “Modernism is not a word that the historian ordinarily uses. Glancing through the books in my library that deal with the cultural history of Europe during the last century, I seldom ﬁnd it on a title page, in the text, or even in an index. One may feel that this is testimony to the intellectual bulkheads that separate the academic disciplines; but I suspect that it is also an indication that historians have found the term difﬁcult to apply, irrelevant to their interests, or contrary to their intuitions.”1 * The books reviewed in this essay are Christopher Butler, Early Modernism: Literature, Music, and Painting in Europe, 1900–1916 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. xviii 318, $72.50; William R. Everdell, The First Moderns: Proﬁles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1997), pp. xi 501, $29.95; Peter Nicholls, Modernisms (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), pp. xiii 368, $16.95; Bernard Smith, Modernism’s History: A Study in Twentieth-Century Thought and Ideas (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. vi 376, $40.00; T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. vii 451, $45.00. 1 Robert Wohl, “The Generation of 1914 and Modernism,” in Monique Chefdor, Ricardo Quinones, and Albert Wachtel, eds., Modernism: Challenges and Perspectives (Urbana, Ill., 1986), pp. 66–67. The term “modernism” does not appear in H. Stuart Hughes, Consciousness and Society: The Reconstruction of European Social Thought (New York, 1958) or in Willson H. Coates and Hayden V. White, The Ordeal of Liberal Humanism: An Intellectual History of Western Europe (New York, 1970), vol. 2. Nor is it mentioned in Eugen Weber’s collection of readings, The Western Tradition (Lexington, Mass., 1995, originally published in 1956). Carl Schorske contrasts modernism to traditionalism in his introduction to Fin-de-Siecle Vienna (New York, ` 1980), p. xxvii, but his emphasis is on the “modern” and “modern man.” In Weimar Culture (New York, 1968), Peter Gay refers to “the modern movement” (p. 3). Later, in Freud, Jews, and Other [The Journal of Modern History 74 (September 2002): 573–621] 2002 by The University of Chicago. 0022-2801/2002/7403-0004$10.00 All rights reserved.
I could certainly not make the same statement today, as is testiﬁed to...