Studies from 20C to Present (Modernism)

It will be interesting to think about modernism in
Kuykendall Hall, because Kuykendall’s sad ugliness is an example of what
happened to the modernist idea in its pathetic old age. Modernism wasn’t young
for very long, but when it was – during roughly the first third of the
twentieth century – it seemed to offer us all a better way of experiencing
the world.

For the purposes of this course, we can think of that
experience as originating in the 1890s with some observations about the
technology of experience. It was in the 1890s, for instance, that Arnold
Schoenberg began realizing that the chords he had learned in the conservatory
were only a small and arbitrary selection of a much larger harmony; and Vasily
Kandinsky began realizing that there’s no logical need for a picture to be a
picture of; and Sigmund Freud began
discovering that there are parts of our minds which lurk in hiding, emerging
only at night to communicate with us in the code of dream. When Schoenberg’s
and Kandinsky’s and Freud’s nineteenth century went smash with the coming of
world war in 1914, the tools they had invented were all ready for the artists
of the new era to use. What those artists proceeded to create is now called

We’ll get acquainted with the wonders of that creation with
the help of four books: an anthology of poetry and short prose, Lawrence
Rainey’s Modernism; a modernist book
about shaping the space we live in, Le Corbusier’s Toward an Architecture; and two modernist novels about living in
space through time: Virginia Woolf’s To
the Lighthouse
and William Faulkner’s The
Sound and the Fury
. All three of those full-length texts date from the
1920s –
that is, from about forty years before Kuykendall Hall. And you’ll see: all
three are still young and beautiful, in a way that Kuykendall never was.

Four five-page papers, midterm and final.