Age of Anxiety and Uncertainty
Reading: Spodek,
pp. 678-682, 710-714
Overview
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World War I was really awful for most people
Technology had so transformed the face of the
war that many things were called into
question.
Even before the war, there was tension as
people were asking questions and doubting
that everything was so wonderful.
There was a crisis of modernity.
The idea that each generation was better off
than the one before was questioned.
Modern Philosophy
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Nietzsche (1844-1900)
 Western civilization has
emphasized rationality at
the expense of passion
and instinct.
 Christianity glorified
weakness, envy, and
mediocrity
 “God is dead”
 Democracy isn’t working
 Respectability stifles selfrealization
 People have no
authenticity
 Will to power
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
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Existentialism
God has nothing to do with giving
life meaning.
Human beings simply exist.
 There is no God to help them
 There is no reason to help
them.
“Man is forced to be free”
 To be free, men and women
must become engaged and
choose actions correctly.
 Human beings are responsible
for their own behavior.
Became really popular after World
War II, a war in which actions and
consciousness induced men and
women to either act courageously
or abominably
New Physics
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Science foundation of
Enlightenment, reason and
progress.
At the end of the 19th century,
scientists found atoms not
hard, permanent little balls.
Atoms consists of many
smaller fast-moving particles,
including electrons and
protons
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Marie Curie (1867-1934) and
her husband found that
radium emits subatomic
particles so it has no constant
atomic weight.
Max Plank (1858-1947) found
that subatomic energy is
emitted from vibrating
electron in uneven spurts or
“quanta”. Calls into question
old distinction of matter and
energy.
 He also called into
question atoms as stable
building blocks of nature
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
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Light propagated through
space in the form of particles
(photons)
E=mc2
Special theory of relativity.
 Time and space relative
to the viewpoint of the
observer
General theory of relativity
Newton’s universe three
dimensional while Einstein’s
universe four dimensional
space-time continuity
Rutherford(1871-1937) and
Werner Heisenberg (1901-1927)
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Rutherford (18711937)
 Showed atom could
be split into smaller
particles.
 Crucial for
subsequent
development of
atomic weapons
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Werner Heisenberg
(1901-1927)
 “Principle of
Uncertainty”
 Instead of Newton’s
certainties, we now
have a physics
based on tendencies
and probabilities
Freudian Psychology
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Sigmund Freud (18561939)
Interested in
unconscious behavior
Theory of
psychoanalysis
His conclusion was that
human behavior is
basically irrational, not
rational behavior of
Enlightenment thought.
Modern Literature and Modern
Cinema
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Franz Kafka captured the
sense of nightmarish 20th
century world in The
Metamorphosis, as well as
others.
Oswald Spengler wrote
Decline of the West which
was the obituary of
civilization.
Also two war novels were
written:
 Ernest Hemingway, A
Farewell to Arms.
 Erich Remarque, All
Quiet on the Western
Front
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German expressionist films
came out during this time
period.
 The Cabinet of Dr.
Caligari (1919) which was
trying to answer the
question, “Is the director
of the insane asylum
himself an insane
murderer?
 Metropolis was about the
madness of industrial
capitalization.
Modern Art--Overview
Camera invented in 19th
Century.
 Great images of U.S.
Civil War—Matthew
Brady’s photographs
 Kodak personal camera
introduced at the end of
the century. Why paint
realistic paintings if
camera can better
capture reality. No color
photos yet.
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Impressionism—French painters
French Painters
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
 Camille Pissaro (1830-1903)
 Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
 Their goal was to capture the overall
picture of things by capturing light falling
on the scene before their eyes.
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Vincent van Gogh
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Painted what is in his mind
Increasingly form became
more important than light
 Paul Cezanne (18931906)
 Henri Mattisse (18691954)
 Pablo Picasso (18911973)
Cubism—all of these artists
trying to capture in form inner
essence of things not
superficial “surface”
Cubism
Dali and Surrealism
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Salvador Dali (1904-1989) was involved in Surrealism
which exalted the irrational, the violent, and the absurd
in human experiences
Dali and Surrealism
Modern Music
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Western music tradition since the
Renaissance “major-minor” system
of tonality
New musicians began to explore
polytonality.
Igor Stravinsky
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Achieved effects through
polytonality, dissonant harmonies,
and percussive rhythms
Rites of Spring was a pre-World
War I ballet which undermines
common conventions of ballets
with his jarring music. Dancers
engaged in representation of
reproduction
Extremely shocking when first
performed in Paris in 1913. It
became more popular after World
War I
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Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
abandoned traditional harmony and
tonality altogether and arranged the
12 notes of the scale in an abstract
mathematical pattern, the “tone-row”
which stresses disharmony
Modern Architecture
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Bauhaus was an
institution in Germany
that brought together
architects, designers,
and painters.
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Walter Gropius (18831969) was the first
director of Bauhaus. He
believed in functional
designs, simplicity of
shape, and lots of glass.
 Implemented philosophy
“form must follow
function”
 Influenced Swiss-French
Architect, Le Corbusier
Global Impact
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Europeans searched for nonWestern inspiration.
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Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
searched the South Pacific for
unspoiled beauty and a
primitive way of life.
Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
was an African American who
was a dancer, singer,
entertainer who was popular in
1930s Paris
Jazz was the music from the
American Blacks which
combined gospels, African
rhythms, and erotic blues. It
was very popular in Europe.
More on Global Impact
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Trinidad was where
Calypso was a popular
music. Songs about
urban hunger,
unemployment, and
social upheaval.
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Negritude Movement
in France was closely
connected to
surrealists.
The Democratization of Desire and
Modernism
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The Democratization of
Desire
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Modernism
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Radio
Hollywood
Shopping
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A word to collectively
describe these
common features of
Western art and
culture.
Form is emphasized at
the expense of content.
A systematic and
determined rejection of
the classical models
Culture is increasingly
global
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Age of Anxiety and Uncertainty