Reading 1922, Reading 2022: Modernism, Historicism, and the Crises of Liberal World Order

How should modernists think about the current invasion of Ukraine, and the underlying crisis of liberal order, if at all, and what does that have to do with the crisis in historical thinking and legitimation in literary studies more generally? My initial claim in the following is that what we already teach and write, in this centenary of the modernist Wunderjahr 1922, has everything to do with the sudden re-entry of geopolitics into view in 2022. The modernist masterpieces of 1919–1922 were formed and contested one hundred years ago in the matrix of a crisis of liberal order, a crisis that has now returned with only slightly different names, faces, and justifications. That we cannot quite recall this is not only a gap in our understanding of modernist geopolitics, but also a more fundamental failure of historicist reason and legitimation. If we are in fact living through the repetition of certain cyclical patterns of history, ideology, and liberal-imperial order that modernists themselves diagnosed, do we still have the commitment to historicist understanding required to read those problems accurately?