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Vineland (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
Thomas Pynchon
Tristes Tropiques
John Weightman, Doreen Weightman, Patrick Wilcken, Claude Lévi-Strauss
Richard III
William Shakespeare
The Dwarf
Alexandra Dick, Pär Lagerkvist
The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen, Cecil Day-Lewis
Labyrinths
Richard Wolin
Giotto to Dürer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery
Jill Dunkerton, Susan Foister, Dillian Gordon, Nicholas Penny
Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics
Hubert L. Dreyfus, Paul Rabinow
Gravity's Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon
A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel
Steven Weisenburger
Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler - Roger Griffin This book is a failure -- an interesting failure -- but a huge failure, nonetheless. What a disappointment! He lays it on WAY too thick for my tastes. I thought he would turn from all the blowhard theorizing, eventually, to actually analyzing something that really exists on the ground (instead of in his own pretentious head)..., but no such luck. Approach this book with caution and at your peril...

{{This book is, by turns, extremely interesting and extremely annoying. There is a lot of jargon in it -- which (jargonmonixide) adds little to thought, imo -- and a lot of third-rate theory (read: anthropological theory); though that, of course, is largely a sin of the times (pun intended). He is attempting to refute the views of Jeffrey Herf's Reactionary Modernism (Herf argued that the Modernism of the Fascists was largely spurious; that they were actually anti-modern), by claiming that modernism has a transcendental and apocalyptic aspect that accomodates both Left AND Right. He makes a persuasive case for this -- in part (see below); though he also tends not infrequently to over-interpret. At the same time, the book, which is dense, is full of insightful comments and analysis. It's shaping up so far to being a four-star read, with an asterisk for "you should still definitely read this, if possible... flaws & all".}}

The French Revolution and the end of the 18th cen. saw what David Harvey called a "temporalization of history" -- as history..., previously felt, in the long wave of the centuries of tradition, as if it were a winding snake, ever chasing its tail, suddenly darted forth in a linear direction..., and at ever-accelerating speeds.

The initial response was on of infinite possibility. But by 1848 (the failed revolutions), this sense of optimism was giving way to deespair (Nietzsche's 'romantische Pessimismus'), exercerbated by the disturbances of the Industrial Revolution... and a growing sense that modernization was leaching out the elements vital to a healthy civilization. This earlier sense of optimistic progress thus gave way to a feeling of regress or involution..., of decadence, and the paradox of modernity was born - viz., the paradox that exponential growth in productivity, wealth, power, technik were all coupled with a loss of beauty, meaning, and health. modernity (small-"m") thus came to be idenditified not just with progress, but with decadence and anomie as well.

Many artists and other intellectuals sought to reverse this tide of anomie..., of the encroching chaos..., the encroaching barbarism -- and it is this "revolt against decadence" that cultural historians now refer to as "Modernism" (with a capital "M"). Many sought, these artists and intellectuals, to counter this growing sense disorder and instability ('Modernity thursts all of us into the maelstrom', said Marshall Berman) by making contact with deeper truths and deeper patterns, with regenerative patters..., thus striving to break out (Aufbruch) from the encroaching madness... so as "to turn the crepuscular twilight into a new dawn, to inaugurate a new beginning beyond the ongoing dissolution...."

For these men and women, seeking shelter and refuge, "modernity" itself became a trope for "decadence" -- and Modernism an attempt to overturn it.

The preferred method of of "regeneration" was commonly through an form of creative destruction. Initially (1880-1914), this destruction was restricted to the sphere of Arts and other cultural products; but eventually (after 1914), it spilled over into the sphere of action (history amd politics). Modernism thus overflowed the "aesthetic boundaries" (to which Harvey and others think to confine it) and morphed into something else -- as Politik (and war) became a form of "Art by other means".

Hence was born a "fascist modernism".

Later - while distinguishing programmatic (regenerative, palingenetic, political) from 'epiphanic' (Rilke, Hofmannsthal, Eliot, mystical and ecstatic/satori) modernism, Griffin argues that was is unique to our topic is that the boundaries between these two were porous -- with 'epiphanic' artists moving to the programmatic and back again: e.g., Evola who moved from Dada to mystical Traditionalism, and Gottfried Benn from Expressionism to Nazism back to "inner emigration"... Some of this appears a bit overly-schematic, no doubt -- but Griffin is aware of the fact that he is setting up only ideal "types".

In place of the Marxist interpretation which views fascism as a function of reactionary capitalism - in its terroristic, rather than liberal incarnation -- Griffin finds the roots of fascism and other forms of revolutionaryr modernism in the archaic roots of human consciousness -- symbolism, myth and liturgy - which serve to fashion a "home" for man cut loose ('homelessness') by modernity, and seeking shelter from the ultimate paradox of modernity, viz. the absolutely certainty of our own individual death in linear time. (It is shocking, truly..., to see Griffin "go there"; see chs. 3-4). This is what is called the "primordialist" approach to nationalism (73f.; Anthony D. Smith).

[Where the 'modernists' in nationalism studies (that is) argue that nationalism is a modern phenomenon because the Nation State is a modern phenomenon; 'Primordialists' like Smith think that nationalism is primoridial, since "nations are linked by chains of memory, myth and symbol to... the 9primitive) ethnie...." This is the view, btw, proposed by many early Italian fascists, who claimed that race was not a product of biological determinism, but a product of climate and diet history and memory... almost a-la-Montesquieu; see Gregor's Mussolini's Intelecutals. There may be some truth to this. Yet, by going down this path, Griffin is trodding some dangerous territory.]

OTOH, the use Peter Berger and the Sacred Canopy is not at all convincing, and is methodologically flawed. It's not the business of an historian to base his case on the assumption of metaphysical claims, but simply to establish what he can establish on an inductive basis. For all his ability, there is a certain lack of self-knowledge (and a lack of full understanding of his own limitations) that marrs certain portions of this book and is one of the reasons why it is not a five-star book. The whole of chapter 3, in fact, is incredibly pretentious - as Griffin adopts a whole metaphysical apparatus to undergird his analysis - an analysis that is based on the belief that the drive to symbols and myth-making is instinctual, with lots of reference and reliance on neo-Jungians, Eliadeans, Peter Berger, and others - all of which should have been edited out of the final text.

Cutting through the bull, however, the core argument here (ch. 3) is not so foolish and runs as follows: culture traditionally anaesthesizes us from the terror that results from our recognition of our absolute mortality -- it is "a sheltering sky". Modernity has torn down the illusions of that "canopy"; hence the need to reconstruct that refuge by seeking a suprapersonal refuge *within* history..., in the nation (nationalism), the race, etc.... as a refuge against the fragmentation wrought by modernity. Surely this argument is partial (at best), and dressed up unattractively (with anthropological pseudy-science) that weakens it. But it is, when stripped, worth attention.

The temporalization of history and consciousness, brought on by modernity, has unleashed great forces of anomy; and fascism, like other revolutionary utopias, by tapping into a primordial palingenetic instinct, is a powerful attempt to transcend (like a collective rite of initiation) the chaos - with the promise of 'New Shores'. (Ch. 4)