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Context : FantasyWorlds

Quora Answer : Was the modernist and post-modernist movement inspired by Sigmund Freud?

Mar 6, 2020

Some branches.

The Dadaists and Surrealists were very inspired by Freud. You can definitely detect Freudian influence in a lot of what was called "modernist" literature from the first half of the 20th century. Everyone from James Joyce to Virginia Woolf would have known of and responded to him in some way.

Basically what Freud gave artists was an enticing idea that we all contain a secret (and forbidden) world, the unconscious, within our own minds. A world only accessible through dreams, and myths and fantastical imagery.

By the beginning of the 20th century, when the world was largely explored, and scientifically catalogued. For lovers of the fantastical, it was all becoming a bit boring.

Sure, you might still, just be able to imagine that dinosaurs survived in some remote and isolated Amazon plateau or pacific island. But really, there were no dragons. Except maybe there could be "real" but "symbolic" dragons, rampaging around in our unconsciouses. It felt like Freud had given a scientific respectability to this one surviving realm of fantasy. In this world, everything was still possible.

(Obviously people like Jung took that story even further. Positing a whole collective unconscious that veered into a kind New Age theology)

The art of the first half of the 20th century was dominated by this thinking. And of course, it was part of "modernism" as a historical moment. Even if it isn't much like the kinds of austere architectural and musical classicism that we tend to label "modernism" now.

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