British and Irish Literature Modernism
by
Suzanne Hobson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 September 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0042

Introduction

Modernism is an area of literary research particularly subject to contest and revision. Most studies converge on the period between 1890 and 1940 in their attempts to date modernism, but there is wide variation, with some accounts stretching this time frame back to the early 19th century and others forward to the beginning of the 21st century. For the major touchstones, there has long been consensus over the inclusion of writers such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf, and that would now probably extend to the likes of H.D., Katherine Mansfield, and D. H. Lawrence. But there has historically been less agreement over whether avant-garde movements such as the futurists and Dadaists should appear in the “canon” of modernism, or whether “high” modernism is inherently hostile to the kinds of mass cultural and political movements with which these groups engaged. More recent studies have pointed out that if modernism is to include writers outside the usual metropolitan locations of Berlin, London, New York, and Paris, then it needs to become a more flexible and polycentric category that is less firmly attached to a period that favors Western—and more specifically English-language—writing. Modernism has always had a close relationship with the academy, making it particularly susceptible to changes in critical approach. It entered the academy along with the New Criticism in the United States and Practical Criticism in the United Kingdom, both formalist approaches that modernist poetry seemed to legitimate and, insofar as it resists easy reading, to demand. Modernism has also been usefully subjected to, and sometimes seemed to anticipate, the rigors of feminist, psychoanalytic, queer, post-structuralist, and cultural studies readings. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine feminist literary theory without Woolf, or Derridean deconstruction without Joyce. This bibliography provides a sense of the way that modernist studies has evolved over the last fifty years or so, and how this has changed the scope and the makeup of the category of modernist literature itself.

General Overviews

The earliest overviews of modernism tended to emphasize formal innovation and experimentation in poetry, following the example of the Cambridge school in the United Kingdom and the New Critics in the United States. Wilson 1931 and Leavis 1932 (the latter cited under Poetry) are often mentioned as the first examples of monographs on modernist writers. Modernism is still closely identified with a set of formal characteristics, including emphasis on the fragment, inconsequential events, contingent and weak plots, literary impressionism, stream of consciousness, in medias res beginnings, incomplete endings, unstable or partial focalization, and unreliable narrators. Personalities and influence have also played a major role in overviews of modernism. The first major book in this category was Kenner 1971, which identified modernism with Ezra Pound and the group of writers who gathered around Pound in the 1910s, especially T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats. Revisionist studies, including Scott 1995a and Scott 1995b, have emphasized the influence of women writers, including Virginia Woolf and H.D., while other overviews have adopted a flat and pluralist (rather than hierarchical) approach to networks or groups. Levenson 1995 traces the genealogical roots of Eliot’s and Pound’s modernism back to French political and philosophical thought, and to now largely forgotten figures such as T. E. Hulme and Allen Upward. Goldman 2004 looks forward to see how affiliations formed in the 1910s and 1920s were renegotiated in response to the changed political and artistic landscape of the 1930s and 1940s. From the 1970s onward, overviews of modernism tended to stress cultural upheaval and crisis as the background and driving force behind modernist innovation and critique. Bradbury and McFarlane 1991 (originally published in 1979) set the standard for subsequent accounts of modernism as a code-switch developed in response to a sense of wider cultural catastrophe. More recent studies play down the emphasis on crisis, preferring to show how modernist developments in the representation of character, events, objects, space, and time respond to changes in, and in attitudes toward, the matrix of narratives—personal, familial, imperial, national, religious, artistic, sexual—that formed public culture at this time. A variation on this approach, seen in North 1999, is to focus on a particular year as a limited test case of the relationship between modernist cultural production and the public scene to which it belonged. For more on this kind of approach, see Cultural and Material Histories. The essays in Eysteinsson and Liska 2007 show how modernism developed unevenly throughout the world—sometimes independently, sometimes with reference to a “global” movement in the arts, and always showing evidence of regional or national influences.

  • Bradbury, Malcolm, and James McFarlane. Modernism: A Guide to European Literature, 1890–1930. London: Penguin, 1991.

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    A seminal overview of modernism as a literature of crisis and upheaval. For Bradbury and McFarlane, modernist literature represents a cataclysmic break with the civilization and the culture of the past. Originally published in 1976.

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  • Eysteinsson, Astradur, and Vivian Liska, eds. Modernism. 2 vols. Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007.

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    A collection of essays looking at modernism in an international context. Here, “modernism” is treated flexibly to cover diversity in the ways modernist cultural production is understood, periodized, and translated across different languages and cultures.

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  • Goldman, Jane. Modernism, 1910–1945: Image to Apocalypse. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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    A guide to some of the major transitions that determined the background, the content, and some of the formal innovations of modernist texts. Goldman interrogates the thinking behind the demand for change as well as the backlash against some modernist tendencies, including the patriarchal bias and political conservatism that led to regroupings in the 1930s and 1940s.

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  • Kenner, Hugh. The Pound Era. London: Faber, 1971.

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    A foundational book for the study of modernism as a historically specific and recognizable literary project beginning in London in 1914 and most closely associated with the experimental work of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Wyndham Lewis. Influential in returning Pound to prominence after World War II.

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  • Levenson, Michael H. A Genealogy of Modernism: English Literary Doctrine, 1908–1922. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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    Detailed study of the intellectual roots and political and aesthetic affiliations of the individuals and groups that emerged in the 1910s and early 1920s.

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  • North, Michael. Reading 1922: A Return to the Scene of the Modern. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    An important attempt to return modernism to the public world from which earlier studies had sometimes removed it. The year 1922 is a “test case” allowing for detailed investigation of key events and debates alongside the major works published that year (The Waste Land and Ulysses).

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  • Scott, Bonnie Kime. Refiguring Modernism. Vol. 1, The Women of 1928. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995a.

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    Redraws the map and chronology of modernism to give precedence to the women who had been neglected in earlier overviews of the period.

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  • Scott, Bonnie Kime. Refiguring Modernism. Vol. 2, Postmodern Feminist Readings of Woolf, West, and Barnes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995b.

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    Influential in promoting new scholarship on writers such as Djuna Barnes, Radclyffe Hall, and H.D.

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  • Wilson, Edmund. Axel’s Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870–1930. New York: Scribner, 1931.

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    Often identified as the first monograph on the modernists, who in this version find their origins in the symbolists. Contains individual chapters on W. B. Yeats, Paul Valéry, T. S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein.

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Reference Works and Guides

The term modernism itself is slippery, belonging to several disciplines, between which there is some agreement but often significant divergence in terms of to what and when modernism refers. In architecture it is closely associated with names such as Le Corbusier, in the visual arts with abstract (nonrepresentational) art, in music with the atonal and experimental productions of Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky; and in theology with reform movements found in the 19th- and 20th-century Christian churches. In literature, modernism finds its meaning retrospectively, as many of the writers to whom it usually refers thought of themselves as modern rather than modernist. Reference works recommended in this area have understandably tended to take either a broader or more narrow approach to modernism, either containing the term and its associated concepts within a wider survey of modern or 20th-century literature (see Baldick 2004 and Marcus and Nicholls 2004) or focusing on groups and types of media included within and constitutive of modernism understood as an inter-art movement. The rise of modernist studies within the academy and as a popular component of the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum has fueled a demand for guides to modernism as a subject in its own right. Excellent early examples of this type are Nicholls 1995, which provides a conceptual map of European and American literary modernism, and Levenson 1999, which shows the scale of modernist ambitions and their impact across a range of genres and media. More recent guides respond to changes in approach and new priorities in scholarship. Recommended books in this category include Armstrong 2005, which takes a cultural studies approach; Bradshaw and Dettmar 2006, which foregrounds the interdisciplinary nature of modernism by including sections on science, philosophy, and religion; and Childs 2000, which connects literary experiment with avant-garde film and the visual arts.

  • Armstrong, Tim. Modernism: A Cultural History. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2005.

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    A survey of recent topics in the study of the cultural history of modernism. Distinguished by its view of modernist texts and writers as part of a wider public culture. Topics include the geography of modernism, marketing modernism, technology, and spirituality and time.

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  • Baldick, Chris. The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. 10, 1910–1940: The Modern Movement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    A critical survey of modern literature covering major modernist writers such as Joyce, Woolf, and Eliot as well as writers and texts that were modern in less obvious or self-advertising ways. Extremely useful for discussions of forms such as rural and pastoral elegy, the social chronicle, and genre fiction as part of rather than peripheral or indifferent to the scene of modern writing.

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  • Bradshaw, David, and Kevin J. H. Dettmar. A Companion to Modernist Literature and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

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    A comprehensive collection of essays by major scholars in the field, arranged thematically (e.g., philosophy, religion, the physical sciences), by movements and “isms,” by media (e.g., film and music), by key texts, and by writers. The most complete guide currently on the market.

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  • Childs, Peter. Modernism. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2000.

