The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Cold Modernism

Cold Modernism

Literature, Fashion, Art Jessica Burstein
  • Copyright: 2012
  • Dimensions: 6.75 x 9.5
  • Page Count: 336 pages
  • Illustrations: 30 illustrations
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-05376-9
  • Series Name: Refiguring Modernism
Cold Modernism is a wonderful book—insightful, erudite, and witty beyond words. I think it will have an enormous impact on modernist studies.”
“Readers who possess a passing familiarity with these artists, their personalities, and their artistic expression—which often ran uncomfortably but purposely against orthodox modernism—will realize the challenge undertaken by this author. With 52 pages of endnotes and bibliography, the effort certainly can be considered erudite.”

In Cold Modernism, Jessica Burstein explores various cultural facets of modernism, tying them into a fresh conceptual framework. Central to her analysis is the important premise that our current understanding of modernism is fundamentally incomplete. Reacting against “hot,” libidinous, and psychology-centered modernism, Burstein asserts that “a constellation of modernist sensibility” has been left unacknowledged, one that laid the essential groundwork for postmodernism.

In her wide-ranging discussion of fiction, poetry, art, and fashion, Burstein sets up the parameters of what she calls “cold modernism.” According to Burstein, cold modernism operates on the premise that “there is a world in which the mind does not exist, let alone matter”; it runs counter to the “tropical bodies” of Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence. Basing the core of her analysis on the written works of Wyndham Lewis, Burstein views varying disciplines within modernism through the lens of their human interest, focusing on the “coldest”: works that convey the mechanical and inhuman. In these works, she contends, the role of the self is nonexistent, and the individual mind is merely a physical fact.

Cold Modernism raises questions fundamental to the understanding of modernist and postmodernist written and visual culture and is destined to become essential reading in the field.

Jessica Burstein is Associate Professor of English at the University of Washington.



List of Illustrations

Introduction: Nothing Personal

1 Amuse-Bouche

2 Waspish Segments

Interregnum I: A Doll Is Being Beaten

3 Modernism and the Little Black Dress

4 Loy, Inc.

Interregnum II: The Legs of Balthus

Epilogue: Imitation and Its Discontents




Other Ways to Acquire

Buy from
Buy from an Independent Bookstore
Buy from Powell's Books
Buy from Barnes and

Also of Interest

Also of interest book cover

Beyond Pleasure

Freud, Lacan, Barthes
Also of interest book cover

Viennese Jewish Modernism

Freud, Hofmannsthal, Beer-Hofmann, and Schnitzler
Also of interest book cover

Mediating Modernity

German Literature and the "New" Media, 1895–1930