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Modernism in the 19th Century Essay

Modernism was a response to the political, economic and the social chaos of the mid-19th century. Modernists believed in the practical usage of knowledge to solve society’s problems. For them, disciplines should not be sources of abstract concepts. Modernism in the 19th Century Europe in the mid-19th century was characterized with toppled thrones, repressive regimes, civil wars, executions and exiles. Ordinary citizens found themselves trapped in one despotic government after another. The promising careers of many artists were ruined, as many of them either died or fled their homelands.

The intellectuals, meanwhile, were already too discredited and disillusioned to be able to work for change (Barzun, 1990). The ideas that were once regarded as the means to bring about a better world were now despised and even blamed for the turbulent status quo. Concepts such as liberty, fraternity and equality were dismissed as the products of feeble minds or glib rhetoricians. The images of hard matter and the evil man were embraced as the true representations of reality. Science and politics eventually became the two most important disciplines of the aforementioned period (Barzun, 1990).

Consequently, modernism emerged in the late 19th century. Unlike its predecessor, Romanticism, modernism was a discipline that focused on the commonplace. Emphasis was given to “the dull, dreary, sordid (and) repetitious occurrences of daily life” (Barzun, 1990). The soberness of word and feeling ridiculous replaced the Romanticist notions of love of life and of love itself (Barzun, 1990). Modernism and Progress The prevailing economic situation in the late 19th-century Europe was likewise responsible for the rise of modernism.

Urban areas that have separate business, industrial and residential districts proliferated across the continent. Consequently, people during this period assumed a mindset that welcomed innovation instead of constantly relying on past knowledge. Scientific inventions such as steam power, the telegraph and cast iron inspired them to come up with more progressive means of studying “classical” fields such as architecture, art, literature, applied arts, literature and music (Marx and Mazlish, 1996).

Simply put, modernism became synonymous to the usage of “traditional” subjects to create new ideas that would bring about more progress. The discovery of cast iron, for instance, did not result in just railroad bridges. Architects during this period also used cast iron to come up with amazing structures such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The Eiffel Tower was a novelty in the sense that it was a radically different combination of engineering and art (Marx and Mazlish, 1996). The social sciences, meanwhile, were no longer just an abstract set of theories and principles.

Fields such as economics and political science were utilized to improve public administration and governance. The theories of psychology, such as those of Ernst Mach and Sigmund Freud, were applied to the treatment of psychological disorders. In previous centuries, the mentally ill were regarded as a family disgrace and were therefore banished to asylums, where they were treated inhumanely. The studies of Mach and Freud on the human mind would later become part of the foundations of modern-day psychology and psychiatry. Modernism and Religion

In the context of religion, modernism translated to the “(reinterpretation of) Christian (doctrines) in terms of the scientific thought of the 19th century” (MSN Encarta, 2008). Some dogmas of the Roman Catholic and the Protestant Churches were started to be construed as symbolic instead of as literally true. Examples of Modernists in the Roman Catholic Church were theologians George Tyrell, Baron Friedrich von Hugel and Alfred Loisy. Rome responded harshly to them – Pope Pius X condemned the movement as “heretical, false, rash (and) bold” on July 3, 1907 (MSN Encarta, 2008).

Protestant Modernists such as the German theologians Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl, meanwhile, wanted to reconcile religious dogmas and history with the theory of evolution and discoveries in ancient history, psychology and archaeology. As a result, they did not believe in the literal inspiration of the Bible and the historical accuracy of the Gospels. For them, moral and ethical behavior was more important to Christian life, rather than blind obedience to formal creeds.

In addition, church officials should prioritize social activities over academic issues (MSN Encarta, 2008). Conclusion The most noteworthy characteristic of modernism in the 19th century is that it encouraged the practical use of knowledge to solve problems. Ideas of the existing schools of thought during the 19th century were no longer abstract concepts – they were actually used to come up with progress. Instead of merely shouting “Liberty, Fraternity and Equality! ” economic principles were applied to ensure wise government spending.

And rather than arguing that “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world,” it would be easier to make people understand that “Jesus Christ was sent on earth to teach human beings to love one another as they love themselves. ”

References Barzun, J. (1990). The Cradle of Modernization. American Scholar, 59, 519-527. Retrieved December 15, 2008 from EBSCO. Marx, L. , & Mazlish, B. (1996). Progress: Fact or Illusion? Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. MSN Encarta. (2008). Modernism (Religion). Retrieved December 15, 2008, from http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761568195/Modernism_(religion). html


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