The Modernist movement has been regarded as representing a crisis point in Western thought. This volume looks at that crisis in terms of its reinterpretation of ideas concerning vitalism: the animation of the universe, whether spiritual or based in physical energies, of the universe. Beginning with vitalism's historical background in the enlightenment and the nineteenth century, and moving through scientific, philosophical and literary disciplines, the contributors chart the progress of vitalism and its influence on modernist thought. The focal point is the work of Henri Bergson, whose part in this powerful reinterpretation had a considerable bearing on European and American intellectual life, and yet led to a vehement rejection of his work. A previously untranslated and little-known essay by Bakhtin will be of special interest in this stimulating collection, which includes original contributions from leading scholars in literature, the history of science, biology and philosophy, and comprises a wide-ranging reassessment of 'the perpetual crises of modernity'.