We begin this journal in the belief that the artistic movement known as modernism produced the most radical and comprehensive changes in western culture since romanticism. Here would be the place to list those changes, if only they were all nameable and known, like characters in a chapter of yesterday’s reading. Instead we sense that the effects of modernism still reverberate through all the arts, and its products surround us in the buildings where we work, the houses and apartments where we live, and even the chairs where we sit now trying to itemize its effects. Modernism was more than a repertory of artistic styles, more too than an intellectual movement or set of ideas; it initiated an ongoing transformation in the entire set of relations governing the production, transmission, and reception of the arts. The modernists themselves seem to have understood this when they urged that changes in the arts be viewed in conjunction with changes in philosophy, historiography, and social theory, to say nothing of the scientific shifts that they claimed as part of their moment’s cultural revolution. The success of modernism was so great that we all feel ourselves to be latecomers: postmodernism is the term now invoked to assert an epochal shift away from our parents’ perspective.
We hope that every issue of Modernism/Modernity will convey some sense of the grand ambition and scope of artists and intel-lectuals of the first half of this century. This is to say that this journal will look widely at the art and thought of this period, but also that we want to examine the sense of contestation that was essential to it: between old and new orders, of course, but also among various divi-sions of the intellectual endeavor. We hope for a journal that not only records and explains some of the crossings between architecture and political thought, say, or between music and economics; we want [End Page 1] the essays and reviews we publish to attempt similar crossings. We will be pleased to publish essays and reviews by sociologists on literary history, for example. We won’t always be able to find this sort of work, but we will always be looking for it, and will regularly ask our authors to push toward their neighboring disciplines in the hope that readers will recognize the appropriateness of this ambition in a journal devoted to the study of modernism, even when they may disapprove of poachers on their own particular territory.
The particular examples of border crossing that we’ve cited will suggest one of the two major ambitions of the journal. One is simply to maintain a sense of the international dimensions of modernism. An essay about a New Jersey poet, as is evident in this first issue, may sit next to another about German expansion into Poland. Our other, more difficult objective is to bring into dialogue writers in the social sciences engaged by issues of modernity and modernization and scholars of the literary and fine arts committed to the history of modernism in the arts. Scholars of the humanities have borrowed a great deal lately from social, political, and economic historians, and procedures of literary inter-pretation have influenced the writing of history as well; but we have a long way to go before we can claim that these two large divisions of professional intellectual activity are in dialogue with one another. In the pages to follow we intend to experiment with various ways of encouraging collaboration, though we know that it will be much easier to retain the international scope of modernism than it will be to facilitate exchange across the disciplinary boundaries separating literary critics and political theorists, economists and musicologists.
For the first few issues of Modernism/Modernity we have chosen themes that will allow us to draw into the journal writers from various scholarly disciplines. Our first theme is modernism and race, a subject crucial both to modernism and to the social transformations of modernity. For while the modernists frequently advocated internationalism in art and politics, they also drew on folk or ethnic traditions that seemed to preserve intact vestiges...