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    A concise but far-reaching description and analysis of modernism divided into three sections on influences (including 19th-century thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Darwin), genres (including film and art alongside poetry, fiction, and drama) and close readings of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, and others. Second edition published in 2008.

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  • Levenson, Michael, ed. Cambridge Companion to Modernism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521495164Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Essays by leading scholars on critical approaches and agendas (e.g., marketing modernism, the politics of culture) as well as individual genres and media.

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  • Marcus, Laura, and Peter Nicholls, eds. The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1017/CHOL9780521820776Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A history of the literature of the 20th century, with themes and topics arranged chronologically and with cross-references between interconnecting subjects. Includes modernisms as well as “anti-modernisms” of the interwar period, popular literature, and postmodern literature.

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  • Nicholls, Peter. Modernisms: A Literary Guide. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1995.

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    A highly recommended introduction to different tendencies within modernist writing. Useful for its conceptual mapping of groups with formal and much looser affiliations such as Imagists, Surrealists, and the “Men of 1914” and including a section on “Other Modernisms.” The new edition (2009) contains a new section on African American Modernisms.

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Associations and Virtual Networks

The biggest and most influential association in the field is the Modernist Studies Association (MSA), founded in 1998. It was formed in response to the need to foster dialogue among a rapidly expanding group of researchers, teachers, and students working on modernism and related topics. From the beginning the MSA emphasized the need to develop more flexible and variegated models of modernism, taking account of extra-literary and cross-disciplinary influences and the specific material and historical circumstances of individual and group artistic production. In recent years this commitment to contestation and pluralization has itself come under challenge from new transnational approaches that note the European and American bias in the MSA tendency to locate modernism in the early 20th century. The MSA is an international organization officially affiliated with the Modern Language Association. It has formal and informal links with smaller regional associations, including the European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM), which holds a biannual conference, and the British Association for Modernist Studies. The Modernism Lab at Yale University is an online forum that uses wiki technology to provide a space for collaborative investigation into the origins and development of modernism. It is particularly recommended as a resource for teaching.

Genres

A generic approach to modernist literature must necessarily be approximate, since so many texts seem to defy straightforward classification or to remake genre conventions so that the old distinctions between poetry, fiction, and drama seem no longer applicable. Part of the problem T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound attempted to solve in their poetry was how to incorporate prose without compromising their verse as verse. Free verse, they argued, did not mean verse with no rules at all, but new ways of understanding the special nature of poetic language. More extreme examples include Gertrude Stein, whose writing in Tender Buttons, for example, seemed to defy generic classification altogether, and James Joyce’s Ulysses, which famously resembles an encyclopedia of literary styles and genres. The earliest studies of modernism tended to favor poetry, in part because it invited and rewarded the kind of close analysis recommended by the New Critics and Practical Criticism, but there has since been much useful research into how modernism transformed the novel by introducing techniques such as “stream of consciousness” and shifting focalization. A benefit of a recent return to genre in modernist studies has been to bring into view early-20th-century poets and novelists who have not necessarily been considered as modernist but nonetheless might have as much in common with, say, Eliot as poet or Joyce as novelist as these two “modernists” have with each other. Howarth 2005 (cited under Poetry) and Hapgood and Paxton 2000 (cited under Novels) are excellent examples of this kind of approach.

Poetry

Among the first studies of modernist poetry were Leavis 1932, in which Leavis surveys the moribund state of poetry after World War I and identifies Eliot as the poet most responsive to the current crisis, and Brooks 1939, which situates Eliot in a tradition of paradox stretching back to John Donne. Both share Eliot’s suspicion that modern poetry had become derivative and resistant to change, and, again following Eliot, Brooks sees the complexity and tireless inventiveness of metaphysical poetry as setting the right sort of example. Kermode 1957 locates modernist poetry in an extended Romantic tradition running from William Blake and John Keats through late-19th-century writers such as Arthur Symons and Walter Pater to W. B. Yeats. Other critics have focused on modernist hostility to “tradition” and what Smith 1994 calls the “rhetoric of renewal.” Some of the best criticism, such as Perloff 1985 and Perloff 1986, seeks to understand the radical nature of modernist poetry through its relationship to contemporary movements in the visual and performing arts. Other books look to contemporary philosophy, aesthetics, and science to explain radical experiments with language, suggestion, time, and the subject. Menand 2007 is one of the best introductions to Eliot’s philosophical thought. Howarth 2005 returns to the scene of the poetry wars and the divide between a native tradition of British poetry (including Thomas Hardy, Ted Hughes, and Philip Larkin) and modernist poetry to examine what this means for both strands.

  • Brooks, Cleanth. Modern Poetry and the Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939.

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    Seminal work of New Criticism establishing a canon of modern poets (including Yeats and Eliot) and situating them in a tradition of paradox and wit stretching back to the 17th century.

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  • Howarth, Peter. British Poetry in the Age of Modernism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511550614Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A highly regarded book that challenges the distinction between modernist poets and the “native tradition” of poets who were working in Britain at the same time; it also investigates the history of this division. Howarth provides close readings of Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas, and Wilfred Owen, highlighting the ways in which problems of history and agency impact on the formal decisions made by these poets.

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  • Kermode, Frank. Romantic Image. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957.

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    Seminal study of the use and significance of the image in 20th-century poetry and criticism, emphasizing debts to the Romantic tradition and the continued importance of the power of the imagination.

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  • Leavis, F. R. New Bearings in English Poetry: A Study of the Contemporary Situation. London: Chatto and Windus, 1932.

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    Survey of the contemporary state of modern poetry that singles out Eliot as the most promising example of a poet who is indisputably of his time—without, that is, being superficially obsessed with the imitation of modern life in his poetry.

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  • Menand, Louis. Discovering Modernism: T. S. Eliot and His Context. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Excellent introduction to the relations between novelty and tradition, and between objectivity and subjectivity, in Eliot’s poetry, with sections on his debts to aesthetic and philosophical progenitors, including Bradley and Pater.

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  • Perloff, Marjorie. The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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    Examines Pound alongside avant-garde art (especially Vorticism) and the poetics of Wallace Stevens and James Joyce before moving to postwar experimental poets. Perloff argues that the “Pound tradition” is a rupture with Romanticism, emphasizing fragmentation, collage, vitality, and the capacity of poetry to incorporate the alien language of prose.

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  • Perloff, Marjorie. The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

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    Explores the art and literature of the futurists in France, Italy, and Russia, tracking their influence on Anglo-American modernism (especially Pound) and on postwar theory and poetics.

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  • Smith, Stan. The Origins of Modernism: Eliot, Pound, Yeats and the Rhetoric of Renewal. New York and Hemel Hempstead, UK: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994.

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    Still useful overview of three major poets, examining how “originality” comes to mean the transforming act of translation, adoption, and adaptation of other works, and how the demand for originality becomes the content of the new poetry itself.

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Novels

Modernism is frequently credited with the invention of a new kind of novel, typically one in which plot, events, and characters are seen as secondary to recording the flow of modern life, everyday happenings, and psychological portraits. Kern 2011, Shiach 2007, and Stevenson 1992 are excellent introductions to some common techniques and devices such as stream of consciousness, in media res beginnings, unfinished endings, shifting focalization, literary impressionism, and symbolism. Trotter 1993 and the essays in Hapgood 2000 narrow their focus to the English novel, but in so doing they also take in a range of novels not usually considered as modernist. Trotter 1993 is particularly recommended for its attention to how social, economic, and cultural changes created favorable conditions for the development of the modernist novel, even though these changes are scarcely present in the novels themselves. Other critics focus on one or more of the aspects by which modernist novels are said to differ from 19th-century novels, frequently to the end of challenging the received view of these differences. Latham 2003 shows the evolution of the 19th-century snob into the 20th-century man of intellect, as seen, for example, in Wyndham Lewis, while Sheehan 2002 investigates the impact of antihumanist thought on a genre that had in 19th-century realism and the bildungsroman seemed thoroughly human-shaped. The best account of modern fiction as a means of humanizing the uncertainties and vicissitudes of life in the 20th century is found in Kermode 2000.

  • Hapgood, Lynne, and Nancy L. Paxton, eds. Outside Modernism: In Pursuit of the English Novel, 1900–1930. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 2000.

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    A collection of essays on novelists who published and were widely read in the age of modernism, but whose names tend to be eclipsed by those more easily and readily described as modernist. Pays close attention to some popular but now rarely discussed writers, such as R. H. Mottram and John Galsworthy, as well as some lesser known texts by more familiar figures, such as D. H. Lawrence’s The Lost Girl.

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  • Kermode, Frank. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Hugely influential study of humankind’s need for fiction as a means of giving people’s lives significance and narrative shape in the face of the contingency that increasingly came to define life in the 20th century. Originally published in 1968.

