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Embattled Avant-Gardes

Modernism’s Resistance to Commodity Culture in Europe

Walter L. Adamson (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 448 pages
ISBN: 9780520261532
August 2009
$34.95, £28.00
This sweeping work, at once a panoramic overview and an ambitious critical reinterpretation of European modernism, provides a bold new perspective on a movement that defined the cultural landscape of the early twentieth century. Walter L. Adamson embarks on a lucid, wide-ranging exploration of the avant-garde practices through which the modernist generations after 1900 resisted the rise of commodity culture as a threat to authentic cultural expression. Taking biographical approaches to numerous avant-garde leaders, Adamson charts the rise and fall of modernist aspirations in movements and individuals as diverse as Ruskin, Marinetti, Kandinsky, Bauhaus, Purism, and the art critic Herbert Read. In conclusion, Adamson rises to the defense of the modernists, suggesting that their ideas are relevant to current efforts to think through what it might mean to create a vibrant, aesthetically satisfying form of cultural democracy.

1. Intellectuals, Commodity Culture, and Religions of Art in the Nineteenth Century
2. F.T. Marinetti
3. Guillaume Apollinaire
4. Wassily Kandinsky

5. The Rise and Fall of Design Modernism: Bauhaus, De Stijl, and Purism
6. Futurism and Its Modernist Rivals in Fascist Italy
7. André Breton’s Surrealism
8. The Critical Modernism of Herbert Read

Walter L. Adamson is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History at Emory University where he teaches modern European intellectual and cultural history as well as modern Italian history. He is author of Avant-Garde Florence: From Modernism to Fascism. winner of the Howard Marraro Prize of the American Historical Association, and Hegemony and Revolution (UC Press), winner of the Howard Marraro Prize of the Society for Italian Historical Studies.
“This [is an] erudite, richly comparative study of avant-garde aesthetics and public engagement.”—Laura Winkiel Modernism/Modernity
“This rich and stimulating book . . . will indeed remain a reference point for discussions of the avant-garde for years to come.”—Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi American Historical Review
"Adamson leads his readers through intricate debates with care and skill. Even the non-specialist reader will come away with an understanding of the stakes in modernist studies."—Mary Gluck, author of Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris

"No serious student of the European avant-garde in the early twentieth century will be able to overlook this subtle and impassioned attempt to rethink its history: its far-reaching ambitions and its strategies for achieving them, its successes and its failures. Because of Adamson's distinctive perspective and the breadth of his research, I persistently found myself being forced to rethink the history of the European avant-garde and question some of my own assumptions and conclusions."—Robert Wohl, author of The Spectacle of Flight: Aviation and the Western Imagination, 1920-1950

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