The Age of Realism, in many ways the last great affirmation of the Enlightenment with its impressively self-confident faith in reason and in reason’s access to the real, drew to an end as the nineteenth century began to spill into the twentieth. In a turmoil of uncertainty prefiguring Eliot’s later wry conviction that ‘human kind / Cannot bear very much reality’, Modernism was born. A remarkable revolution swept through all the arts. The faith in representation, which for so long had shaped Western culture, was wavering; and, in Santayana’s famous phrase, mankind started dreaming in a different key.
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