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  • Kern, Stephen. The Modernist Novel: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511862656Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reads formal innovation in the modernist novel as a new way of seeing new realities. Kern argues that developments in the way that the modernist novel portrays character, event, space, and time are responses to changes in personal, imperial, national, liberal, religious, artistic, and courtship narratives.

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  • Latham, Sean. “Am I a Snob?”: Modernism and the Novel. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

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    Study of how the 19th-century novel’s interest in how to negotiate social distinctions and the figure of the snob evolved into the 20th-century novel’s man or woman of intellect and taste. Latham traces the genealogy of the novel and its relations with popular culture from William Makepeace Thackeray and Oscar Wilde to Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Dorothy Sayers.

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  • Sheehan, Paul. Modernism, Narrative and Humanism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485305Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful for its recognition of the importance of the novel to modernism as well as for its study of the way the human-shaped novel is taken apart from within by challenges to humanist orthodoxies. Sheehan’s case studies range from D. H. Lawrence’s trenchant antihumanism to the increased emphasis on the unconscious and the contingency of human lives found in Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, and Samuel Beckett.

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  • Shiach, Morag, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Modernist Novel. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL052185444XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes chapters on key themes and formal innovations such as stream of consciousness and literary impressionism as well as chapters on familiar authors such as Woolf, Joyce, and Lawrence. Also chapters on the less well-known figures of May Sinclair, C. L. R. James, and Jean Toomer.

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  • Stevenson, Randall. Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. Hemel Hempstead, UK, and New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992.

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    Argues that the reshaping of style and narration in the modernist novel is a response to the experience of modern life. The novel is not just a reflection of these new conditions, it is also an attempt to preserve a space for the human in a world perceived as hostile to the individual and the authentic expression of self. Survey includes William James, Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, D. H. Lawrence, May Sinclair, Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf.

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  • Trotter, David. The English Novel in History, 1895–1920. London: Routledge, 1993.

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    A wide-ranging account both of what modernism was doing differently in terms of technique and the new subject matter it addressed. Pays particular attention to changes in the conditions of production (Trotter begins with the demise of the three-volume novel) and to the social, economic, and political changes that are often notable by their absence from modernist texts.

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Anthologies

Demanding consideration as a “genre” in its own right is the anthology, which is the form in which many now classic poems, short stories, and manifestos first appeared. Recent collections of avant-garde manifestos (Caws 2001a) and surrealist and imagist poetry (Caws 2001b and Jones 2001, respectively) provide a good sense of the collective and contested nature of these projects as well as their influence on contemporary poetry and prose. Kolocotroni, et al. 1998 is a different type of anthology, invaluable for presenting a large number of essays, manifestos, and extracts frequently referenced in modernist criticism but difficult to access in original journals or editions. Scott 1990 contains extracts relating to issues of gender, foregrounding the work of the women in the making of modernism, while Scott 2007 approaches the same issues from the new angles provided by postcolonial, transatlantic, and queer studies. There are relatively few anthologies that seek to represent modernism in its entirety. Rainey 2005 is an exception notable for its commitment to publishing full texts rather than excerpts but also for some of its self-confessed limitations, which include a bias toward poetry and the short story and the absence of some significant names, including Katherine Mansfield. Faulkner 1986 contains a smaller selection of texts useful for students looking for a way into modernist studies.

  • Caws, Mary Ann, ed. Manifesto: A Century of Isms. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001a.

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    Collection of manifestos and statements of purpose arranged into movements and tendencies. Includes symbolism; primitivism and neo-primitivism; cubism; nowism/presentism/simultaneism; futurism; expressionism and fauvism; vorticism; imagism and Spanish, Catalan, and Latin American avant-gardes; constructivism and surrealism; as well as a wide range of postwar avant-gardes.

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  • Caws, Mary Ann, ed. Surrealist Painters and Poets. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001b.

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    Wide-ranging and often surprising anthology spanning a long period and geographical area, including England, France, Germany, Martinique, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Senegal, and North and South America.

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  • Faulkner, Peter, ed. A Modernist Reader: Modernism in England, 1920–1930. London: Batsford, 1986.

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    Introductory anthology containing must-read texts for students and readers new to modernism.

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  • Jones, Peter, ed. Imagist Poetry. London: Penguin, 2001.

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    A collection of verse originally published in the three imagist anthologies. Contains an excellent introduction to the movement and useful appendices showing how the project unfolded and the debates and arguments that precipitated its end.

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  • Kolocotroni, Vassiliki, Jane Goldman, and Olga Taxidou, eds. Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

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    Contains excerpts from key primary sources for the study of modernism from 1800 to the 1940s. Texts are drawn from the fields of aesthetics, sociology, philosophy, and politics and include major manifestos and essays by modernist/avant-garde writers. Excellent collection of otherwise difficult-to-source materials.

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  • Rainey, Lawrence, ed. Modernism: An Anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

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    The most comprehensive modernism reader on the market, containing complete versions of many key texts or sections of texts. All major writers are represented as well as some newly prominent or emerging writers such as Elizabeth Bowen and Mina Loy. The focus is on British and American authors, though the book also includes “continental interludes” featuring futurism, Dada, surrealism, and the Frankfurt school.

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  • Scott, Bonnie Kime, ed. The Gender of Modernism: A Critical Anthology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

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    Scott’s first and highly influential anthology contains a selection of writings by women as well as extracts by men and women considering issues of gender. The extracts are arranged according to authors, including Djuna Barnes, Willa Cather, Nancy Cunard, T. S. Eliot, and Zora Neale Hurston.

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  • Scott, Bonnie Kime, ed. Gender in Modernism: New Geographies, Complex Intersections. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.

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    The sequel to Scott 1990 is arranged thematically rather than by author, bringing a greater range of writers into view.

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Modernity, Modernism, and the Avant-Garde

The word modernism contains within it the suggestion that the literature produced in the early 20th century is the literature of the modern. Writers such as Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and D. H. Lawrence tended to describe themselves as moderns, while sociologists and philosophers writing at the same time were frequently engaged in the question of what constitutes and characterizes the “modern.” (See Berman 1983 for a discussion of key philosophies of the modern.) A great deal of debate has flourished around the question of the relationship between modernism and modernity, which, after all, might describe a much earlier period (the Enlightenment has an especially strong claim) as well as the present day. The best survey of the changing meanings of “modern” and “modernism” as they were used in previous eras and in relation to different arts and disciplines is found in Calinescu 1987. A related debate has focused on the question of modernism’s relationship to the avant-garde. Bürger 1984 is the standard account to which most others refer. Bürger argues that modernism completes the late 19th-century, bourgeois project of turning art into an institution. The avant-garde, by contrast, offers a critique of this process or, in his words, a “self-critique” at the last possible moment before the total separation of art from life and politics made self-critique impossible. Huyssen 1986 sees the difference between modernism and the avant-garde as a matter of their opposed attitudes to mass culture. Modernism secures its autonomy by rejecting the popular and the lowbrow, while the avant-garde cultivates an open relationship to mass culture and in so doing is the immediate precursor to postmodernism. Jameson 1991 gives a different account of the transition from modernism to postmodernism. He argues that modernism, with its commitment to the new, could not survive the cultural logic of late capitalism, which operates according to a flat and undifferentiated model of space and time. Recent criticism has adopted a more flexible account of the relations among modernism, postmodernism, and the avant-garde. For example, Mao and Walkowitz 2006 argues that too sharp a division between modernism and the avant-garde dilutes the countercultural force of modernism, while Rainey 1998 (cited under Professions and Institutions) argues that modernists such as Pound learned a great deal from the marketing strategies of avant-garde groups such as the futurists. The “New Modernist studies,” which are associated with the Modernist Studies Association, and essays such as Mao and Walkowitz 2008 and Friedman 2001 emphasize the need for flexibility and a wide tolerance in the use of terms such as modernism and modernity in order to adjust to the new global context in which modernism is now situated.

  • Berman, Marshall. All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. London: Verso, 1983.

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    Study of the ethos and experience of being modern, understood by Berman to mean belonging to a society caught in the midst of rapid and often bewildering change. Here “modernity” describes a world characterized by paradox and contradiction, by feelings of exhilaration and terror, by the twin impulses of creation and destruction, and by a sharp divide between revolutionaries and conservatives.

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  • Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Translated by Michael Shaw. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1984.

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    Influential argument suggesting that from the vantage point of the avant-garde it was possible to see for the first time the fate of art after aestheticism. The avant-garde attempted to resist the separation of art from lifega process that had begun under aestheticism and would, under modernism, eventually turn art into an institution.

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  • Calinescu, Matei. Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1987.

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    A comprehensive study of the competing and often contradictory histories of five words that have taken on particular significance in the field: modernity (incorporating modernism), avant-garde, decadence, kitsch, and postmodernism.

