Classicism of the TwentiesArt, Music, and Literature

Classicism of the TwentiesArt, Music, and Literature

Theodore Ziolkowski

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226183985

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book defines the theory and practice of “classicism” as practiced in the 1920s by a number of composers, writers, and artists, setting it off against other movements of the period that are customarily grouped together under the general heading of “modernism.” It argues that classicism is a more precise term than neo-classicism during this period, since every classicism from antiquity to the present shares certain common qualities as well as characteristics of its own time. The book develops terms of comparison applicable to all three aesthetic forms, exploring the theory of classicism as developed by thinkers in France, Italy, Germany, and England as a reaction, first, against the formlessness of late romanticism, and then, against the chaos of World War I. It goes on to study the manner in which that theory was practiced in the work of three exemplary figures--Stravinsky, Picasso, and Eliot. The model of their work is then used to determine in various test cases whether those artists can properly be called classicists. The book concludes that classicists of the ’20s aspire consciously and systematically, through the use of forms and techniques echoing the past, such as linearity and simplification, to express the qualities of reason, restraint, clarity, and order as an antidote to the disruptions of the modern world.

Table of Contents

Part 1 The Theory

Part 2 The Practice

Part 3 Test Cases

Part 4 Conclusions

End Matter