Preview: Kevin Jackson – Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One


A new era. A new renaissance, in all the arts and sciences and the ways people thought and lived. No year since the Age of Enlightenment has been more significant than 1922, at least according to author Kevin Jackson; although, even early 20th century poet and cultural commentator Ezra Pound would have agreed, having referred to 1922 as Year One of a new era. Jackson goes as far as to claim that the scientific and cultural breakthroughs achieved in 1922 have “never been known before, and has never since been rivaled.”

When you look at the examples Jackson offers, it’s certainly difficult to argue. Book-ending 1922 were the publications of James Joyce’s Ulysses and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Further in the arts, Alfred Hitchcock made his feature film directorial debut; the Bauhaus movement went into full swing with the addition of Swiss and Russian painters Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky; Walt Disney produced his first animated shorts; and Louis Armstrong arrived in Chicago from New Orleans, ushering in a new age of jazz. In the sciences, the first AM radio station hit the airwaves; Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics; insulin was introduced to treat diabetes; and Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered.

Through the diaries of innovators from all fields, including actors, anthropologists, politicians, dancers, designers and scientists, Kevin Jackson maps out a constellation of genius indeed; if their life-works within those twelve cosmic months changed society’s psyche or standard of living in progressive ways, Jackson has their influences covered. But he stops at reporting the facts of these advancements, leaving the larger question to the reader: Was this swirl of activity and ensuing change in cultural conscience inevitable or simply a coincidence?

Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One is an ideal starting point for anyone interested in learning more about modernism.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu