An abrupt break in the more conventional modes of artistic expression, for many, marks the advent of modernism in the early twentieth century. However, as Jed Rasula's alternative history shows, modernist aesthetics owe a significant debt to techniques and styles pioneered and established throughout the nineteenth century. An ambitious inter-arts exploration of patterns between one generation and another form the through-line of History of a Shiver: the backdrop of Wagner's epic nineteenth-century operas illuminates the music of Arnold Schoenberg and the Viennese School, in addition to literary works by Marcel Proust, Robert Musil, and Ezra Pound; the collodion glass plates deployed by Victorian photographers reveal the debt of Dada and Man Ray's innovative photograms to an era associated with realism; the brass bands conducted by John Philip Sousa in the 1880s and 1890s form a blueprint for instrumentation that gave rise to jazz; and the French symbolist verse of Stephane Mallarme and Paul Verlaine inspire the surrealist artworks of Salvador Dali.
In addition to these connections, Rasula's book similarly considers phenomena in theatre, sculpture, and the "visual music" of figures like Thomas Wilfrid and Wassily Kandinsky. Taken together, the chapters of History of a Shiver emphasize the importance of inter-collaboration and influence in an artistic period when artfroms are traditionally isolated from one another and primarily celebrated for severing ties with the past.