Five Faces of Modernity  

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"It is always hard to date with precision the appearance of a concept, and all the more so when the concept under scrutiny has been throughout its history as controversial and complex as "modernity."--incipit Five Faces of Modernity (1977) by Matei Călinescu

"That is why, while conspicuously absent from the world of pagan antiquity, the idea of modernity was born during the Christian Middle Ages." --Five Faces of Modernity (1977) by Matei Călinescu

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Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism (1987) by Romanian literary critic Matei Călinescu. It is a revised edition of Faces of Modernity (1977).

From the publisher:

Five Faces of Modernity is a series of semantic and cultural biographies of words that have taken on special significance in the last century and a half or so: modernity, avant-garde, decadence, kitsch, and postmodernism. The concept of modernity—the notion that we, the living, are different and somehow superior to our predecessors and that our civilization is likely to be succeeded by one even superior to ours—is a relatively recent Western invention and one whose time may already have passed, if we believe its postmodern challengers. Calinescu documents the rise of cultural modernity and, in tracing the shifting senses of the five terms under scrutiny, illustrates the intricate value judgments, conflicting orientations, and intellectual paradoxes to which it has given rise.
Five Faces of Modernity attempts to do for the foundations of the modernist critical lexicon what earlier terminological studies have done for such complex categories as classicism, baroque, romanticism, realism, or symbolism and thereby fill a gap in literary scholarship. On another, more ambitious level, Calinescu deals at length with the larger issues, dilemmas, ideological tensions, and perplexities brought about by the assertion of modernity.



Stendhal's clear-cut and polemical dichotomy between "le beau ideal antique" and "le beau ideal moderne," which occurs in his Histoire de la peinture en Italie (1817)...



Modern Dwarfs on the Shoulders of Ancient Giants

standing on the shoulders of giants
"That is why, while conspicuously absent from the world of pagan antiquity, the idea of modernity was born during the Christian Middle Ages."

The Problem of Time: Three Eras of Western History

It is We Who Are the Ancients

Montaigne's Essays (1580), Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning (1605) and Novum Organum (1620), Descartes's Discours de la methode (1634) are some of the important landmarks in the history of modernity's self-assertion.

Comparing the Moderns to the Ancients

"At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the title of one of Leonardo Bruni’s dialogues synthesizes a broader trend: De modernis quibusdam scriptoribus in comparatione ad antiquos.
Boileau, who, in his Reflexions critiques sur Longin (1694; 1710)

From Modern to Gothic to Romantic to Modern

The Two Modernities

The idea of art's autonomy was not a novelty in the 1830s, when the battlecry of Art for Art's Sake became popular in France among circles of young Bohemian poets and painters. The view of art as an autonomous activity had been defended half a century earlier by Kant, who, in his Critique of Judgment (1790), had formulated his paradoxical concept of art's "purposiveness without a purpose" ["Zweckmäßigkeit ohne Zweck"] and thus affirmed art's fundamental disinterestedness.

Baudelaire and the Paradox of Aesthetic Modernity

Passez en revue, analysez tout ce qui est naturel, toutes les actions et les désirs du pur homme naturel, vous ne trouverez rien que d’affreux. Tout ce qui est beau et noble est le résultat de la raison et du calcul. Le crime, dont l’animal humain a puisé le goût dans le ventre de sa mère, est originellement naturel. La vertu, au contraire, est artificielle, surnaturelle, puisqu’il a fallu, dans tous les temps et chez toutes les nations, des dieux et des prophètes pour l’enseigner à l’humanité animalisée, et que l’homme, seul, eût été impuissant à la découvrir. Le mal se fait sans effort, naturellement, par fatalité ; le bien est toujours le produit d’un art.

English excerpt:

"Crime, of which the human animal has learned the taste in his mother's womb, is natural by origin" [1]
  • [Baudelaire] has a clear and highly significant bias in favor of mechanical metaphors, see Machine Age.

Modernity, the Death of God, and Utopia

death of God, utopia

Literary and Other Modernisms

Comparing the Moderns to the Contemporaries



From Modernity to the Avant-Garde

The "Avant-Garde" Metaphor in the Renaissance: A Rhetorical Figure

"Etienne Pasquier (1529-1615) wrote in his Recherches de la France: 'A glorious war was then being waged -against ignorance, a war in which, I would say, Sceve, Beze, and Pelletier constituted the avant-garde; or, if you prefer, they were the fore-runners of the other poets.'"

