If the rise of modernism is the story of a struggle between the burden of tradition and a desire to break free of it, then Rilke's poetic development is a key example of this tension at work. Taking a sceptical view of Rilke's own myth of himself as a solitary genius, Judith Ryan reveals how deeply his writing is embedded in the culture of its day. She traces his often desperate attempts to grapple with problems of fashion, influence and originality as he shaped his career during the crucial decades in which modernism was born. Her book is the first systematic study of Rilke's trajectory from aestheticism to modernism as seen through the lens of his engagement with poetic tradition and the visual arts. The book is full of surprising discoveries about individual poems. Above all, it shifts the terms of the debate about Rilke's place in modern literary history.