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  • Friedman, Susan Stanford. “Definitional Excursions: The Meanings of Modern/Modernity/Modernism.” Modernism/modernity 8.3 (2001): 493–513.

    DOI: 10.1353/mod.2001.0062Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important intervention into debates over the continued usefulness of these definitional terms, for scholars and students alike. Friedman argues for a combination of philosophical/grammatical and political/cultural approaches that remain alert to the contradictions produced in the movement across disciplines and between geographical and historical contexts in order to challenge Eurocentric “norms” of modernity/modernism.

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  • Huyssen, Andreas. After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture and Postmodernism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

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    An influential but contested book that sees modernism as the means by which high culture is gradually drawn away from mass culture to become part of the liberal, academic consensus. The avant-garde is absorbed into modernism in spite of its original aim to reconcile art and life, while postmodernism offers the promise of critique.

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  • Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. London: Verso, 1991.

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    Contains Jameson’s famous distinction between modernism and postmodernism. In modernism the “new” is possible because of the mixed and uneven nature of the period in which the old coexists with the emergent. In postmodernism, which operates according to the logic of late capitalism, there are no comparable distinctions to be found in the depthless, undifferentiated space through which commodities circulate around the globe.

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  • Mao, Douglas, and Rebecca Walkowitz. “The Changing Profession: the New Modernist Studies.” PMLA 123 (2008): 737–748.

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    Discusses the transnational turn in modernist studies as represented in Friedman 2001. Mao and Walkowitz look at the influence of postcolonial theory to emphasize the interrelation of cultural, political, and economic transactions across a globalized space.

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  • Mao, Douglas, and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, eds. Bad Modernisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

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    This collection returns to the scene of modernist and avant-garde production in order to remind readers of the countercultural or “shock” value these movements possessed before they were assimilated by the dominant cultures of the publishing industry and the academy. The essays emphasize the contradictory and oppositional nature, the deliberate provocations, and calculated “badness” of the texts and writers discussed.

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Cultural and Material Histories

The cultural turn in modernist studies has seen increased interest in the material (economic, historical, and social) conditions that influenced the publication and distribution of modernist texts—conditions that were themselves shaped by some of the choices and strategies of modernist authors, editors, and publishers. Raymond Williams’s two essays collected in Williams 1989 give the standard account of modernism as a metropolitan and cosmopolitan phenomenon that could only have appeared under the specific conditions created by urbanization, migration, and industrialization. Recent books have added nuance and variation to this account by drawing on the work of other cultural historians (see Goody 2007 for a discussion of Stuart Hall) and by inflecting “metropolitan” modernism through the lenses provided by gender, queer, and postcolonial studies (see Miller 2005). Especially important in recent decades has been research on how modernist writers, far from maintaining a cultivated distance from the market, were remarkably astute at manipulating this market in their own interests, whether this meant adopting the strategies of popular authors or establishing a specialist or collectors market for texts published in limited or luxury editions. Willison, et al. 1996 is a useful point of reference for the different publishing strategies of modernist authors, while Dettmar and Watt 1996 looks more closely at the marketing of modernism. Rainey 2005 is recommended for its groundbreaking account of how, when it came to the publication of The Waste Land, what mattered was not in the first instance its inherent literary value, but the value it gained through Ezra Pound’s simultaneous negotiations with rival publications and the value of his name in conjunction with that of T. S. Eliot. Moving away from issues of circulation and distribution, McGann 1993 examines the modernist fascination with the book and the word itself as a material phenomenon. Other approaches to the cultural study of modernism interpret culture in the wider sense as meaning the complex of economic, social, artistic, scientific, and political narratives that make up a particular society. The following subsections—Science and Technology, Professions and Institutions, and Periodical Studies—examine how changes in a variety of areas impacted both the subject matter of modernism and the problem of how best to represent this subject matter.

  • Dettmar, Kevin J. H., and Stephen Watt, eds. Marketing Modernisms: Self-Promotion, Canonization and Rereading. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.

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    An influential book describing modernist figures as deeply involved with the new technologies and strategies for publishing and marketing books.

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  • Goody, Alex. Modernist Articulations: A Cultural Study of Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

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    Offers a new methodology based on Stuart Hall’s version of articulation, which emphasizes process rather than finished discourse or ideology. Contains excellent close readings of stories and poems by Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy, and Gertrude Stein.

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  • Mao, Douglas. Solid Objects: Modernism and the Test of Production. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

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    Examines the fascination with the object, seen as something immune to the ravages of history and politics in Virginia Woolf, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, and Wallace Stevens. Mao contextualizes this fascination with reference to the modernist emphasis on cultural production (as craft or creation) over consumption, and anxieties concerning the fate of beings and things in a society governed by the forces of mass production and global capitalism.

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  • McGann, Jerome. Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

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    McGann argues that although the Romantic tradition privileged the psychological and symbolic resources of language, modernism brought a new emphasis on its literal and physical (acoustic and visual) aspects. Excellent on typography and layout and the legacy of modernism’s self-reflexive turn (what is poetry for?) for postwar poets.

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  • Miller, Cristanne. Cultures of Modernism: Marianne Moore, Mina Loy, and Else Laskere-Schüler; Gender and Literary Community in New York and Berlin. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

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    Focuses on women’s lives in the two cities and on the importance of location in determining attitudes to subjectivity, gender, race, and religion in modernist writing by women. Contains useful contextual information regarding the particular legal situations and cultural codes governing women’s behavior and opportunities in different cities.

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  • Rainy, Lawrence. “The Price of Modernism: Reconsidering the Publication of The Waste Land.” In Revisiting the Waste Land. By Lawrence Rainy, 71–100. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.

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    Important essay considering how modernist institutions grew out of the opportunities offered by the new marketplace for culture. Rainey argues that modernist texts became a “special” sort of commodity circulated between collectors and editors of little magazines and funded by patronage, speculation, and investment.

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  • Williams, Raymond. The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists. London: Verso, 1989.

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    Particularly recommended for the first two essays: “When Was Modernism?” and “Metropolitan Perceptions and the Emergence of Modernism.” Williams argues in the second essay that modernism is the language of modernity, understood specifically as an age of immigration in which artists and writers were uprooted from their traditional communities and came together in the urban centers to make a new, shared language of form and medium.

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  • Willison, Ian, Warwick Gould, and Warren Chernaik, eds. Modernist Writers and the Marketplace. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996.

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    Important early contribution to the study of the economics of modernist publishing. This is a collection of essays on how major modernist writers engaged with and prospered in relation to the publishers of and market for their work. Chapters on Henry James, W. B. Yeats, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and T. S. Eliot.

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Science and Technology

One of the most rich and popular areas under the general heading of cultural history has been the study of modernist literature in relation to new technology and scientific methods. Kern 1983 is the standard reference book in this context, while Armstrong 1998 and Foster 2004 are excellent for their discussion of the utopian and dystopian aspects of technology in relation to the potential of the human (and gendered) body. Tiffany 1995 and Tiffany 2000 show how new models of perception and thought impacted on literary forms, even those such as lyric poetry that might have been expected to resist such influences. A new and growing area of research looks at the relations between medical discourses and modernist texts and, in conjunction with other disciplines such as philosophy, focuses in particular on the cognitive sciences and neuroscience. The essays in Salisbury and Shail 2010 are recommended as a good cultural history of neurology, opening up ways of thinking about this science in relation to literature.

  • Armstrong, Tim. Modernism, Technology and the Body: A Cultural Study. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    Examines modernist attitudes to and representations of technology, especially in regard to its potential to both extend and diminish the natural capacities of the human body.

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  • Kern, Stephen. Cultures of Space and Time: 1880–1918. London: Weidenfield and Nicholson, 1983.

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    Highly recommended study of the impact of changes in the scientific study and measurement of time and space, and on how these dimensions were thought of, represented, and lived as felt-experience in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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  • Foster, Hal. Prosthetic Gods. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.

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    Considers the representation of a new self and its relations to technology by a range of writers and artists, including Wyndham Lewis, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.

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  • Salisbury, Laura, and Andrew Shail, eds. Neurology and Modernity: A Cultural History of Nervous Systems, 1800–1950. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    A collection of essays examining the co-construction of conceptions of modernity and a modern self that is subject to all kinds of nervous diseases, including neurasthenia and shell-shock. Includes chapters on literary critics and authors such as Thomas Carlyle and Edith Wharton.

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  • Tiffany, Daniel. Radio Corpse: Imagism and the Cryptaesthetic of Ezra Pound. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    Thoughtful and informed study of the “scopic regime” of modernism and modernity, which takes its cue from Karl Marx’s analysis of the commodity fetish. Tiffany argues that modernist poets desired to see and to show the things that escape ordinary vision (e.g., radio waves, the ether, sound) and that their writing persistently comes up against the difficulty of bringing such phenomena to light.

