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The tempo of modernity: rethinking the history of modern time

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Transformations in time and space are fundamental components of definitions of modernity, yet time has only recently gained attention as a crucial category of the modern in historical research. While historians have typically explored changing notions and experiences of time through new technologies or conventions for measuring time, this paper seeks to expand the conceptual definition of time in modernity by arguing for an interdisciplinary approach that brings the history of science into conversations with the history of art and literary studies. Focusing on the period from the late 19th century to World War Two, ideas of time manifest in period philosophy, psychology, theatre and science fiction are used to capture a general sense of temporality (and its relationship to historicity) in early-20th-century modernity. The paper presents a new form of temporality, palimpsestic time, as a common feature of Euro-American modernity that must be taken into account alongside popular theories of ‘social acceleration’.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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