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Embattled Avant-Gardes

Modernism's Resistance to Commodity Culture in Europe

Walter L. Adamson


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This sweeping work, at once a panoramic overview and an ambitious critical reinterpretation of European modernism, provides a bold new perspective on a movement that defined the cultural landscape of the early twentieth century. Walter L. Adamson embarks on a lucid, wide-ranging exploration of the avant-garde practices through which the modernist generations after 1900 resisted the rise of commodity culture as a threat to authentic cultural expression. Taking biographical approaches to numerous avant-garde leaders, Adamson charts the rise and fall of modernist aspirations in movements and individuals as diverse as Ruskin, Marinetti, Kandinsky, Bauhaus, Purism, and the art critic Herbert Read. In conclusion, Adamson rises to the defense of the modernists, suggesting that their ideas are relevant to current efforts to think through what it might mean to create a vibrant, aesthetically satisfying form of cultural democracy.

Praise For Embattled Avant-Gardes: Modernism's Resistance to Commodity Culture in Europe

“This [is an] erudite, richly comparative study of avant-garde aesthetics and public engagement.”

— Laura Winkiel

University of California Press, 9780520261532, 448pp.

Publication Date: August 17, 2009

About the Author

Walter L. Adamson is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History at Emory University where he teaches modern European intellectual and cultural history as well as modern Italian history. He is author of Avant-Garde Florence: From Modernism to Fascism. winner of the Howard Marraro Prize of the American Historical Association, and Hegemony and Revolution (UC Press), winner of the Howard Marraro Prize of the Society for Italian Historical Studies.