The Romantic "Avant-Garde": From Politics to the Politics of Culture

Some Mid-Nineteenth-Century Writers and the Avant-Garde

Two Avant-Gardes: Attractions and Repulsions

Avant-Garde and Aesthetic Extremism

The Crisis of Avant-Garde's Concept in the 1960s

Death of the avant-garde

Avant-Garde, Dehumanization and the End of Ideology

Avant-Garde and Postmodernism

Intellectualism, Anarchism, and Stasis


Decadence, Decadent movement

Versions of Decadence

From "Decadence" to "Style of Decadence"

The Decadent Euphoria

Nietzsche on "Decadence" and "Modernity"

Nietzsche read in 1883 Paul Bourget's Essais de psychologie contemporaine, from which he borrowed the French term décadence.

Calinescu mentions Hans Vaihinger's as if philosophy.

Calinescu mentions "The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously" and Goethe's dictum "What is Classical is healthy; what is Romantic is sick.

The Concept of Decadence in Marxist Criticism

Il Decadentismo



Kitsch and Modernity

Kitsch, Camp, and High Art

Etymology, Contexts of Usage, and the "Law of Aesthetic Inadequacy"

Kitsch and Romanticism

Bad Taste, Ideology, and Hedonism

Some Stylistic Considerations

Kitsch and Cultural Industrialization

The "Kitsch-Man"



