What Do I Read Next?
There was almost no facet of life that was not fundamentally transformed by the technological advances of the modernist period. Stephen Kern’s 1983 book The Culture of Time and Space 1880–1918 (1983) is an excellent meditation on how technology changed human life and perception.
A movement that was not similar to Modernism in its formal features but provided many modernist writers with a model of artistic rebellion was the so-called Decadent movement of the 1890s. The best-known Decadent writers were the Anglo-Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde and the French novelist J. K. Huysmans, but dozens of other writers were loosely affiliated with this group. Reading Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest (1895) gives a good idea of the nature of Decadent literature.
World War I was the central historical event affecting Modernism. Paul Fussell’s study The Great War and Modern Memory (1975) provides a detailed and often moving discussion of this war and its effects on contemporaries.
Out of the armistice that settled World War I grew the seeds that would eventually mature into World War II. The “belligerents,” or the losing powers, were forced to pay vast sums to the victors and give up large amounts of territory. Even in Italy, a poor country that was dragged into World War I, the effects of the war led directly to the ascension of Benito Mussolini to power. Dennis Mack-Smith’s 1983 biography Mussolini gives a detailed portrait of post–World War I Italy.