Cover image for The American century : varieties of culture in modern times
The American century : varieties of culture in modern times
Cantor, Norman F.
Personal Author:
First HarperPerennial edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : HarperPerennial, 1998, 1997.
Physical Description:
xiv, 591 pages, 48 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
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CB425 .C28 1997C Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Twentieth-century culture from Mao to McLuhan, The Rite of Spring to The Right Stuff, Freud to Frank Lloyd Wright, Eliot to Elvis, Marxism to modernism.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The author of outstanding, reader-friendly histories of the Middle Ages, medievalist Cantor switches centuries and offers this marvelous essay on modernism and postmodernism, which is also an extensive revision of his 1988 Twentieth-Century Culture. Cantor tracks the emergence of modernism from Victorian sensibilities and defines it in 14 points, as clearly as one will find anywhere. Reifying, as modernists would say, its abstract principles in various poems, novels, artworks, musical compositions, and philosophical tracts--of which Cantor gives pithy descriptions--modernism petered out by the late 1930s. Cantor argues that not much original intellectual work has followed it, nor were its ideas absorbed (as were those of previous cultural revolutions, such as the Enlightenment) by the period's political movements, fascism and communism. Cantor gives each of those isms a long airing, not so much on their political history but on how they interacted with the modernist zeitgeist. A masterfully erudite work, written with intimate conviviality. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

An intellectual road map of the 20th century, New York University history professor Cantor's highly opinionated survey is peppered with startling insights and bold judgments. For example, he calls the modernist novel "an examination of the disappointments of modern life," argues that Martin Heidegger's accommodation with the Nazis "was fully in accordance with his philosophy" and observes that Einstein, who projected the image of a gentle, introverted guru, "was a hellraiser, a subscriber to almost every radical cause imaginable, a leftist." Offering incisive criticism of left-wing thought and politics from Marx to Sartre to Edward Said, he is equally faultfinding of the American political right wing, which in his estimation increasingly looks backward to the pre-1900 era and has generated no significant body of thought or art. His lively, engrossing narrative history of the modernist movement is especially valuable for its capsule analyses of scores of figures, such as Beckett, Diaghilev, Kandinsky, Orwell, Keynes, Camus, Wittgenstein, Jung, Foucault and Derrida. An appendix gives snappy assessments of 100 modern films, from The Blue Angel to Oliver Stone's JFK and Nixon. Cantor's situating of modernism in its political and socioeconomic context is a tour de force of critical synthesis. This is a revised, expanded version of Twentieth Century Culture, which was published in 1988. Photos. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A revised and expanded version of Twentieth Century Culture, Modernism to Deconstruction (Lang, 1988), this is a wonderful summing up of Western civilization in the 20th century, with fascinating chapters on modernism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, fascism, and Postmodernism. This should be in all public and college libraries. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.