‘Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.’
E.M. Forster, Howards End, 1910
‘Only connect’ is a powerful exhortation from one of the most vibrant epochs of cultural and social history, around the end of first decade of the 20th century. This period marks the break from the representational and the formal, when artists, writers and composers were emboldened by new technologies, expressed their opinions through audacious, transformational techniques, explored the everyday and the personal rather than the classical and thrust themselves to the forefront of movements for change. The drive towards Modernism in the painted arts, music, poetry and fiction had begun in earnest.
1910: A Fantastic Year
1910 was the publication year of Debussy’s atonal book of Preludes, Francesco Pratella wrote the Manifesto of Futurist Musicians, Ezra Pound published Provenca and expounded Imagist poetry as a rejection of Romantic and Victorian sensibilities, the artists of Der Blaue Reiter, including Kandinsky, Klee and Macke began their scrutiny of inner expression and Umberto Boccioni helped write the Manifesto of Futurist Painting. In mass market fiction H.G. Wells’ dystopian SF adventure The Sleeper Awakes was released and the literary novel too was swept along as Howards End laid out a path, begun by Henry James, that would led to the destruction of the great nineteenth century novel.
With the Great War snapping at its feet, Europe was in the throes of a huge social shift that would see a decline in deference and servility, the widespread rise of iconoclasm, active doubt and the full force of expressionism.
These Fantastic Worlds
In the next few months this blog, These Fantastic Worlds, will explore the breakthrough themes of Modernism, tracing connections between art, music and fiction of the early 20th century. Sometimes this will take us back to earlier periods to excavate sources (of the modern horror novel for instance), or forward (to the impact of pulp magazines), but overall the focus will be on Futurism, Expressionism, atonality and the impact of technology on the forces of culture during the fantastic period of change at the beginning of the 20th Century (The first of these posts is now available: Only Connect: Fantastic Futurism).
Other posts will continue too, including links for writers, with helpful advice on the craft of writing and social media: ‘only connect’ with a thoroughly modern twist!
The paintings are (at the head of the page) Murnau with a Church, 1910, by Wassily Kandinsky, (bottom) Visioni Simultanee, 1911 by Umberto Boccioni