ABSTRACT

One of the collateral if perhaps somewhat fortuitous benefits of the current preoccupation with postmodernism in the humanities is that it has now become much more difficult to sustain what was for decades the dominant mode of apology for modernism itself and the underlying ideology of its ‘canonicity’: the idea that modernism and modernity were consubstantial categories, that modernism was somehow already precontained in the raw and immediate experience of contemporary life. But modernist burnout has also made it easier to begin to think about the politics of modernism without in turn feeling obliged to erect it into a metapolitics with its own unique pertinence to modern experience. Perhaps, after all, modernism did serve the interests of some while effectively thwarting those of others. And perhaps there were, or are, other modernities, unexpressed and unsuspected in canonically modernist aesthetic categories and practices. In any event, the relation of modernism both to modern experience and to other aesthetic and cultural practices has come increasingly to be seen as hegemonic and exclusionary rather than transparent and totalising.