A New Face of Modernity

Epistemology and Hermeneutics: From Modernity to Postmodernity

The Silence of the Avant-Garde

The Novelty of the Past: The View from Architecture

Critiques of Postmodernism

Literary Postmodernism: The Shaping of a Corpus

Postmodernist Devices and Their Significance


Index of proper names

Adorno, Rafael Alberti, Louis Althusser, Luciano Anceschi, Leonid Andreev, David Antin, Guillaume Apollinaire, Lodovico Ariosto, Matthew Arnold, Raymond Aron, Antonin Artaud, John Ashbery, José Asunción Silva, Auden, Augustine, Gellius Aulus, Francis Bacon, Anatole Baju, Mikhail M.Bakhtin, Mikhail Bakunin, Luigi Baldacci, Nani Balestrini, Honoré de Balzac, Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly, Ernest Barlach, Modesto Barrios, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, Charles Baudelaire, Jean Baudrillard, Lee Baxandall, Julian Beck, Paula Becker-Modersohn, Samuel Beckett, Vissarion Grigorevich Belinsky, Danie Bell, Walter Benjamin, Max Bense, Bernard of Chartres, Thomas Bernhard, John Berryman, Hans Bertens, André Billy, Walter Binni, Georges Bizet, Ernst Bloch, George Boas, Norberto Bobbio, Giovanni Boccaccio, Umberto Boccioni, Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux, Jorge Luis Borges, Raymond Boudon, Bouhours (le Père Dominique), Paul Bourget, Ter Braak, Brantome, René Bray, Bertolt Brecht, André Breton, Hermann Broch, Christine Brooke-Rose, Leonardo Bruni, Ernesto Buonaiuti, Anne Elizabeth Burlingame, William Burroughs, Robert Burton, Christopher Butler, Samuel Butler, Michel Butor, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, John Cage, Italo Calvino, Haroldo de Campos, Gómez Carillo, Thomas Carlyle, A. E. Carter, Cassiodorus, Leone de Castris, Caius Valerius Catullus, Christopher Caudwell, Miguel de Cervantes, Paul Cézanne, Champfleury ( Jules Husson), Richard Chase, Francois René Chateaubriand, Thomas Chatterton, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Marcus Tullius Cicero, Alexandre Cingria, Emile M. Cioran, William Cole, Ricardo Contreras, Robert Coover, Camille Corot, Gregory Corso, Julio Cortazar, Octavio Corvalán, Lewis A. Coser, Hart Crane, Robert Creeley, Benedetto Croce, e. e. cummings, Ernst Robert Curtius, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Dante Alighieri, Rubén Darío, Ned J. Davison, Eugène Delacroix, Gilles Deleuze, Peter Demetz, Jacques Derrida, René Descartes, Jean Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin, John Dewey, Peter Dews, Guillermo Diaz Plaja, Gillo Dorfles, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexander Dru, Joachim Du Bellay, Manfred Durzak, Umberto Eco, Donald Drew Egbert, Richard Egenter, Albert Einstein, Mircea Eliade, T. S. Eliot, José Enrique Rodó, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Diego de Estella, Robert Estivals, Euripides, Claude Fauchet, William Faulkner, James Waldo Fawcett, Raymond Federman, Laurence Ferlinghetti, Ludwig Feuerbach, Leslie Fiedler, Ernst Fischer, Brian T. Fitch, Francesco Flora, Antonio Fogazzaro, Douwe W. Fokkema, Bernard Le Bouvier de Fontenelle, E. M. Forster, Hal Foster, Michel Foucault, Charles Fourier, John Fowles, Kenneth Frampton, Sigmund Freud, Walter Freund, Robert Frost, Roger Fry, Carlos Fuentes, Hans-Georg Gadamer, William Gaddis, Federico Garcia Lorca, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jean-Charles Gaudy, Paul Gauguin, Théophile Gautier, Gérard Genette, J. de Ghellinck, André Gide, Ludwig Giesz, Hubert Gillot, Allen Ginsberg, Elio Gioanola, Philip Glass, William Godwin, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Nikolai Gogol, Isaac Goldberg, Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Goncourt, Paul Goodman, Elisabeth Gössmann, Gerald Graff, Antonio Gramsci, Robert Graves, Alasdair Gray, Clement Greenberg, B. A. Van Groninger, Félix Guattari, Angelo Guglielmi, Jorge Guillén, Ricardo Gullón, Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, Foster E. Guyer, Constantin Guys, Jürgen Habermas, Theodor Haecker, Léon Halévy, Soto Hall, Peter Handke, Wilfried Hartmann, Ihab Hassan, Adolphe Hatzfeld, John Hawkes, Paul Hazard, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Werner Heisenberg, Ernest Hello, Max Henríquez Ureña, Adrian Henry, Jesús Hernández Somoza, Darío Herrera, Gilbert Highet, Adolf Hitler, Thomas Hobbes, G. R. Hocke, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Hans Egon Holthusen, Homer, Robert Hooke, Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Max Horkheimer, Irving Howe, Friedrich von Hügel, Victor Hugo, Vicente Huidobro, Richard Hurd, Jules Huret, Linda Hutcheon, Aldous Huxley, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Elrud Ibsch, Roman Ingarden, Eugène Ionesco, Christopher Isherwood, Isidore Isou, Ricardo Jaimes Freyre, Roman Jakobson, Fredric Jameson, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Randall Jarrell, Karl Jaspers, Hans Robert Jauss, Martin Jay, Edouard Jeauneau, Charles Jencks, Juan Ramón Jiménez, John of Salisbury, Samuel Johnson, Richard Foster Jones, Joseph Joubert, James Joyce, Ernst Jünger, Franz Kafka, J. Kamerbeek, Vassily Kandinsky, Immanuel Kant, Walter Kaufmann, Hugh Kenner, Frank Kermode, Jack Kerouac, Søren Kierkegaard, Walther Killy, Paul Klee, Raymond