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Cold War ModernistsArt, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy$
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Greg Barnhisel

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231162302

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231162302.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Cold War Modernists

Greg Barnhisel

Columbia University Press

This introductory chapter first discusses the evolution of modernism from its image of rebellion and relentless pursuit of the new during the first half of the twentieth century into a weapon in the so-called “cultural Cold War” in the 1950s. Modernism came to be presented as a pro-Western, pro-“freedom,” and pro-bourgeois movement, evidence of the superiority of the Western way of life over Communism. The chapter then sets out the book's three aims: (i) to use original archival sources to document the diverse projects to disseminate American modernist art and literature abroad, particularly in Europe, in the period 1946—1959; (ii) to identify, synthesize, and analyze the rhetoric surrounding these projects, in particular how it attached seemingly incongruous American values such as freedom and individualism to modernist artworks; and (iii) to suggest that this rhetoric worked to “swerve” public understanding of modernism, deactivating or nullifying its associations with radicalism and antinomianism and making it safe for consumption by American middle-class audiences. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords:   modernism, cultural Cold War, United States, Soviet Union, Communism, pro-Western propaganda, American modernist art, American values, middle class

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