Author: Lisi Schoenbach
Author info: Associate Professor of English
Publication Date: November 2011
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Synopsis: 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 an institutionally-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 or conflict. In reconstructing an overlooked strain of modernism, this book helps to re-imagine the stark choice between political quietism and total revolution that has been handed down as modernism’s legacy.