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You Go, Huizinga!

The Autumn of the Modern Ages -- Updated!
Now with Music Added! 

The Modern Ages began conventionally ca. 1500 and ran until fairly recently. Just as the 15th century was the "Autumn of the Middle Ages" (as Johan Huizinga's book was titled) so too has the 20th century been the Autumn of the Modern Ages.  All those things that marked the Modern Age began to fade or change: Cities, the Bourgeois, Science, Privacy, Science, Industry, and so on.  It is not that the new age (whatever it is to be called) will be better or worse.  The Classical Ages faded into a barbarian Dark Age; the Middle Ages faded into a Renaissance.  Which was the worse disaster is anyone's guess.

We always imagine the future as being something like the present, only more so.  In the 50s, the future was going to be the 50s -- with flying cars.  In the 70s, it was going to be sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll forever.  But an age is not defined by its gadgets.  Even if we one day get our flying cars, they will not make that age like the gung-ho, white-bread, techno-worshiping 50s.  Sorry, Jetsons.  An age is defined by the type of person who lives in it.

The beginning of the end for the Modern Ages lay in Europe's mutual suicide pact of 1914-1945 (with intermission).  But when can we say the Modern Ages ended?

Art, as usual, runs ahead of the curve.  What we call "modern art" is decidedly "post-modern," since the essence of the Modern Ages was representational.

Quiz: Below the cut are

  • pictures of couples

  • pictures of artwork

  • YouTubes of music

from each of the Modern Ages.  Between which set do your find a break in the Modern tradition?

I warn you.  The shift is very subtle.

1. Renaissance:


2. Baroque Age

3. Age of Reason

4. Industrial Revolution

5. High Modern Age

6. Post-Modern Age

Actually being sarcastic...  The shift ain't that subtle.  It started earlier in art and music than it did in other aspects of the Modern Ages, so the couples, the paintings, and the youtubes are out of synch.  Also: there are many schools of art, and their styles overlapped a great deal.  There are artists today who continue to paint in the representational manner -- oddly enough, on the covers of SF books!  Perhaps because the writing is so fantastical, the art needs to be realistic.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 17th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
I'm going to suggest the woman crawling on the grass, alone and with a tiresome long way to go to get anywhere. Why? It just feels like a major mood shift.
Oct. 18th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, but it said the shift was subtle. Which I suppose means the shift was between two sets before Christina's World.

Between 3 and 4, perhaps.

Oct. 17th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
A second choice would be the "High Modern" couple - because she's wearing a short skirt. Throughout the modern age, women wore long full skirts, corsets, and hoops or farthingales.

A rider on the sentimental Victorian picture, which is not the mood of the explore-and-build, masculine/gender divided Modern Age, but I'm going to call it, rather, a harbinger, no more the mood shift than Indian Summer is, or the first cool day in September (after which the temperatures rise to "High today 85" again.) Because after all, history is a sine wave, not a series of sharp discontinuities, except economically (Fischer's Long Wave, frex).

BTW - if you read the Fourth Turning forums, you know I consider the periods you've shown to be, in order, a mega-Awakening (Renaissance), a mega-Unraveling (Scientific Revolution, and Neal Stephenson hit that nail precisely on the head), a mega-Crisis (Age of Reason), and a mega-Recovery (Victorian Age.) And the 20th to be another mega-Awakening, and culturally, those always signal the change of civilizations.

Politically where are we? Read McCullough's First Man In Rome series (though she's disgustingly in love with Julius Caesar) backed up by the two murder mystery series set in Rome's Dying Republic Saeculum: John Maddox Robert's SPQR series (moderate conservative) and Steven Saylor's now-finished Gordianus the Finer series (populares all the way).
Oct. 17th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
P.S. When did The Modern Age (as a mega-Saeculum) end? I think that one is pretty obvious. The Boom Awakening bashed it on the head with great glee and buried it in the trash compactor.
Oct. 17th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
John Lukacs put it precisely at 1968, which is why he always said "the Twentieth Century is the shortest one on record."
Oct. 18th, 2010 02:41 am (UTC)
I forget who it was, but somebody did some work that correlated the length of women's skirts very closely with the health of the current economy. Skirts in the US started getting shorter when the Federal Reserve System was established and we went on the Paper Standard.

You will recall that the miniskirt caught on during LBJ's Great Society and has never entirely fallen out of favor since.