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  • Tiffany, Daniel. Toy Medium: Materialism and the Modern Lyric. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

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    Examines the influence of science and new instruments and methodologies on the attempt to give mind and thought a substantial or material form in modernist lyric poetry.

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Professions and Institutions

Another area of cultural change of particular interest to modernist studies is the professionalization of cultural expertise. For obvious reasons, many authors were eager to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by the entry of English studies into the university, a growing readership for literary magazines and reviews, and an expanding market for both cheap and luxury editions of books. Research in this area falls broadly into two areas, looking first at how individual modernist writers exploited or resisted professionalization (see McDonald 1993 and Cucullu 2004) and second at how modernist literature was itself institutionalized through exercises in self-promotion or the favoring of certain journals over others. Rainey 1998 traces the evolution of modernist institutions from the early lessons Pound took from futurism to his attempts in the 1920s to associate modernism squarely with certain journals and “celebrity” names. Rosenquist 2009 approaches this issue from a different angle, showing how newness itself became an institution after the fact in surveys and memoirs of modernism in the late 1920s and 1930s.

  • Cucullu, Lois. Expert Modernists, Matricide and Modern Culture: Woolf, Forster, Joyce. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230501959Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how modernist writers obeyed the same cultural logic and situated their writing within the same consumer economy as they decried elsewhere. Notable for its emphasis on women’s participation within this economy, with Woolf as the key example.

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  • McDonald, Gail. Learning to be Modern: Pound, Eliot and the American University. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

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    Important study of the reciprocal relationship between the modernist writer and the 20th-century academy. Eliot and Pound needed the university to sustain their vision of poetry “by the educated for the educated” just as much as the university needed Pound and Eliot to supply the poetic and pedagogic theories that shaped the new discipline of literary criticism.

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  • Rainey, Lawrence. Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

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    Traces the development of a public culture that mediated and controlled individual access to modernist texts within a rapidly expanding market for art and literature. Rainey focuses on networks and relationships among individuals, groups, publishers, and patrons of the arts.

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  • Rosenquist, Rod. Modernism, the Market and the Institution of the New. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511575686Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the establishment and consolidation of modernism as the literature of the “new” from the late 1920s onward and the relationship of late modernist writers (Laura Riding, Henry Miller, Wyndham Lewis, and the objectivists) to an institution that promised to give value to their work at the same time as it threatened to render their own claims to newness belated.

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Periodical Studies

The importance of little magazines and journals in publishing and promoting modernist texts has long been recognized. This is, after all, where many authors first managed to place their writing and where, more specifically, Ulysses and The Waste Land first saw the light of day. Over the last decade or so, periodical studies has moved to center stage as scholars have gradually rediscovered the sheer extent and importance of little magazine and journal publishing in the first half of the 20th century. This new research has been facilitated by projects in the United States and the United Kingdom to digitize collections of periodicals and permit free access to these materials online. The first of these was the Modernist Journals Project, which began in 1995 and covers the period from 1890 to 1922. The Modernist Magazines Project was founded in 2006 with the aim of documenting and examining magazines published in Britain, Europe, and North America between 1880 and 1945. It offers an online resource with indexes and sample issues of magazines and aims to publish three volumes of essays dedicated to the three regions. Brooker and Thacker 2009 is the first volume to be completed and includes an introduction to the project as well as a large collection of essays on journal publishing in Britain and Ireland. Hoffman, et al. 1946 is an older reference work that remains useful for its indexes of and introductions to key journals.

  • Brooker, Peter, and Andrew Thacker, eds. The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Vol. 1, Britain and Ireland, 1880–1955. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    First volume in a material history of how modernism emerged from and impelled the production of a diverse range of little magazines. Magazines are divided into ten groups, with each focusing on a particular period (“Victorian Precursors,” “Into the 1920s”), one or several agendas (“Editors and Programmes,” “Commitment to the New”), and regional influences (“Beyond the Metropolis”). Subsequent volumes will focus on North America and Europe.

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  • Hoffman, Frederick J., Charles Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich. The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1946.

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    Dated but still useful reference point for research into little magazines, with essays introducing influential magazines and tendencies and a bibliography with entries on individual magazines dating from 1891 to 1945.

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  • Modernist Journals Project.

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    The Modernist Journals Project is based at Brown University and the University of Tulsa. It provides an invaluable collection of digitized periodicals and little magazines, such as The New Age and Poetry, searchable by date, author, and keyword. The site also features excerpts from books and specially commissioned introductions to the magazines and the personalities associated with them.

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  • Modernist Magazines Project.

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    Supported by the De Montford University, the University of Sussex, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of the United Kingdom, the Modernist Magazines Project is an ongoing project to catalogue and digitize issues and images from the hundreds of modernist magazines and individual articles published between 1880 and 1945. It allows for searching according to magazine, author, and article and for cross-comparison of publication frequency, price, and longevity.

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Other Media

Any general account of modernist literature must take into account its close relationship with other arts and media, even though these arts often bring with them disciplinary-specific and not always consonant definitions of terms such as modernism and avant-garde. Movements such as vorticism and futurism were conceived as multimedia or inter-art projects involving, variously, painters, poets, writers, performers, and musicians. As Beasley 2007 points out, even when modernism seems to be at its most literary in Ezra Pound’s expository and pedagogical essays, his language is frequently drawn from the study and criticism of the visual arts. Some of the first and most influential attempts to define modernism take the visual arts as their subject. Greenberg 1982 (originally published in 1960) is a key point of reference here. More recent work has focused on the relationship between modernism and cinema. McCabe 2005 draws attention to the correspondences between narrative techniques in avant-garde cinema and modernist poetry, while Marcus 2010 is the first comprehensive account of the extent and the depth of modernist engagement with the new media as revealed in creative works, essays, and reviews. Trotter 2007 calls for a different approach to the study of literature and film, one that pays closer attention to what writers actually knew about cinema and to “congruencies” in the way writers and filmmakers respond to their shared public worlds. North 2005 and Albright 2000 are recommended for their analysis of the relations between literature and photography (North) and literature and music (Albright), while Butler 1994 provides a good introduction to the affinities between modern art and modern literature that students often find very helpful.

  • Albright, Daniel. Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature, and Other Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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    Important study of the points of intersection (or consonance) between the different arts in the 20th century, with particular attention paid to musical collaborations.

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  • Beasley, Rebecca. Ezra Pound and the Visual Culture of Modernism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Examines the relations between critical discourses and practice in the visual arts and Pound’s poetry and prose, especially as connected to the institutionalization or academic turn in the disciplines of art and English.

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  • Butler, Christopher. Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe, 1900–1916. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    Describes the development of nonrepresentational/abstract art in European painting and letters. Traces developments from impressionism through post-impressionism to primitivism and the avant-garde movements.

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  • Greenberg, Clement. “Modernist Painting.” In Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology. Edited by Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison, 5–11. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.

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    Influential definition of modernism as the stage reached when a discipline (here painting) takes itself as its own subject for reflection and criticism in order to bolster its claim to be a discipline requiring specialist knowledge or technique. As critics have noted, this theory is more easily applied to abstract painting than to other disciplines such as writing. Originally published in Art and Literature 4 (1965): 193–201.

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  • Marcus, Laura. The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Comprehensive study of ideas and techniques as they appear in writing about film in the early decades of the 20th century, and of literary engagement with cinema as seen in Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, H. D., H.G. Wells, and others.

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  • McCabe, Susan. Cinematic Modernism: Modernist Poetry and Film. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Reads the poetry of H.D., William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, and Gertrude Stein alongside European avant-garde films. McCabe pays particular attention to the fragmentation and reconstruction of the body as subject to technological process and mediation.

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  • North, Michael. Camera Works: Photography and the Twentieth-Century Word. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Examines the influence of photography and film on modern art and literature. North argues that these technologies suggested new, often utopian, modes of representation at the intersection of writing and image. Close attention paid to the discussion of film and photography in little magazines such as transition.

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  • Trotter, David. Cinema and Modernism. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

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    An influential challenge to the tendency over recent decades to see the relationship between avant-garde cinema and film as a matter of analogous techniques and narrative strategies. Trotter points out that this approach is often ahistorical and argues that affinities should be established on the basis of what writers actually knew about cinema.

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Modernism and Its Progenitors

One problem with the definition of modernism as a code-switch or revolution in the arts is that it has obscured continuities with earlier periods, especially with the fin-de-siècle aestheticism and Victorian culture. The books listed in this section seek specifically to revise this view by presenting alternative genealogies in which modernism finds its roots in or reworks the signature concerns of Victorian poetry (Christ 1984), impressionism (Matz 2001), gothic literature (Smith and Wallace 2001), and pragmatism (Feldman 2002). Laity 1996 points out that the code-switch version of modernism can sometimes blind critics to alternative “traditions” in which women might feature more prominently. Other books found elsewhere in this bibliography are similarly attuned to the unexpected and sometimes explicitly disavowed prehistories of modernism. Bürger 1984 (cited under Modernity, Modernism, and the Avant-Garde) argues for modernism as a continuation of aestheticism’s concern with the autonomy of art; Menand 2007 (under Poetry) looks at T. S. Eliot’s debt to Walter Pater among others; and Brooks 1939 (under Poetry) follows Eliot himself in tracing the roots of modern poetry back to the metaphysical poets.

