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Modernism
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Romanticism

 MODERNISM and The Age of Anxiety--Europe in the 1920s

World War I is also known as The Great War, The Cousins War, and The War to End all Wars.

-- Popular War: At its start, the Great War of 1914-1918 was very popular. Even the nonviolent artists of the day supported the war in its beginnings because people believed it would be a quick, clean war.

--Bitter disillusionment: However, the war lasted much longer than the experts had expected and predicted, and the people lost faith in the government, especially in one that allowed such atrocious techniques to be used on the battlefield.

--Although people had entered into the war as the "right" thing to do, to defend the honor of the country, to teach the Germans a lesson, the war devolved to an inane, insane, irrational continual battle. Trench warfare and mustard gas were things that no one who believed in "just" war could have invisioned. The good life was gone. Time was fleeting.
--Loss of Romantic attitudes about war: To a generation that had been brought up on the ideal: It is beautiful and good to die for the glory of one's country, the idea of war was romanticized with references to the shining swords and horse brigades, to honor and to glory.  Those ideas did not leave room for the pictures of soldiers returning, their lungs permanently affected by mustard gas, their limbs amputated because of mines and grenades. The reports coming back from the front were depressing and demoralizing. And the common man did not feel the governments were doing enough to win the war--that the war had lasted too long and cost too many lives.

Aspects of Modernism:

Disorder in the mind: Already by 1914, Europe had perhaps reached the limits of modernism, which was characterized, above all, by disorder in the mind. Disorder meant the lack of any fixed system of reference for living and thinking.

Anxiety about existence: Will this world even continue? Will my life and the lives of those I love and value be sacrificed to this war?

Anxiety about culture: Will the culture I've known and loved and desired to establish as a memory for my children continue to exist? Will the culture change in reaction to the war--losing liberties that I have taken for granted?

Anxiety about destiny: What is my destiny? Will my destiny change because of this war? Was I meant to be an artist but now have to work with my feet because I lost a hand to this bloody war? Will my business go on since my only son died in Flanders? Will I ever marry having lost my fiance to mustard gas?

They focused on the anxiety they felt about their existence, their culture, and their destiny.

Paul Tillich, theologian, is credited with creating the term that has most become associated with this time and this angst: the Age of Anxiety.

--Anxiety of Meaninglessness: In addition to being anxious about their own survival and their destiny, the pervasive angst was echoed in the loss of faith. There was now no surety of the meaningfulness of life. No spiritual center held the world together. Loss of faith had been exacerbated by Darwin's Origin of the Species in 1850, but the brutish man's inhumanity to man of World War I, the Great War, the War to End all Wars, caused depression. Some turned to new evangelical churches that warned of the coming End Time, some turned to drugs and alcohol, some turned to the interior search for a self-created order--something to believe in if God no longer existed, and these were definite in their beliefs that God did not exist, for to them, no God would have allowed the horrors of this war to occur.