In the early decades of the twentieth century writers, visual artists, filmmakers and musicians across the world competed to follow Ezra Pound’s injunction to ‘make it new’. Whether artists were willing or resisting change – hurling themselves into the (often technological) future or hankering elegiacally after lost forms and ways of life – the first fifty years of the twentieth century saw an explosion of artistic production in all the arts. Shaken up by two world wars, stirred by the invention of cinema, artists questioned what art was and could be and asserted its value in a fragmented yet increasingly interconnected world.
Established in October 2013, the Centre for Modern Literature and Culture is a forum for academics, writers and artists to explore, interrogate, dismantle and reinvent the notion of the ‘modern’. We fund and organise regular events aimed both at the academy and the wider public. We also run the Ivan Juritz Prize for creative experiment (currently judged by Rachel Cusk, Jeremy Harding, Gillian Wearing and Ryan Wigglesworth). In 2017 we put on the ‘Melancholia’ exhibition in the Inigo Rooms at Somerset House, which featured previously unseen work by Anselm Kiefer and Tacita Dean.
As is seen throughout our initiatives, our understanding of modernism is far-reaching and plural; we look back into the nineteenth-century as the period when modernism began (the ‘it’ in Pound’s statement was, after all, the old) and forward into the late twentieth and early twenty-first century as a period when modernist experimentation continues in new forms and modes. We understand modernism as a global phenomenon, drawing on and influencing cultures throughout the world, and as a term that bridges high and popular art forms.
The Directors of the Centre are:
Dr Lara Feigel
Dr Benedict Schofield