Klibansky, Heinrich Klotz, Kenneth Koch, Michael Köhler, Oskar Kokoschka, Käthe Kollwitz, Hilton Kramer, Rosalind Krauss, Julia Kristeva, Kropotkin, Thomas Kuhn, Milan Kundera, Robert Langbaum, Pierre Simon Laplace, Valéry Larbaud, Comte de Lautréamont, Gabriel Désiré Laverdant, D. H. Lawrence, Jacques Le Goff, F. W. Leaky, Jean Leclercq, Charles-MarieRené Leconte de Lisle, Charles Lee, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Leonardo da Vinci, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Jacques Lethève, Harry Levin, John Lewis, Wyndham Lewis, Emile Littré, Alfred Loisy, A. L. Lovejoy, Robert Lowell, Leo Lowenthal, Karl Löwith, Leopoldo Lugones, Georg Lukács, Jean-François Lyotard, Dwight Macdonald, Antonio Machado, Manuel Machado, René Magritte, Judith Malina, Stéphane Mallarmé, André Malraux, Paul de Man, Thomas Mann, Karl Mannheim, Alessandro Manzoni, Mao Tse-tung, Herbert Marcuse, Giacinto Margiotta, Juan Marinello, Marinetti, Adrian Marino, Eduardo Marquina, José Martí, Karl Marx, Charles Maurras, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Jerome Mazzaro, William McGonagall, Roger McGough, Brian McHale, Rod McKuen, Marshall McLuhan, Robert K. Merton, Leonard B. Meyer, Michelangelo Buonaroti, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, John Milton, Abraham A. Moles, Thomas Molnar, Attilio Momigliano, Theodor E. Mommsen, Jacques Monod, Michel de Montaigne, Charles Secondat Montesquieu, Thomas More, Jean Moréas, Iris Murdoch, Robert Musil, Vladimir Nabokov, Alexander Neckham, Pablo Neruda, Amado Nervo, Charles Newman, Isaac Newton, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Désiré Nisard, Novalis, Charles Olson, Federico de Onís, Alfredo Oriani, José Ortega y Gasset, George Orwell, Ovid, Robert Owen, Ricardo Palma, Richard Palmer, Blaise Pascal, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Etienne Pasquier, Walter Pater, Brian Patten, Thomas Pavel, Cesare Pavese, Octavio Paz, Thomas Love Peacock, Bob Perelman, Ramón Pérez de Ayala, Marjorie Perloff, Charles Perrault, Peter of Blois, Petrarch, Giuseppe Petronio, Allen W. Phillips, Renzo Piano, Vittorio Pica, Robert Pinget, Luigi Pirandello, Plato, Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, Marcelin Pleynet, Edgar Allan Poe, Renato Poggioli, Gregory T. Polletta, abbé de Pons, Alexander Pope, Karl Popper, Paolo Portoghesi, Ezra Pound, Mario Praz, J. B. Priestley, Ilya Prigogine, Marcel Proust, Henri-Charles Puech, Manuel Puig, Thomas Pynchon, Ricardo Quinones, Jean Racine, John Crowe Ransom, Raphael, Claude Rawson, Man Ray, Bernard M. G. Reardon, Mostafa Rejai, Rembrandt, Ernest Renan, André Rezler, Noel Richard, Laura Riding, David Riesman, Hippolyte Rigault, Terry Riley, Arthur Rimbaud, Jacques Riviére, Alain Robbe- Grillet, Paul B. Robert, Richard Rodgers, Olinde Rodrigues, Pierre de Ronsard, G. L. Van Roosbroeck, Richard Rorty, Bernard Rosenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Stefano Rosso, Denis de Rougemont, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pier Aldo Rovatti, Luigi Russo, Marquis de Sade, Edward Said, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon, Carlo Salinari, Pedro Salinas, Edoardo Sanguineti, George Sarton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Guy Scarpetta, Max Scheler, Friedrich Schiller, Schlegel brothers, Alexander Schmidt, Carl Schmitt, Arnold Schönberg, Arthur Schopenhauer, Jochen Schulte-Sasse, Riccardo Scrivano, Adriano Seroni, Georges Seurat, William Shakespeare, Jenny Sharp, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Joseph T. Shipley, Georg Simmel, Claude Simon, Adam Smith, Gary Snyder, Phillipe Sollers, Fyodor Sologub, Maynard Solomon, D. C. Somervell, Susan Sontag, Sophocles, William V. Spanos, Stephen Spender, Oswald Spengler, Edmund Spenser, Madame de Stael, Hans Steffen, Gertrude Stein, George Steiner, Stendhal, Isabelle Stengers, Wallace Stevens, James Stirling, Max Stirner, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tom Stoppard, Botho Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Ronald Sukenick, Italo Svevo, Koenraad W. Swart, Jonathan Swift, Arthur Symons, Torquato Tasso, D. M. Thomas, L. Thorndike, Paul Tillich, Jean Tinguely, Alexis de Tocqueville, Alvin Toffler, Leo Tolstoy, Guillermo de Torre, Stephen Toulmin, Arnold Toynbee, Lionel Trilling, Leon Trotsky, George Tyrell, Tristan Tzara, Miguel de Unamuno, Hans Vaihinger, Angel Valbuena Prat, Guillermo Valencia, Paul Valéry, Ramón del Valle-Inclin, César Vallejo, Vincent van Gogh, Gianni Vattimo, Thorstein Veblen, Robert Venturi, Gabrielle Vergez, Paul Verlaine, Francisco Villaespesa, Virgil, Voltaire, Richard Wagner, Horace Walpole, Andy Warhol, Austin Warren, Chaim I. Waxman, Max Weber, Frank Wedekind, John Weightman, Ulrich Weisstein, René Wellek, Albrecht Wellmer, David Manning White, Alan Wilde, Oscar Wilde, W. D. Williams, William Carlos Williams, Gero von Wilpert, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Günter Wolf, Heinrich Wölfflin, William Wordsworth, William Butler Yeats, Evgheni Yevtushenko, Eugene Zamiatin, Andrei Aleksandrovich Zhdanov, Albert Zimmermann, Emile Zola, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Duncan

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