Saturday, July 29, 2006

Would You Like To Be A Modernist?

"If people do not understand Joyce, then that is not because his art fails to live up to modern life, it is because modern life fails to live up to his art."

Like to be a revolutionary writer, a proud member of the artistic avant garde, creating new movements like surrealism or Dadaism here, there, and everywhere? Here's how to do it - in 10 easy steps!

How To Be a Modernist - In 10 Easy Steps!

1. Be born in or around 1900!

2. Become an atheist early in life before converting to either Anglicanism, Catholicism, Militant Socialism, Fascism, Freudianism, or Surrealism!

3. Fall in love with a woman who does not love you back, and idolise her in your poetry or fiction as a mother figure or a goddess figure!

4. Become the leading figure in an artistic revolution against rhymes, rhythm, meaning, high poetry, gutter poetry, pulp fiction, communism, capitalism, fascism, realism, naturalism, unrealism, heroic poetry, God, atheism, agnosticism - or sometimes all three at once!

5. Wait until 1914 and then don't go to war!

6. Write a book of poems consisting of nothing but quotes in dead languages from dead authors, mixed around a bit so it's hard to get their original meanings. Claim that it represents a revolution in thought and feeling!

7. Be mocked and scorned by the public!

8. Drive a partner into manic depression!

Then, when you get another partner, do it again! And again!

9. Starve in a garret for years and years, living on nothing but bread and wine, and a meagre gruel consisting mainly of turnip!

10. Die without any money to your name, and be discovered by an adoring public after your death!

Follow these steps, and you're sure to become a famous modernist!


Anonymous said...

I don't think your rules are universal, sunshine. ;)

TimT said...

It's kind of a composite approach, take a little bit from this guy's life, take a little bit more from some other person's life ...

Anonymous said...

But do you believe that these rules are exclusive to Modernists?

I don't consider them to be exclusive to that movement or period per se; rather, each aspect would tend to be universal to artists and philosophers of any medium from any period.

TimT said...

Not necessarily, it depends on the history and the individuals involved. It's becoming easier to avoid living in a garret by subsisting on a meagre gruel, for instance.

Of course, some artists have a tendency to romanticise madness, etc, and identify with some of the more, er, extreme elements of society. But I don't see why this should be a general tendency. It's possible to be an artist and lead a practical life.

I think the lifestyles of the modernists says more about the influence of their romantic forebears, who *did* tend to romanticise madness, strong emotion, and political/religious extremism.

I think the

Tim said...

Then again, you have people like T.S. Eliot who worked in a bank and then ran Faber and Faber for many years, all the while writing quintessentially modernist poetry. I actually think that modernism in many ways rejects romanticism, because it tends to focus on intellectualism over feeling. But as you say, it's difficult to pin down any (or at any rate many) universal characteristics of modernism or its practitioners.

Tim said...

BTW, I'd just like to point out that I'm not responsible for the above anonymous comments. For starters, I would never use the word "sunshine" in that way, unless I was acting in an episode of The Bill.

TimT said...

Yes, I guessed that ... I don't know if modernism rejected romanticism. It could be seen as a rejection of, say, Victorian poetry, which was altogether more formal and neoclassical. I'd say a pretty convincing argument could be made that the modernists continued the experiments begun by the romantics; eg, Eliot and Pound picked up free verse where Whitman and Blake left off. Their political adventurism they probably shared with the romantics and not the Victorians. (Also their tendency to 'convert' to conservatism later in life). Thinking about the tendencies in most (not all) modernist writing, the emotion tends to be of the extravagant romantic sort too.

But there, I think I've made enough generalisations for one comment (as if there wasn't enough in my post already!)

Anonymous said...

No sunshine, that was me. ;) I'm anonymous because I don't "blog" in any way, shape or form. I was actually looking for a stupidly long German compound to prove a point to someone and came across this post on the main blog page.

However, I shall contend that Modernism of all forms was an outright rejection of the principles behind the preceding movements; consistently attempting to react against the stylistic and ideological foundations of the previous generation's art.

Yet I don't believe it rejected emotion: rather it attempted to free art from the culturally set limitations of expression set by structured verse and Realism in painting, for example. Like Pound said in his Imagist manifesto, constraints on poetic style only led to the rehashing of old emotions. Perhaps why he used the term vers libre rather than free verse: libre, closer to liberate, perhaps?

Modernism therefore is about liberation of emotion, not denying it. Rather necessary, then, that they be as extravagant in their expression of it as their predecessors, no?


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