mid-century modernity

Over the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about the remarkable cultural transition that took place, especially in the West but really all over the world, in the middle third of the twentieth century. Think about it: as that era opened we had the music of Louis Armstrong and Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times; as it closed we had Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Those latter works come from something that most of us recognize as in some general sense our current world; the earlier ones seem so distant as to be alien. (Fascinating, yes, but alien.)

As I say, I’ve been thinking a lot about this transition, because I believe that we can’t understand where we are, culturally speaking, without understanding where we come from. And it’s not simply a matter of waving a hand and saying “The Sixties” — the transformation is more complex and gradual than that. Even a story like The Lord of the Rings seems to be ours in a way that nothing before the Thirties is. I’m trying to figure this out, and will continue to do so.

So note the tag on this post. It’ll be turning up often. And I have gone back to tag some earlier posts that are relevant to this inquiry, though I’m only beginning that task. Keep your eyes peeled for regular updates!