Modernism, Postmodernism, and Surrealsim

Author: Casebier, Allan
This book provides the reader with the first comprehensive explanation of the much used distinction between modernist and postmodernist art. Where so many readers and appreciators of the arts find the distinction confronting them at every turn but are unable to understand its nature or comprehend its value, the book provides a conceptual map of the terrain in which the distinction functions. At the same time, the notion of a surrealist style often leaves the reader of history of the arts with sheer mystification where clarity would be most welcome. It provides a much needed corrective to this situation by indicating how to identify surrealist art from its opposing styles. The book provides many illustrations in explaining these three dominant artistic styles of the twentieth century.

This work will appeal to academic readers in history of the arts, cinema and art history; theorists and students of literature and film; and general readers in the history of the arts.


“Dr. Casebier’s contributions to the literature on the major style terms of this and the last century are to demonstrate that there is not just one modernism and one postmodernism, that an object, a period, or a condition can be marked by several styles, and that what is surreal about surrealist art is its effect on the audience ...” – Mary Bittner Wiseman, Professor Emerita, The City University of New York

“This book does an excellent job untangling some of the most confusing stylistic concepts of our time: modernism, postmodernism, and surrealism. His analysis of these concepts is not only admirably clear, but is fleshed out with rich examples. Since, to a large extent, most of these concepts are cinematic, this book is a must for film scholars.” – Professor Noel Carroll, Temple University

“This is a singular contribution to the critical understanding of 20th (and 21st) century art. It is based on a sensitive analysis of the structural differences between various styles, mainly Modernism, Post-Modernism, and Surrealism. These styles are not so much intended to classify art works, as to reveal differences in the way the works of art that exemplify them are put together. And they do not so much identify historical periods – the way such styles as Baroque, or Rococo or Neo- Classical do – but characterize the way works of art represent the world ... I recommend it strongly to anyone eager to penetrate the “mysteriousness” of recent art, and have access to what it tells us about the world and ourselves.” – Arthur Danto, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University; Art Critic, The Nation

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Mary Wiseman
Part I. Modernism
1. Multiple Conceptions of the Modern
2. Inquiry-Relativity
3. Streams and Ruptures
4. Modernist-Making Properties
Part II. Post-Modernism
5. The Styles of The French Lieutenant’s Woman
6. Modern or Postmodern: Telling the Difference
7. Pragmatic Dimensions: Touch of Evil and The Matrix
8. Postmodernism as a Face of Modernism
9. Postmodernism as a Cultural Dominant
Part III. Surrealism
10. Surrealism, Modernism and the Avant-Garde
11. Origins of the Term “Surreal”
12. An Affective Theory of Surrealism
13. Surreal Film
14. Surreal Painting