Chapter 2The Modern Age and the Arts 27
Chapter 2 The Modern Age and the Arts The problem today is this: what is left to overcome? The door has opened with a crash, and we have at times the feeling of spinning dizzily forward without being able to regain our balance. — G. de Santillana, ‘The Seventeenth-Century Legacy’ The Modern Context and a Philosophical Note In 1923 Woolf wrote in ‘Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown’: ‘And so the smash- ing and the crashing began. Thus it is that we hear all round us […], the sound of breaking and falling, crashing and destruction […]. Signs of this are everywhere apparent. Grammar is violated; syntax disintegrated’ (CE I, 333–4). This ‘smashing’ is reality itself which was being physically fragmented and its repeated splitting uncovered the atom. A whole world view was at stake and new interpretative and representative criteria were needed in order to recover a sense of meaning which was slowly but steadily being lost. The advancements in knowledge, which had been taking place during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, brought about revolution- ary theories in most branches and contributed to a profound scientific, technological, social and cultural development.1 These epochal changes 1 For a thorough development of the subject cf. S. Kern, The Culture of Time and Space 1880–1918 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983). Developments were so radical as to bring about new ways of experiencing the basic categories of time and space. In 1900 Planck formulated the first quantum hypothesis and Einstein’s 28...
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