  • Christ, Carol T. Victorian and Modern Poetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

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    Challenges the anti-Victorian bias of modernist writers and critics alike to highlight the continuous line that runs through Romanticism to both Victorian and modern poetry.

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  • Feldman, Jessica R. Victorian Modernism: Pragmatism and the Varieties of Aesthetic Experience. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    Bridges the gap between 19th- and 20th-century literature by emphasizing the continuities between writers such as William James, John Ruskin, and Marcel Proust. Feldman argues for an approach derived from pragmatism that emphasizes plurality rather than adversarial relations, strife, loss, and rupture.

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  • Laity, Cassandra. H.D. and the Victorian Fin de Siècle: Gender, Modernism, Decadence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511585654Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Laity focuses on H.D. as an example of a woman writer whose “flight” from male modernism took her back to the aestheticism and decadence of A. C. Swinburne, the Pre-Raphaelites, and the Victorian Hellenists.

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  • Matz, Jesse. Literary Impressionism and Modernist Aesthetics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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    Traces a genealogy of literary impressionism from Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James through early modernists such as Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford. Offers a helpful distinction between literary and visual impressionism.

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  • Smith, Andrew, and Jeff Wallace, eds. Gothic Modernisms. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780333985236Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays exploring the connections between modernism and the Gothic, focusing especially on shared interests in perversion, disorder, the here and now, and the quotidian.

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Critical Agendas

While modernist studies as a whole comprises countless subthemes and topics (from pragmatism to dogs), some are worth particular mention for their impact on canon formation and the way they have changed dominant paradigms in the study of modernist literatures and cultures. The first and perhaps most established of these areas is the focus on women as the producers, facilitators, and consumers of modernist cultures. The cross-fertilization of modernist with postcolonial studies has fostered work in the areas of race and empire as well as in another flourishing area of research, that is, national, transnational, and international modernisms. The topics listed here are not exhaustive, nor are they discrete, and there is often crossover between individual areas—studies of race and transnational modernisms are obviously connected, for example, as are books about affect and male friendship. But together with the themes identified above, these topics represent a cross-section of those most likely to be found on the programs of modernist conferences.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Friedman 1981 was one of the first monographs to view a female poet (H.D.) as deserving more weight within the field than she had hitherto been afforded, while books on Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes have been equally successful in moving these writers from the margins to the center of a transformed modernist canon. Benstock 1986 demonstrates the depth and breadth of women’s involvement in the creation and marketing of Parisian Left-Bank modernism. The influence of feminist and post-structuralist approaches on the study of women in modernism can be seen in Rado 1994. The focus on women has broadened in recent decades to encompass studies of the flexibility and instability of gender and sexual identities in modernist texts. Stevens and Howlett 2000 is an excellent selection of essays on this topic, while Boone 1998 examines the impact of contemporary psychoanalysis on the construction of the modern, libindinal subject. Parsons 2000 and McCraken 2007 examine how the rapidly growing cities offered a crucible and a stage for the formation and performance of new femininities and masculinities. Felski 1996 combines the cultural studies approach found in these books with philosophical critique. Felski revisits classic theories of modernity—as seen, for example, in the works of Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin—to show how such theories are often implicitly gendered masculine even as they situate the feminine (as consumer/New Woman, etc.) at the center of their understanding of the modern.

  • Benstock, Shari. Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900–1940. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986.

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    Comprehensive study of the lives and works of expatriate women who were influential both as producers and as facilitators of modernism including poets and novelists (e.g., H.D., Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys), publishers (e.g., Sylvia Beach), and patrons (e.g., Nancy Cunard).

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  • Boone, Joseph Allen. Libidinal Currents: Sexuality and the Shaping of Modernism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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    Maps the instability and fluidity of psychosexual drives as represented in modernist writing and in theory and psychoanalysis dating from the same period. Boone identifies a poetics and a politics of the perverse that give rise in modernist texts to a confusion of interior and exterior worlds, surface and depth, and the notoriously slippery and indefinite language of modernist texts.

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  • Felski, Rita. The Gender of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    A cultural history of modernity taking as its starting point the negative portrayal of women, either as a figure for tradition, stasis, and home (anti-modern) or as an insatiable consumer, fetish object, and lover of artifice (all too modern). Reading texts about and by women, Felski aims to give a different perspective, showing the many and complex ways in which women’s lives are shaped by contradictory strands in modern culture.

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  • Friedman, Susan Stanford. Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H.D. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.

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    Examines H.D.’s poetry in the context of her diverse intellectual interests and affiliations. Notable as one of the first monographs to afford a woman poet the same treatment and significance as Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot.

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  • McCraken, Scott. Masculinities, Modernist Fiction and the Urban Public Sphere. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2007.

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    Wide-ranging study of the different ways in which public roles (especially gender roles) are refashioned and performed on the urban stage of modernist fiction. Pays particular attention to food, the body, and the character of the public sphere as found in the teahouses and restaurants of London.

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  • Parsons, Deborah L. Streetwalking the Metropolis: Women, the City and Modernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2000.

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    Examines the presence and absence of women from accounts of the urban subject as, for example, the flanêur, the cosmopolitan, the consumer, and the wandering Jew. Includes a range of writers from Woolf to Barnes and Rhys.

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  • Rado, Lisa. Rereading Modernism: New Directions in Feminist Criticism. New York: Garland, 1994.

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    Collection of feminist interpretations of modernist themes and topics, including essays on neglected women writers such as Rebecca West and Dorothy Richardson, introductions to topics such as sexuality and the New Woman, and gendered rereadings of novels such as Wyndham Lewis’s Tarr.

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  • Stevens, Hugh, and Caroline Howlett, eds. Modernist Sexualities. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

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    Examines writings by a range of men and women, including major and less familiar names (e.g., Edith Ellis). The introduction argues that texts interrogating fixed gender and sexual identities should find new relevance in a modernist canon that is increasingly open to questions of border-crossing and marginality.

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Race and Empire

A second area of particular importance (sometimes related to gender under the tag “other modernisms”) has been the study of race, which has brought African American and Caribbean writers often ignored in older studies of modernism into prominence. Early work in this area looked in particular at the Harlem Renaissance as a point of contact between African American culture and New York and European modernism (see, for example, Baker 1987). Since then, modernist studies has broadened its view to see just how widely and deeply the connections between the different “cultures” run through writing and networks of authors in this period. Gilroy 1993 is the book most frequently referenced in this context, due to its fluid and intercultural account of the relations between black intellectuals and Western modernity. Doyle and Winkiel 2005 is a collection of essays that expands Gilroy’s unit of analysis, “the black Atlantic,” to a global space crossed and recrossed by paths of colonization and migration. Meanwhile, Platt 2011 broadens the category of race to think about how white and nonwhite ethnicities alike became a site of interest and anxiety for authors, sociologists, and anthropologists in the modernist period. A second major strand of research in modernist studies has brought into view the colonial and sometimes postcolonial contexts of modernist cultural production even when these are barely visible within the texts themselves. Booth and Rigby 2000 sets the standard and is still an excellent introduction to this topic, while Begam and Moses 2007 is recommended for its focus on British literature, and Marx 2005 for the connections it makes between the sense of cultural crisis in modernism and the end of empire.

  • Baker, Houston A. Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

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    Important intervention into the study of the Harlem Renaissance, arguing for its significance both to the history of the self-determination of African American cultures and to modernism, in comparison to which the Harlem Renaissance has sometimes been unfairly dismissed as formally conservative or safe.

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  • Begam, Richard, and Michael Valdez Moses, eds. Modernism and Colonialism: British and Irish Literature, 1899–1939. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

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    Builds on Booth and Rigby 2000 by linking modernist formal invention directly with the geopolitical scene of British colonialism. Attempts to tread a middle line between traditional modernist studies that ignored politics and the new modernisms that have sometimes seen modernism as inseparable from imperialism and incapable therefore of critique.

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  • Booth, Howard J., and Nigel Rigby. Modernism and Empire. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

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    Collection of essays considering how problems of power, self, and modernity, long associated with modernism, relate to the history and theory of empire. Wide range of topics, themes, and geographical spread, from Pound’s Orientalism through Lawrence’s fascination with otherness to a reconsideration of major theories of modernity and Empire.

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  • Doyle, Laura, and Laura Winkiel. Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2005.

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    Groundbreaking study of modernism as a global phenomenon. Emphasizes non-Western contexts and the contradictions of modernity/modernism as they emerged outside the European metropolis, with particular attention paid to questions of race.

