Futurism and the Technological Imagination Poised between Machine Cult and Machine Angst

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Abstract:

This chapter deals with some of the great changes that affected Italy during the 'second Industrial revolution', especially in the fields of transportation and communication. It shows how Marinetti experienced the first stages of industrialization in Italy, discusses some of his proto-Futurist visions of life and art in the machine age, and surveys his theoretical writings on technology and on a Futurist art and literature of the machine age. Marinetti repeatedly defined Futurism as a movement that was committed to 'the enthusiastic glorification of scientific discoveries and modern machines' (Marinetti 2005: 105). However, it would be unwise to take it for granted that Marinetti's attitude was identical with that of other Futurists, as many of them possessed viewpoints that were different from those of the movement's leader. Similarly, it would be imprudent to assume that in the course of thirty years Futurism remained a stable and unchanging entity. For this reason, I shall outline in this chapter not only those trends that occupied a dominant position in Futurism's long history, but also some of the dissenting voices that came from within the movement. I shall point out some contradictions in Marinetti's own ideology of the machine and discuss developments in the second and third phase of Futurism that demonstrate that some of the sceptical views on modernity that were a mere undercurrent in the years 1909-1915 became a major and significant aspect of Futurism in its later years of its existence. Thus, this chapter will investigate to what degree the Futurist machine cult was tempered by an underlying machine angst and suggest that Futurist attitudes towards an industrialized society were more complex and contradictory than appears at first sight.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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