The origins of Modernism lie in disillusion or, more precisely, in what the German poet Friedrich Schiller called "the disenchantment of the world.". . .
In the mid-16th century, the old certainties, the immemorial rituals, the hierarchies of the heavens and earth seemed to crumble. As Mr. Josipovici explains, Schiller's phrase was taken up early in the 20th century by the sociologist Max Weber, who used it to explain the radical transformation of the world that occurred after the Protestant Reformation, from a divinely appointed cosmos, alive with numinous presences, to a bustling marketplace of enterprise, production and rampant individualism.
In such a disenchanted world, the world we inhabit now, it's not only pointless but dishonest to write or paint or compose in traditional ways, as though nothing had changed. The old human narrative has been fatally disrupted; it is false to pretend otherwise. Modernism is the anguished response—for Mr. Josipovici, the only valid response—to this irreparable fracture of the world and the self.
So what we have here is an attack on conventional narrative as false to the way we actually experience life, rooted in a view of history that is nothing but a conventional narrative as false to what actually happened as any sentimental novel is to human life. This notion that the world of human experience was radically altered in the 16th to 18th centuries is a story. It is, I think, a good story, a useful way to organize many things about the period into something we can ponder, but it is a story nonetheless. By the standards of Becket and Proust, it is a lie, a false understanding draped over a landscape of chaos. If Mr. Josipovici finds this story compelling, he might pause to reconsider the value of traditional storytelling as a way of understanding human life.