Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“L'Esprit nouveau” (1920–1925) and the shaping of modernism in the France of the 1920s
by Vicovanu, Iuliana Roxana, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 2009, 500; 3395672
Abstract (Summary)

In the eyes of the founders themselves, the poet Paul Dermée, the painter Amédée Ozenfant and the architect Le Corbusier, as well as of later historians, the French journal L'Esprit Nouveau (1920-1925) epitomizes the tensions and exchanges between avant-gardism, "return to order", and classicism of modernist art in the decade after World War I. As a matter of fact, Ozenfant and Le Corbusier used the journal to promote the development of a "rational", technological, and formalist modernity. However, this dissertation seeks to go beyond this prevalent rhetoric of the journal's designers and to explore the contradictions with which L 'Esprit nouveau is, in fact, riddled, in order to bring out the complexities of the journal itself. By demonstrating that its project cannot solely be understood as a product of the desire for the impersonality of "pure" forms and of the utopia of a Taylorist, hygienist society, the dissertation sheds new light on a crucial moment in the history of modernism.

The first part of this dissertation retraces the history of the review by exploring its foundations and position within the artistic field of the 1920s. The second part maps out a genealogy of the notion of esprit nouveau, which is rooted in the reception of Walt Whitman in Léon Bazalgette's work from the 1890's. The third part is dedicated to exploring the aesthetic and ideological questions raised by the two intertwining forces that marked the period: the avant-garde and the "rebirth of classicism". Finally, the fourth part examines the art de vivre, as defined by L'Esprit nouveau, which involves two of the most important elements that define the project of this review: the imperative of action and the motif of life as a work (of art). The analysis of these elements, which raise the question of a motivated life, underline the preoccupation of the journal's founders and contributors for bringing the modern individual to an authentic existential and ethical experience. This dissertation thus ultimately reevaluates the role of aesthetic experience generated by the synthesis of reason, science and art in the "machine age".

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Neefs, Jacques
School: The Johns Hopkins University
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 71/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Romance literature, Art history
Keywords: Art - France - 20th century, Dermee, Paul, Esprit nouveau, Esprit nouveau (L') - journal, France, Le Corbusier, Modernism, Modernism - aesthetics, Nineteen 20s, Ozenfant, Amedee
Publication Number: 3395672
ISBN: 978-1-109-58548-3
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