Modernists? Culture, Society, and the Florentine Avant-Garde

  • Darius Barik

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


The Florentine avant-garde emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century. Young, radical intellectuals coalesced around the journal 'La Voce'. Through its vehement opposition to the liberal ruling elite of Giovanni Giolitti, 'La Voce' established itself as the major organ of avant-garde cultural, social, and political expression in Italy. The Italian nation was argued to be in a state of crisis, which was at once spiritual, social, political, and cultural. In response, the journal’s contributors formulated a rhetoric of cultural renewal; demanded the formation of a young, masculine elite; expressed an avant-garde view of the artist; and called for a Nietzschean transmutation of values.

It has been argued that the dominant cultural discourse of this period was modernism. In order to express an understanding of the Florentine avant-garde, this thesis constructs a dialogue between the movement and the dominant discourse. Being a task of cultural analysis, the thesis first seeks to define the term ‘culture’. The sociological notion which is expressed informs the subsequent understanding of modernism: rather than a set of aesthetic practices, it is shown to be better understood as a mind-set or a ‘network of cultural responses’ to a particular socio-political context.

The analysis of the avant-garde builds on this cross-disciplinary approach. The thesis first places the journal in the wider socio-political context. The thesis then examines the cultural politics of the movement through the close-analysis of 'Un uomo finito', the autobiographical work of Giovanni Papini, a major protagonist of the movement. Through these analytical practices, it is argued that, in their radical world-view, creative-destructive aesthetics, and future-oriented politics, which was dominated by calls for cultural and political renewal, the Florentine avant-garde can be said to have been a permutation of the modernist ‘sensibility’, which developed in the highly specific context of early twentieth-century Italy.
Date of Award8 Mar 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorCharles Burdett (Supervisor)

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