notes from underground

The endless summer of finishing books drags on. In the meantime, I have been thinking that it might be enjoyable for my readership if I posted some quotes from books that are particularly fascinating to me. To start with,

T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea. Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 2-3.

"Now that I sit down to write my introdcution, I realize that what I had taken for a convenient opening ploy—the fragments, the puzzling scholars, the intervening holocaust—speaks to the book’s deepest conviction, that already the modernist past is a ruin, the logic of whose architecture we do not remotely grasp. This has not happened, in my view, because we have entered a new age. That is not my book title means. On the contrary, it is just because the ‘modernity’ which modernism prophesied has finally arrived that the forms of representation it originally gave rise to are now unreadable. (Or readable only under some dismissive fantasy rubric—of ‘purism,’ ‘opticality,’ ‘formalism,’ ‘elitism,’ etc.) The intervening (and interminable) holocaust was modernization. Modernism is unintelligible now because it had truck with a modernity not fully in place. Post-modernism mistakes the ruins of those previous representations, or the fact that from where we stand they seem ruinous, for the ruin of modernity itself—not seeing that what we are living through is modernity’s triumph.

"Modernism is our antiquity, in orther words; the only one we have; and no doubt the Baku Palace of the Press, if it survives, or the Moltke Museum, if it has not been scrubbed and tweaked into post-modern receptivity (coffee and biscotti and interactive video), is as overgrown and labyrinthine as Shelley’s dream of Rome."

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