Various judges have ruled against details of Obamacare. If the Supreme Court upholds it, we better pray for genuine Global Warming, because otherwise women will flat-out DIE going to work naked.
Oct. 18th, 2010 04:38 am (UTC)
This is Great Books for Men bait. You might as well have said "secretive tapings of butthex".
Oct. 18th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
You know, I was totally convinced I understood English until I read that.

As a working hypothesis I am choosing to believe the problem is at your end.
Oct. 19th, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
Google is your friend. Oh, heck: http://greatbooksformen.wordpress.com/
Oct. 19th, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
Also: http://eumaios.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/gbfm-code-the-symbology-and-terminology-of-great-books-for-men/
Oct. 19th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing. Have some coffee.
Stay away from the cookies, they're full of sugar.
Oct. 20th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
Hey! Beneath the glossolalia there's a serious criticism of the bankstas.
Oct. 18th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
I've heard that someone actually found a period during which skirt length matched the stock market graph, or something like that.
Oct. 18th, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
I'm struck by the fact that the Industrial Revolution couple are the first to be actually embracing rather than standing apart and looking at each other.
Oct. 18th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
3, the Age of Reason. The man has lost his wits and is looking at the woman, instead of whatever he is supposed to be doing.
Oct. 18th, 2010 12:07 pm (UTC)
Taking the ball and running it over the goal line for a touchdown: what do the following dates have in common? Anglo-American timeline only, where it exists.

476 (switching to Roman timeline here. English a bit earlier. Merry, hairy pirates, incompetent Celtic prince, and all that...)
31 BC
Oct. 18th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC)
The Picasso you match to Post-Modern is from 1907; the Wyeth you match to High Modern is from 1948...

I don't think I understand this game.
Oct. 18th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
I do. Different artists painting in different styles. After all, people were still writing ballads well into the rock'n'roll age and still are. People are still writing classical music and movie theme music a la Victory at Sea (check out Star Wars etc) even into the 21st century.
Oct. 18th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
Do you know the difference...
...between sarcasm and irony?

One **knows** when it's sarcasm.

What can one say? Picasso was ahead of his time. :>)

Oct. 18th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC)
Hehe. I wondered if anyone would spot that. But art often runs ahead of life. Klimt was doing his thing in the late 1800s. And Wyeth in the mid 1900s was already being seen as reactionary and old-fashioned. I probably should have googled a bit longer.
Oct. 18th, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm way over thinking this. My vague memories from art classes 20+ years ago - the Picasso is women in a whore house (or something) and the Wyeth is a picture of a crippled neighbor of his - she's not lying there enjoying the meadow, she's dragging herself across the ground to wherever she's trying to go.

So, instead of seeing pretty picture, pretty picture, pretty picture, ugly picture, I read far too much into it? If the point is that people stopped loving beauty about the same time they stopped loving truth, OK, no argument here.

Honest, I'm not usually the guy out to kill the funny. Just this once, on accident.
Oct. 19th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
It's not pretty picture ---> ugly picture at all.

It's representational picture ---> abstract picture.

The modern style, from the Renaissance to the collapse, was to paint things as they actually were. Not indeed with photographic realism. (Take a good look at Rembrandt's self-portraits and you know no camera could ever have captured him. Or the painting on the ceiling of the ducal palace in Venice. But it was the use of shadow, perspective, vanishing points, and other such.

It began to disappear with impressionism: backgrounds again became vague; figures were suggested, not drafted with detail. Then came pointilism; then all the different abstractions -- and we were clearly in an age that owed very little to the Modern Ages.
Oct. 19th, 2010 05:22 am (UTC)
That was completely obvious, but I ignored it, because you said "subtle," so I looked for something that wasn't completely obvious.
Oct. 20th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
With you on the visual arts. You lost me at music. In what way is music representational? If that's not what you mean, it seems we're back to beauty versus ugly...
Oct. 20th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
Music is by its nature formal; but by the Romantic period, music was supposed to "represent" something, a mind-picture. During the modern ages, rules of harmony and counterpoint were in play. Now they are not.
Oct. 19th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
To me, the break looks like the last pair, where there is suddenly no interest whatever in looking attractive, even a drive to look ugly. But it's not at all subtle, so that's probably not what's meant.

Earl Wajenberg
Oct. 20th, 2010 10:17 am (UTC)
I'm disgusted - no Palestrina in Renaissance, no Vivaldi in Baroque.

OK, music nerd's quibbles - never mind, as you were!

Oct. 20th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
Re: What?!
And no Beethoven in the Romantic. Oh well. Couldn't do everyone; just a taste.
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )


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