The Modernist Review #18: Pedagogies

Over the past few weeks, academic Twitter has been ablaze with debates over the dos, don’ts and hows of pandemic teaching, ranging from the helpful (threads of tips and resources from zoom aficionados, encouragements to give up on unattainable perfection) to the very much not (debates on who has it harder, childless academics or academics with children). Frankly, it’s a mess. 

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‘A Period of Intense and Feverish Activity’: Experimental Education in the Age of Modernism

Charlie Pullen, Queen Mary, University of London

If you were a child in the 1920s, and if your parents happened to be of means and a certain kind of bohemian persuasion, you might have ended up going to a school like Summerhill. Founded by A.S. Neill in 1921, Summerhill first opened its doors in Austria, before moving to England in 1923. Based at a redbrick farmhouse in rural Suffolk, where it remains today, Summerhill looks from the outside to be a charming, idyllic place for children to grow up.

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Virginia Woolf and Divergent Education in the Twenty-First Century

William Bowden, University of Rhode Island

In an essay entitled Why’ (1934), originally published in Lysistrata, a magazine produced by students at Somerville, the women’s college at Oxford, Virginia Woolf satirises the practice of lecturing. She makes it abundantly clear that it is a painful experience both for the audience and for the lecturer himself. For the audience member, it is one of those ‘rare’ but ‘never-to-be sufficiently lamented occasions when in deference to friendship, or in a desperate attempt to acquire information […] it seemed necessary to attend a lecture.’[1] At the same time, the lecturer is described as ‘a harried-looking man, a man from whose face nervousness, vanity, or perhaps the depressing and impossible nature of his task had removed all traces of ordinary humanity’ (my emphasis).[2] Mustering up some sympathy for the lecturer, Woolf muses on the conditions that have perpetuated this (for her) obsolete custom. She writes, ‘why encourage your elders to turn themselves into prigs and prophets when they are ordinary men and women? Why force them to stand on a platform for forty minutes while you reflect upon the colour of their hair and the longevity of flies?’[3]

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Religious Eroticism and Pedagogy in Olive Moore’s Celestial Seraglio: A Tale of Convent Life

Benjamin D. Hagen, University of South Dakota

A pause; a quiet survey of the grave faces in the hushed room; a moistening of the lips as the climax approached . . . “You see children, she was blind. God does not forget.”[1]

Though Olive Moore’s Spleen (1930) has been the subject of excellent scholarship over the past decade,[2] her first novel Celestial Seraglio: A Tale of Convent Life (1929) remains out-of-print and (as far as I know) unread, unstudied, and unassigned. Presented in four chapters that Moore splinters into sections and subsections, the short novel employs an ironic free indirect style reminiscent of Joyce, Woolf, and Richardson. It rapidly cuts from character to character and scene to scene, perpetually re-situating its readers and resetting its action every few pages. The following sentences, for instance, drawn from the beginnings of just a few of the novel’s sections, drop us into the middle of schooltime conflicts and experiments for which we have little preparation: Continue reading “Religious Eroticism and Pedagogy in Olive Moore’s Celestial Seraglio: A Tale of Convent Life”

The Modernist Review #17

Dear Internet, we don’t really care how much Shakespeare and Newton wrote under quarantine; it is not easy to work at the moment. Last month, when we postponed our February issue in solidarity with the UCU strikes, we couldn’t imagine the kind of disruption that lay ahead. Universities around the world are closing their campuses, and BAMS is postponing events until further notice: this includes the pedagogy training day in Edinburgh (originally scheduled for 3rd April) and the Modernist Toolbox networking afternoon in Brighton (originally 24th April). We will be in touch about potential new dates as soon as we can. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to practise social distancing as much as possible, and we will do our best to build on the online community that BAMS has been developing throughout the years.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #17”

Fusing Mouths: Tactility and the Kiss in Modernist Literature

Bryony Armstrong,  Durham University

In January 1923, the newly registered brand, Kissproof, advertised its lipstick with the words: ‘New! Different! Exquisitely modern!’.[1] As lipstick entered the realm of acceptability, the lips became the fleshy recipient of intense colour sculpting. Yet Kissproof’s unsmudgeability is suggestive not simply of attentive lip care in the twentieth century mode of toilette, but of attention to the touch that makes lipstick smear. The ‘new, different, exquisitely modern’ product – with a slogan that could be an epithet for modernism itself – was foregrounded by changing cultural understanding of the romantic-sexual kiss in the early twentieth century.

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‘Ceux sont à vous, peut-être?’: Losing Clothes in Elizabeth Bowen

Farah Nada, University of Exeter

In Elizabeth Bowen’s short story ‘Sunday Evening’ (1923) the following exchange takes place:

[…] ‘They didn’t wear fig leaves till after the Fall.’
‘That must have been nice […] – I mean the no fig-leaves. But inexpressive—’
‘—Yes, inexpressive. I was going to say, rather impersonal.’
‘Oh, come, Gilda, if one’s own skin isn’t personal, what is!’
[…] ‘I don’t think it’s very personal. After all, it’s only the husk of one – unavoidably there. But one’s clothes are part of what one has got to say. Eve was much more herself when she […] had got the fig-leaves on […].’
‘Then do you think covering oneself up is being real?’ […].
‘I don’t know,’ said Gilda Roche. ‘The less of me that’s visible, the more I’m there.’[1]

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Katherine Mansfield in the Garden: Modernism’s Weird Botany

Camilla Bostock, University of Plymouth

In an early autobiographical vignette, ‘In the Botanical Gardens’ (1907), the short story writer Katherine Mansfield has a transformative experience. She writes:

suddenly it disappears—all the pretty, carefully-tended surface of gravel and sward and blossom, and there is bush, silent and splendid. […] And everywhere, that strange, indefinable scent. As I breathe it, it seems to absorb, to become part of me—and I am old with the age of centuries, strong with the scent of savagery.[1]

Continue reading “Katherine Mansfield in the Garden: Modernism’s Weird Botany”

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