The First Moderns by William R. Everdell
Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought

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A lively and accessible history of Modernism, The First Moderns is filled with portraits of genius, and intellectual breakthroughs, that richly evoke the fin-de-siècle atmosphere of Paris, Vienna, St. Louis, and St. Petersburg. William Everdell offers readers an invigorating look at the unfolding of an age.

"This exceptionally wide-ranging history is chock-a-block with anecdotes, factoids, odd juxtapositions, and useful insights. Most impressive. . . . For anyone interested in learning about late 19th- and early 20th- century imaginative thought, this engagingly written book is a good place to start."—Washington Post Book World

"The First Moderns brilliantly maps the beginning of a path at whose end loom as many diasporas as there are men."—Frederic Morton, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

"In this truly exciting study of the origins of modernist thought, poet and teacher Everdell roams freely across disciplinary lines. . . . A brilliant book that will prove useful to scholars and generalists for years to come; enthusiastically recommended."—Library Journal, starred review

"Everdell has performed a rare service for his readers. Dispelling much of the current nonsense about 'postmodernism,' this book belongs on the very short list of profound works of cultural analysis."—Booklist

"Innovative and impressive . . . [Everdell] has written a marvelous, erudite, and readable study."-Mark Bevir, Spectator

"A richly eclectic history of the dawn of a new era in painting, music, literature, mathematics, physics, genetics, neuroscience, psychiatry and philosophy."—Margaret Wertheim, New Scientist

"[Everdell] has himself recombined the parts of our era's intellectual history in new and startling ways, shedding light for which the reader of The First Moderns will be eternally grateful."—Hugh Kenner, The New York Times Book Review

"Everdell shows how the idea of "modernity" arose before the First World War by telling the stories of heroes such as T. S. Eliot, Max Planck, and Georges Serault with such a lively eye for detail, irony, and ambiance that you feel as if you're reliving those miraculous years."—Jon Spayde, Utne Reader


About William R. Everdell

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Everdell has taught history since 1972 at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, where he is dean of humanities.
Published May 15, 1997 by University Of Chicago Press. 509 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction, Science & Math, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Dismissing Virginia Woolf's assertion that the Modern era began ``on or about December 1910,'' Everdell nimbly places such supposedly pre-Modern thinkers and artists as Mach (whose name is still used to denote the speed of sound), Seurat, and Whitman in the long evolutionary trend of Modernism, d...

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Publishers Weekly

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In his introduction, Everdell makes the point that educated readers use the word modernism all the time, ""possessed of certain spreadeagled definitions learned, perhaps, in courses in art history or 20th century fiction and reinforced by daily trips through the glass canyons of downtown."" While...

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Project MUSE

Everdell attempts to provide a general survey of modernism in Europe and the Americas extending from the last third of the nineteenth century to the first third of the twentieth (with a brief epilogue that discusses later thinkers like Alan Turing and Michel Foucault).

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Boston Review

In the first and greater part of the book (called "Arrays") these chapters assemble evidence from various contemporary books, journals, and witnesses, drawn from a range of places (chiefly Berlin, Paris, New York, and Buenos Aires) about subjects Gumbrecht deems to have been especiall...

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