You are not currently logged in. Please create an account or log in to view the full course.

Modernism: 1. Context

5. Future/Tradition

This is the course trailer. Please create an account or log in to view this lecture.

  • Description
  • Cite
  • Image Credits

About this Lecture


In this module, we think about modernism as a literary movement caught in a fruitful tension between the past and the future. We begin by thinking about the increasing pace of social and technological change in the 20th century, represented by such events as the Russian Revolution. We then consider that, while modernist writers frequently harked back to traditional narratives in their work, they also welcomed technological progress as holding the promise of a better future. We conclude the module with an examination of the Today and Tomorrow book series, a collection of pamphlets speculating on future developments in modern science and culture, published between 1924 and 1931.


In this course, Professor Max Saunders (King’s College, London) explores the literary movement of modernism in the context of the broader concept of modernity. We begin by introducing the terms ‘modernism’ and ‘modernity’ and think about the relationship between modernist literature and the social history of the modern in the late 19th and early 20th-century. In the second module, we begin to explore modernism as a literary movement in more detail, focussing on the emphasis modernist writers such as Henry James placed on the form of literature (how a piece of writing is presented) over and above its content. We then move on in the third module to think about the First World War and its impact on modernist literature, focussing particularly on how it influenced the way in which the modernists thought and wrote about human psychology. The fourth module looks at how developments in modern science and technology influenced modernist literature, while the fifth module explores modernism as a movement informed by literary tradition but nevertheless significantly orientated towards the future.


Max Saunders is Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Professor of English and Co-Director of the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London, where he teaches modern literature. He studied at the universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and was a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He is the author of Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, 2 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1996) and Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature (Oxford University Press 2010); the editor of five volumes of Ford’s writing, including an annotated critical edition of the first volume of Ford’s Parade’s End: Some Do Not . . . (Carcanet, 2010). He has published essays on Life-writing, on Impressionism, and on a number of modern writers. He was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship from 2008-10 to research the To-Day and To-Morrow book series; and in 2013 an Advanced Grant from the ERC for the Ego-Media 5-year collaborative project on Digital Life Writing.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Saunders, M. (2019, January 31). Modernism: 1. Context - Future/Tradition [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Saunders, Max. "Modernism: 1. Context – Future/Tradition." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Jan 2019,

Image Credits

"Le Corbusier apartment block" by Gunnar Klack, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Get instant access to over 4,000 lectures