Pragmatic Modernism

Paperback | November 28, 2014

byLisi Schoenbach

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Modernism has long been understood as a radical repudiation of the past. Reading against the narrative of modernism-as-break, Pragmatic Modernism traces an alternative strain of modernist thought that grows out of pragmatist philosophy and is characterized by its commitment to gradualism,continuity, and recontextualization. It rediscovers a distinctive response to the social, intellectual, and artistic transformations of modernity in the work of Henry James, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Dewey, and William James. These thinkers share aninstitutionally-grounded approach to change which emphasizes habits, continuities, and daily life over spectacular events, heroic opposition, and radical rupture. They developed an active, dialectical attitude that was critical of complacency while refusing to romanticize moments of shock orconflict.Through its analysis of pragmatist keywords, including "habit," "institution," "prediction," and "bigness," Pragmatic Modernism offers new readings of works by James, Proust, Stein, and Andre Breton, among others. It shows, for instance, how Stein's characteristic literary innovation - herrepetitions - aesthetically materialize the problem of habit; and how institutions - businesses, museums, newspapers, the law, and even the state itself - help to construct the subtlest of personal observations and private gestures in James's novels.This study reconstructs an overlooked strain of modernism. In so doing, it helps to re-imagine the stark choice between political quietism and total revolution that has been handed down as modernism's legacy.

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Modernism has long been understood as a radical repudiation of the past. Reading against the narrative of modernism-as-break, Pragmatic Modernism traces an alternative strain of modernist thought that grows out of pragmatist philosophy and is characterized by its commitment to gradualism,continuity, and recontextualization. It rediscov...

Lisi Schoenbach is Associate Professor of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:218 pages, 9.09 × 6.1 × 0.59 inPublished:November 28, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190207345

ISBN - 13:9780190207342

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsSeries Editors' ForewordIntroduction: Pragmatic ModernismPart One Habit1. Modernist Habit2. "Peaceful and Exciting": Stein's Dialectic of HabitPart Two Institutions3. Jamesian Institutions4. Prediction Theories: "The Path of the Law," The Wings of the Dove, and the Engagement with Temporality5. A Jamesian State: The American Scene and "the Working of Democratic Institutions"Epilogue: Proustian Habit and Pragmatic ModernismNotesBibliographyIndex