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  • Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso, 1993.

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    Hugely influential book that substitutes an intercultural and transnational formation (the black Atlantic) for the national and nationalist paradigms that had previously dominated cultural studies. Gilroy draws attention to the absence of race in writing about modernity, even though, as he points out, racial slavery was integral to Western progress, expansion, and civilization.

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  • Marx, John. The Modernist Novel and the Decline of Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485169Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Recommended for its discussion of how modernism transformed the Victorian map of a world divided into center and periphery into a decentered network of dislocated peoples managed and described by a cosmopolitan cast of cultural experts (i.e., modernist expatriates). Contains close readings of cultural difference in writers such as Lawrence, Conrad, and Forster.

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  • Platt, Len, ed. Modernism and Race. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511973925Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays looking at modernist critical (and uncritical) engagement with the raciologies found in 19th- and 20th-century anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and biology.

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  • Winkiel, Laura A. Modernism, Race and Manifestos. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511481468Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Studies avant-garde modernism alongside colonial resistance, showing the racial and imperial dynamics at work, for example, in vorticism and the suffrage movements. Winkiel also features anticolonial writings and colonial writers who originally published in the same journals as the avant-garde but have since dropped out of view.

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National and Transnational Cultures

The term transnational comes from Gilroy 1993 (cited under Race and Empire) and is intended to emphasize the multiple lines of intersection and cultural contact zones as writers of many nationalities and ethnicities were on the move during this period. How to push beyond the Eurocentrism and metropolitanism of traditional modernist studies has been a major concern of the New Modernist studies as defined in Doyle and Winkiel 2008 (cited under Race and Empire) and Friedman 2001 (cited under Modernism, Modernity, and the Avant-Garde). Berman 2001 and Walkowitz 2006 both revise the concept of modernist cosmopolitanism to show that beneath the utopian drive for communities without difference it is possible to recognize deep fault lines and anxieties about cross-cultural contact. A parallel development has seen renewed attention to the nationalist imaginary, especially in England, which had previously received far less attention than the Irish version, represented here by Nolan 1995. Peppis 2000 shows how in England, just as in Italy and Russia, avant-garde movements were closely caught up with nationalist agendas in the prewar and World War I period. Moving to a later period, Esty 2003 and Garrity 2003 look at the ambivalent modernist response to myths of England as they circulated in interwar texts and contexts.

  • Berman, Jessica. Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism, and the Politics of Community. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how modernist writers engage with the 20th-century transformation of community, which produces, on the one hand, forms of nationalism and fascism and, on the other, new visions of cosmopolitanism. Chapters on Henry James, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein.

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  • Esty, Jed. A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

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    Studies late modernist writing in the context of a wider postwar retrenchment of English culture. Esty examines texts such as Eliot’s Four Quartets and Woolf’s Between the Acts to find a retreat from the cosmopolitanism and internationalism of the 1920s and 1930s into an Englishness often imagined as organic and preindustrial.

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  • Garrity, Jane. Step-Daughters of England: British Women Modernists and the National Imaginary. New York: Manchester University Press, 2003.

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    Examines the interwar writing of experimental women writers, including Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Mary Butts. Garrity shows how their work intervened in contemporary debates over national identity and the role of women in remaking an England that seemed broken and diminished after World War I.

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  • Nolan, Emer. James Joyce and Nationalism. London: Routledge, 1995.

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    Revises the standard view of Joyce as an international writer opposed to the traditionalism and conservatism of the Celtic Revival to show how he was deeply involved with and ambivalent about the processes and narratives of modernization integral to Irish nationalism. Useful introduction to modernism and nationalism within and beyond the Irish context it takes as its immediate focus.

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  • Peppis, Paul. Literature, Politics, and the English Avant-Garde: Nation and Empire, 1901–1918. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Examines the connection between avant-garde arts and nationalist and imperial rhetoric in England. Features Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, Dora Marsden, and Ezra Pound.

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  • Walkowitz, Rebecca L. Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism beyond the Nation. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

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    Argues for a critical and self-conscious concept of cosmopolitanism in the modernist novel, which gives rise in writers such as Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, and later Kazuo Ishiguro to a “cosmopolitan style.” Walkowitz defines this style loosely as a set of attitudes, postures, a way of thinking, and a way of writing.

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Political and Cultural Conflict

A recurrent issue in the study of modernism is the reactionary politics espoused by many of its key figures, whether this is expressed as sympathy for (or official links to) fascism; as a general distaste for liberalism, democracy, and mass movements; or as an elitist attitude to cultural transmission and production. Carey 1992 is notorious for setting out the case for the prosecution, while North 1991 and Nicholls 1984 both point out that it is impossible to quarantine a radical aesthetic from a conservative or authoritarian message and that, consequently, we need to develop a more nuanced view of the intersection of politics, economics, and culture during this period. A second wave of interest in modernist politics in the 2000s answered this demand in part by bringing other writers into view and examining new and sometimes unexpected connections between them. Ardis 2002 shows that too close a focus on high modernism blinds readers and critics to the very different sorts and degrees of political commitment found more generally in literary culture at this time, while Ferrall 2001 finds commonalities between D. H. Lawrence and the antihumanist politics of high modernism, which would have surprised some of Lawrence’s left-culturalist readers of the 1950s and 1960s. Potter 2006 brings to the foreground the shift to mass democratic politics in this era and shows how, far from ignored by modernist authors, this is frequently present in their writing, both as an anxiety and as a source of imaginative and political interest. One of the charges that Carey 1992 levels at modernist texts is that difficulty and obscurity equate to inaccessibility and that, consequently, to write in such a way is to deliberately exclude the plain reader. In different ways, Mahaffey 2007 and Diepeveen 2003 demonstrate difficulty to be something far more complex, interesting, and potentially radical than this judgment suggests.

  • Ardis, Ann L. Modernism and Cultural Conflict, 1880–1922. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484971Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ardis looks beyond the usual map of modernism (with Joyce, Yeats, and Eliot at the center), which is in large part inherited from the modernists themselves, to give an overview of a period in which different political and cultural tendencies competed for prominence. Notable for bringing “marginal” writers to the center of the debate, including Oscar Wilde, Beatrice Potter Webb, D. H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, and the contributors to The New Age.

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  • Carey, John. The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1800–1939. London: Faber and Faber, 1992.

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    This is the book to which most others refer, if only to disagree with Carey’s view that modernist attitudes toward the masses were to find their fullest expression in the Nazis.

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  • Diepeveen, Leonard. The Difficulties of Modernism. New York: Routledge, 2003.

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    A long-overdue update of one of the earliest definitions of modernism as literature that poses problems for the general reader. Notable for its discussion of how difficulty might be experienced viscerally as well as intellectually.

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  • Ferrall, Charles. Modernist Writing and Reactionary Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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    Reconsideration of how writers such as Yeats, Pound, Lewis, and Lawrence combined a radical modernist aesthetic with opposition to “even the emancipatory” features of modernity. Examines the porous relations between concepts often presumed opposed, such as organic/mechanical and masculine/feminine.

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  • Mahaffey, Vicki. Modernist Literature: Challenging Fictions. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

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    An important revisionist study of the relationship between the difficult modernist text and the reader. Far from a strategy to exclude the general reader, difficulty and obscurity are seen as a means of challenging passive reading habits and cultural conservatism.

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  • Nicholls, Peter. Ezra Pound: Politics, Economics and Writing; A Study of the Cantos. London: Macmillan, 1984.

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    One of the first in a new wave of studies of modernism that attempt to show how the study of modernist form and aesthetics cannot be divorced from its content, even when that content is politically or socially unpalatable. Nicholls’s focus is on Pound’s economic theories and the way these inform his literary theory and practice.

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  • North, Michael. The Political Aesthetic of Yeats, Eliot, and Pound. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    Another excellent study of the intimate relations among the social, political, and economic affiliations of these three key writers and their experiments with form, considered in terms of success and failure. North takes as his examples Yeats’s cultural nationalism, Eliot’s conservatism, and Pound’s fascism and examines how their political choices and difficulties emerge as formal problems in the poetry.

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  • Potter, Rachel. Modernism and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Reconsiders the relations between modernist literature and the emergence of mass democratic states in the context of an expanded and transformed modernist field. Notable for its inclusion of women writers such as H.D. and Mina Loy alongside the usual suspects—Eliot, Pound, Lawrence, and Lewis.

