The Multiplication of Man: Futurism's Technolatry Viewed Through the Lens of Modernism

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Abstract:

Having highlighted the passage in Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism describing an impromptu nocturnal joy-ride in the country lanes near Milan, the chapter focuses on the epiphanic nature of this experience as the revelation not just of a new aesthetic but a new moral universe and a new secular mysticism. It argues that the Nietzschean bid to overcome nihilism has been projected by Marinetti onto the latest technologies of speed to the point where they are identified with the capacity to overcome the conventional bounds of time and space. This is followed by an excursus on modernism which interprets it in the light of social anthropology as a mythopoeic, life-asserting response to the threat of radical anomie posed by secularizing modernity. The thesis explored is that such a response is driven by the primordial human need for a 'sacred canopy' which is the wellspring of all culture. In times of crisis this need can manifest itself in the form of a revitalization movement following a shamanic propheta who enacts a process of 'ludic recombination' in creating a new tablet of values or 'mazeway'. In the light of this analysis, Futurism's technolatry emerges as an outstanding example of programmatic modernism, and the composition of the first Futurist manifesto is revealed to be a typically modern act of 'mazeway resynthesis' carried out by Marinetti as a later-day propheta. The chapter ends by contrasting Marinetti's fanatically cultic vision of the motor-car with the no less ecstatic one experienced by Toad in The Wind in the Willows, which Kenneth Grahame presents as a pathology to be cured.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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