9780812213843: Paperback
Release Date: 1st February 1991

14 illus.

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 224

Series Penn Studies in Contemporary American Fiction

University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.


A Study in Twentieth-Century Arts and Ideas

This survey of 20th-century arts and ideas attempts to identify underlying epistemological, aesthetic and ethical issues. The author emphasizes how works from diverse media relate to one another and how their relationships affect the contemporary artistic and philosophical climate.

Paperback / £16.99

Silvio Gaggi's survey of the vast terrain of twentieth century arts and ideas is unique not only for its scope but also for the clarity and cohesiveness it brings to wide-ranging, seemingly disparate works. By identifying underlying epistemological, aesthetic, and ethical issues. Gaggi draws connections among such modern and postmodern masterpieces as Pirandello's and Brecht's theater, Fowles's and Barth's fiction, Warhol's paintings, Godard's and Bergman's films, and Derrida's literary theory.

Modern/Postmodern begins with a discussion of the profound skepticism—about traditional beliefs and about our ability to know the self—that lies at the heart of both modernism and postmodernism. Gaggi identifies the modernist response to this doubt as the rejection of mimesis in favor of a purely formalistic or expressionistic art. The postmodern response, on the other hand, is above all to create art that is self-referential (concerned with art itself, the history of art, or its processes). Drawing from the work of Piranadello and Brecht, paradigms that can be applies to many different art works, Gaggi emphasizes how these works from diverse media relate to one another and what their relationships are to the contemporary artistic and philosophical climate. He concentrates on the works themselves, but examines theory as a parallel manifestation of the same obsessions that inform recent literature and art.

Gaggi asks, finally, if self-referential art can also be politically and ethically engaged with the reality outside it. He concludes that the postmodern obsession with language, narrativity, and artifice is not necessarily a decadent indulgence but is, at its best, an honest inquiry into the problems, questions, and paradoxes of language.

Modern/Postmodern is a lively approach to postmodern art that will interest all students and scholars of contemporary art and literature.

List of Plates

2-Self-Conscious Theatre
3-Replications and Convergences
4-Projecting Genres, Projecting Selves
5-Writing About Writing: John Fowles and John Barth
6-Postmodernism, Posthumanism, and Politics


Silvio Gaggi is Emeritus Professor of Humanities at the University of South Florida and the author of From Text to Hypertext: Decentering the Subject in Fiction, Film, the Visual Arts, and Electronic Media, also published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

"Filled with clarity and insight. . . . It is admirably wide-ranging, touching on science, philosophy, politics, and the arts."—American Book Review