Introduction: Modernity and the Visual

During this week’s class I was especially interested in Baudelaire’s conception of the little magazine as a locus of fugitivity and the ways in which the visual and textual arts have responded to this modern sense of dislocation. I was interested in how the idea of the magazine as “storehouse” and its role as an object of transience or ephemerality complimented or informed artistic movements (especially in painting) like Symbolism or Realism. The idea of the storehouse combined with that of fugitivity also made me think of other Modernist works of literature like Moby Dick and Ulysses, which aim to make microcosms out of sweeping lists as a way to address the respective restlessness and placelessness of the times they were written in. I wonder what effect the clash, or syncretism, or dialectic between Realism and Symbolism had on the meaning-making of people at the time. I feel that both movements or a synthesis of the two probably comforted people and helped ease cultural anxieties around the exponentially increasing pace of technological and social progress and new forms of historiography which emphasized geological time and often eschewed ideas of progress altogether.  The way we discussed Realism and symbolism made me think about the paintings and prints of William Blake and Odilon Redon too, which I think might help to form a glossary entry for Symbolism.