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Religion, the Supernatural, and the Occult

Modernism has frequently been seen as a secular phenomenon, a literature that registers in variously triumphant and melancholic ways the disappearance of God from the world. To the extent that belief survives in modernist literature, it is viewed as a matter of minority interest of, say, Yeats’s belief in ghosts or Eliot’s Anglo-Catholicism. Surette 1993 and Materer 1995 challenge this view, showing how occult and spiritualist interests fed into the very constitution of modernism as it is most familiar to researchers, teachers, and students today. Thurschwell 2001 and Sword 2002 demonstrate that there is nothing necessarily antimodern about belief in the supernatural. On the contrary, phenomena such as mediumship, clairaudience, telepathy, and survival after death could be and often were easily reconciled with the latest scientific, technological, and medical advances. Recent research in this area, as represented here by Lewis 2010, suggests that to properly understand religion in modernism we need to move beyond the sterile opposition of belief/unbelief. Only then can we recognize, for example, that a rejection of orthodoxy might be entirely commensurate with a desire to preserve some form of religious experience in the novel or that skepticism might be directed against belief in the supernatural or against a no less “irrational” belief in the primacy of the material and rational world.

  • Lewis, Pericles. Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    Discusses modernist novelists (Woolf, Proust, Kafka, and Henry James) alongside contemporary sociologists and psychologists of religion, including William James, Emile Durkheim, and Sigmund Freud. Lewis argues that the quest to communicate the experience of the sacred in secular terms gives rise within these novels to some of the experimental languages and narrative structures for which modernist writing is famous.

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  • Materer, Timothy. Modernist Alchemy: Poetry and the Occult. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

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    Highly recommended account of the relations between skepticism and relativism, on the one hand, and belief in the occult, spiritualism, and mysticism, on the other. Materer investigates modern poets who seem to use occult doctrine without irony or a distancing framework, such as W. B. Yeats, H.D., and James Merrill.

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  • Surette, Leon. The Birth of Modernism: Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and the Occult. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993.

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    Groundbreaking history of the occult provenance of certain parts of literary modernism. Far from a minority interest confined to Yeats’s spiritualism and Pound’s forays into the Quest Society, Surette demonstrates that occult and spiritualist ideas and interests resonate through some of modernism’s most familiar concerns and texts.

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  • Sword, Helen. Ghostwriting Modernism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002.

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    Sword considers how the 19th-century fascination with spiritualism continued into the 20th century and how the figure of the medium and the spirit-author complicate dominant models of authorship and influence. Useful postscript on the rise of hauntology within modernist and literary studies.

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  • Thurschwell, Pamela. Literature, Technology and Magical Thinking, 1880–1920. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511484537Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates the links among Freudian psychoanalysis, psychical science (the scientific study of phenomena such as spiritualism and telepathy), and new technologies such as the telephone. Thurschwell discusses the new models of intersubjectivity, empathy, and community that were formulated in response to these developments.

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World Wars I and II

While the experience of war is undoubtedly present throughout a great deal of modernist literature, it has often been overlooked, taken for granted, or seen as less directly represented than in (nonmodernist) poetry and prose by combatants. Fussell 1975 is a seminal account of the difference between modernism, which in Fussell’s view had the resources to properly register the shock of war but did not, and war poetry, which had only the traditional and inadequate forms provided by the Oxford Book of Verse but tried and still failed at representation. Booth 1996 and Sherry 2003 cut across this argument by suggesting that the radical languages found in modernist texts are a direct response to the failure of liberal and rational language during the war. In modernist studies, as in other disciplines, there has been increased attention to the role of civilians and women as participants in and chroniclers of war. The fruits of some of this research can be seen in Tate 1998 and Raitt and Tate 1997. Das 2005 and Cole 2003 revisit the literary scene of World War I to show how new and often liberating intimacies and gender identities were formed even in moments of severe personal suffering and crisis. World War II is far less widely represented in modernist studies, in part, because it has long served as a convenient endpoint for a modernist project with utopian aims that proved unsustainable in the face of the destruction and horror of a second global conflict. However, Mackay 2007 shows convincingly that far from exhausted, modernist writing as seen in T. S. Eliot, Graham Greene, and Virginia Woolf proved remarkably adaptable to a new political and social scene.

  • Booth, Allyson. Postcards from the Trenches: Negotiating the Space between Modernism and the First World War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    Booth links modernist mistrust of and experiment with language to the experience of war and the sense that no language could adequately relay the suffering experienced and witnessed by both soldiers and civilians.

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  • Cole, Sarah. Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485046Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of male intimacy prewar (as figured especially in Victorian Hellenism) and the permanent change brought about in male friendships and ideals of masculine bodies and behavior by the experience of World War I.

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  • Das, Santanu. Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Highly regarded book considering the sense of touch in World War I and its relation to representation in World War I literature. Das offers some new and compelling close readings of the soldier-poets as well as less well-known stories by VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) women and from archival materials including diaries and letters from the front.

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  • Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

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    A classic book including a chapter on the literary output of the solider-poets, contrasting their Edwardian/Georgian aesthetic tastes and choices with the high experiment of the modernists. This is still the study to which most others refer, if only to disagree with Fussell’s assessment of the relations between modernism and war poetry.

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  • Mackay, Marina. Modernism and World War II. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485183Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Revisits the argument that modernism ended in World War II to show how writers such as Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, T. S. Eliot, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh engaged with the new cultural and historical conditions of the 1940s. The new realities included transformations in the fields of politics, education, and the national imaginary that have often been assumed incompatible with the conservative sympathies and tastes of such writers.

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  • Raitt, Suzanne, and Trudi Tate. Women’s Fiction and the Great War. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997.

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    A seminal collection of essays discussing a wide variety of women’s writing on war, from experimental writers such as H.D. and Mary Butts to writers of popular fiction and romance.

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  • Sherry, Vincent. The Great War and the Language of Modernism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Argues that the impact of the war on modernism is revealed in a critique of liberal rationality that had brought Europe to the brink of destruction. At the level of language, this appears as a register and a voice that frequently defy logic and coherence.

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  • Tate, Trudi. Modernism, History and the First World War. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1998.

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    A wide-ranging study of responses to war that aims to challenge the divisions that have often been made between work by combatants and noncombatants, women and men, and modernism and war poetry. Arranged by themes, including war neuroses, propaganda, and war and politics.

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The Life of the Mind, the Senses, and the Emotions

Work in this area has often mined the rich historical and thematic connections between modernist literature and psychoanalysis. Ellmann 1987 is the classic account of the similarities between the subjects in modernist poetry and Freudian subjects. Ellmann points out that both are fractured by ambivalent desires and haunted by memories they can neither admit nor forget. A more recent collection of essays by the same author, Ellmann 2010, explores the networks and associations that constitute meaning in Freudian dreams and in the modernist text. Stonebridge 1998 shifts the focus to the scene of British psychoanalysis and traces the relations between this group and the Bloomsbury set among other 1930s writers, while several of the essays in Rose 2003 look more generally at the affinities between modernism and psychoanalysis. Recently there has been a renewed and widespread interest in the senses and emotions across a number of disciplines, including philosophy, literary studies, and art history. In modernist studies this turn to affect is strongly represented by Danius 2002, McIntire 2008, and Crangle 2010, which adopts a phenomenological approach to the investigation of ordinary feelings in modernist texts.

  • Crangle, Sara. Prosaic Desires: Modernist Knowledge, Boredom, Laughter, and Anticipation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.

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    Philosophically informed study of everyday emotions in modernist fiction, including Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Samuel Beckett.

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  • Danius, Sara. The Senses of Modernism: Technology, Perception, and Aesthetics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002.

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    Highly rated investigation into the impact of new technologies for recording sense data on the way that modernist writers understand categories of seeing and knowing. Danius’s main case studies are James Joyce’s Ulysses, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, and Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.

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  • Ellmann, Maud. The Poetics of Impersonality: T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Brighton, UK: Harvester, 1987.

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    Examines the absence and/or fragmentation of the self as author and protagonist in major poems by Pound and Eliot.

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  • Ellmann, Maud. The Nets of Modernism: Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Sigmund Freud. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511780714Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of Ellmann’s recent papers on modernism, brought together under the heading of interconnectivity. New psychoanalytically inflected readings of (among other topics) rats in modernism, the parent-child relationship in The Lighthouse, and return in Joyce.

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  • McIntire, Gabrielle. Modernism, Memory, and Desire: T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485176Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the return to the past by these writers is not an intellectual exercise but a “sensuous endeavour” drawing on the work of Sigmund Freud, Henri Bergson, and Friedrich Nietzsche to connect remembrance and the libido.

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  • Rose, Jacqueline. On Not Being Able to Sleep: Psychoanalysts and the Modern World. London: Chatto and Windus, 2003.

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    Includes an essay on “Virginia Woolf and the Death of Modernism” as well as essays on Elizabeth Bowen and Mary Butts.

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  • Stonebridge, Lyndsey. The Destructive Element: British Psychoanalysis and Modernism. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998.

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    Examines the work of Roger Fry, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, W. H. Auden, and Stevie Smith in the light of the work of the British Psycho-Analytical Society. Stonebridge finds a shared concern and fascination with the destructive and aggressive elements in the human psyche and with how these elements played out on the international stage in the 1930s.

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