Pragmatic Modernism (Modernist Literature and Culture) by Lisi Schoenbach

By Lisi Schoenbach

Modernism has lengthy been understood as an intensive repudiation of the earlier. analyzing opposed to the narrative of modernism-as-break, Pragmatic Modernism lines another pressure of modernist idea that grows out of pragmatist philosophy and is characterised by means of its dedication to gradualism, continuity, and recontextualization. It rediscovers a particular reaction to the social, highbrow, and creative modifications of modernity within the paintings of Henry James, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Dewey, and William James. those thinkers proportion an institutionally-grounded method of swap which emphasizes conduct, continuities, and way of life over awesome occasions, heroic competition, and radical rupture. They built an lively, dialectical perspective that used to be severe of complacency whereas refusing to romanticize moments of concern or conflict.

Through its research of pragmatist key phrases, together with "habit," "institution," "prediction," and "bigness," Pragmatic Modernism deals new readings of works by way of James, Proust, Stein, and Andre Breton, between others. It exhibits, for example, how Stein's attribute literary innovation--her repetitions--aesthetically materialize the matter of behavior; and the way institutions--businesses, museums, newspapers, the legislations, or even the nation itself--help to build the subtlest of non-public observations and personal gestures in James's novels.

This examine reconstructs an neglected pressure of modernism. In so doing, it is helping to re-imagine the stark selection among political quietism and overall revolution that has been passed down as modernism's legacy.

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For this reason, rigorous and thoughtful examinations of habit are especially crucial in the modern age. Further, the failure to provide a rich vocabulary for understanding and modifying habit in modernity has left us ill-equipped to deal with emergencies at precisely the historical moment when such an ability has become a pressing need. MODERNIST HABIT 29 Dewey ascribes this intellectual failure, like so many others, to the proliferation of easy and artificial dichotomies in philosophical thought.

James’s understanding of habit takes shock very much into account. It is a measure of his respect for shock as a potentially beneficial catalyst for change that he takes the entire process of change seriously, and not just the individual moment of shock itself. Dewey, too, explicitly acknowledges that the “experienced shock of change is the necessary stimulus to the investigating and comparing which eventually produce knowledge” (RP, 131). He, like James, demonstrates a keen sense of preparation for the shocks and emergencies of modern life, and recognizes both their destructive and their rejuvenating potential.

Unless “new habits are formed” to accompany such “critical and revolutionary experiences,” change will be momentary and superficial. New habits will not be formed unless our “motives are lasting”; in other 28 PRAGMATIC MODERNISM words, active and ongoing effort must be combined with momentary excitement for change to be meaningful. ” On the contrary, it is precisely James’s belief in the revivifying power of shock that leads him to insist on the necessity of developing better habits. James’s understanding of habit takes shock very much into account.

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