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The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought


The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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


"This wonderfully encyclopedic book offers succinct portraits of genuises from the 20th century who have each had a significant impact on philosophy, art, and science. Profiled here are such figures as Freud, Seurat, Max Planck, Bertrand Russell, Joyce, Kandinsky, and Schoenberg. What Everdell seeks in these profiles is a way of understanding the origins of atomistic and disjunctive thinking and its impact on contemporary structures of cognition. This book will surely appeal to anyone interested in better understanding the origins of modernity." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)


A lively and accessible history of Modernism, this book is filled with portraits of genius and intellectual breakthroughs what richly evoke the "fin-de-siecle" atmosphere of Paris, Vienna, St. Louis, and St. Petersburg in the late 19th- and early 20th century.


Includes bibliographical references (p. 423-461) and index.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction: What Modernism Is and What It Probably Isn't

2. The Century Ends in Vienna: Modernism's Time Lost, 1899

3. Georg Cantor, Richard Dedekind, and Gottlob Frege: What Is a Number, 1872-1883

4. Ludwig Boltzmann: Statistical Gases, Entropy, and the Direction of Time, 1872-1877

5. Georges Seurat: Divisionism, Cloisonnism, and Chronophotography, 1885

6. Whitman, Rimbaud, and Jules Laforgue: Poems without Meter, 1886

7. Santiago Ramon y Cajal: The Atoms of Brain, 1889

8. Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau: Inventing the Concentration Camp, 1896

9. Sigmund Freud: Time Repressed and Ever-Present, 1899

10. The Century Begins in Paris: Modernism on the Verge, 1900

11. Hugo de Vries and Max Planck: The Gene and the Quantum, 1900

12. Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl: Phenomenology, Number, and the Fall of Logic, 1901

13. Edwin S. Porter: Parts at Sixteen per Second, 1903

14. Meet Me in Saint Louis: Modernism Comes to Middle America, 1904

15. Albert Einstein: The Space-Time Interval and the Quantum of Light, 1905

16. Pablo Picasso: Seeing All Sides, 1906-1907

17. August Strindberg: Staging a Broken Dream, 1907

18. Arnold Schoenberg: Music in No Key, 1908

19. James Joyce: The Novel Goes to Pieces, 1909-1910

20. Vassily Kandisky: Art with No Object, 1911-1912

21. Annus Mirabilis: Vienna, Paris, and St. Petersburg, 1913

22. Discontinuous Epilogues: Heisenberg and Bohr, Godel and Turing, Merce Cunningham and Michael Foucault


Select Bibliography


Product Details

Everdell, William R.
University of Chicago Press
Everdell, William R.
History, modern
20th century
Intellectual life
Thought and thinking
Modern - General
History & Surveys - Modern
Modern - 20th Century
World History-1650 to Present
Edition Description:
Paperback edition, 1998.
Series Volume:
no. 98-17
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Professional Medical Reference
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » 20th Century
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
Humanities » Philosophy » General

The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought Used Trade Paper
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Product details 509 pages University of Chicago Press - English 9780226224817 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , A lively and accessible history of Modernism, this book is filled with portraits of genius and intellectual breakthroughs what richly evoke the "fin-de-siecle" atmosphere of Paris, Vienna, St. Louis, and St. Petersburg in the late 19th- and early 20th century.
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