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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Modernism VII

Herbert Read argued, in 1933, that the modernist movement had produced the greatest seismic change of all time. We were not, he wrote, concerned with an unprecedented development. But with an abrupt break with all tradition. The aim of five centuries of European effort is openly abandoned.

Twenty years later, C S Lewis, referred to the greatest change in the history of Western Man in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge in 1954. He saw that the greatest of all divisions in the entire history of western man, greater than that which divided antiquity from the dark ages, and the dark ages from the middle ages, is that separating the present from the age of Jane Austen and Walter Scott. And in politics, religion, social values, art and literature, there runs a chasm separating then and now.

Lewis goes on:

I do not think any previous age produced work which was, in its own time, as shatteringly and bewilderingly new as that of the Cubists, the Dadaists, the Surrealists and Picasso has been in ours . . . I do not see how anyone can doubt that modem poetry is not only a greater novelty than any other new poetry but new in a new way, almost in a new dimension.

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