Opening the Archive: T. S. Eliot's Letters to Emily Hale. An Interview With Lyndall Gordon

Cécile Varry, Université de Paris


Will you do me a great favour? I enclose a money order for $4. Will you go to Galvin, or to Howard in Cambridge, and order some red or pink roses, Killarney I suppose. I understand that Emily is to act in the Cambridge Dramatic play which will be early in December […]. I enclose a card; please put it in a small envelope and address it to her simply Miss Hale, ‘Brattle Hall’, and have the roses for the Saturday night performance. 

Letter from 26-year-old T. S. Eliot to Conrad Aiken, Saturday 21 November 1914. The Letters of T. S. Eliot, Volume 1: 1898-1922, ed. Valerie Eliot & Hugh Haughton (London: Faber and Faber, 2009), p. 76. 

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The Modernist Review Issue #15

Merry Christmas Modernistas!

This bumper issue of the Modernist Review covers both November and December instead of our usual monthly publication. This extra-large hamper of intellectual delectations was bought about by the industrial action undertaken by academics nationally from 25th – 4th November, many of whom are our readers, and the general election of 12th December which required many of our readers to take local political action. 

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Scavenging for Type: Nancy Cunard and Spanish Civil War Printing

Ameya Tripathi, Columbia University, New York

The rocks are literally draped with cast-off shreds of clothing… a score of lorries and cars are half over the side of the drop; a typewriter sits on a bridge; near by a soldier asleep in an armchair; a man shaving himself in a cracked mirror.[1]

 Reporting from refugee camps in Southern France where thousands of refugees from the Spanish Civil War wait, Nancy Cunard found herself most attracted to images of writing, typing and printing. Here, the typewriter sitting unused on the bridge joins a series of other discarded items waiting, out of use, or, in the case of the mirror, ‘cracked.’ Sandeep Parmar’s edition of the Selected Poems of Nancy Cunard (2016) and Anne Donlon’s archival study of Cunard ‘Things Lost and Found’ both demonstrate a growing interest in Cunard as a poet in her own right, rather than as an anthologiser, reporter, activist, and one-person network as described by Jane Marcus.[2] In this short piece, I will focus on Cunard’s images of typing and printing and show how Cunard developed a transnational leftist sense of the class implications of radical printing that builds on movements to foster literacy common across African-American, British and Spanish anarchist and communist political movements.

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D. H. Lawrence and the French Literary Tradition: Queer Masculinities and Desires

Jo Jones, University of Manchester

At the age of twenty-two, D.H. Lawrence stated ‘[i]f English people don’t like what I write, and I think it’s probable they won’t, I shall settle in France and write for the French.’[1] As a young man trying to figure out the sort of author he would be and the sort of books he would produce, Lawrence already knew that the English would be an ill-suited reading public and toyed with the idea of the French instead. Indeed, after the refusal of publishers to accept Paul Morel (an early version of Sons and Lovers) in July 1912, having given the excuse that it was not to the taste of the English readership because of its sexual openness, Lawrence exclaimed, ‘the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today. They’ve got white of egg in their veins and their spunk is that watery its a marvel they can breed…Why, why, why was I born an Englishman!’[2] Lawrence often saw himself as waging a war against his reading public, as he struggled to get his manuscripts accepted by publishers, and those that were published were frequent targets for the censors – The Rainbow in 1915 and Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1928, and the ban on the complete unexpurgated edition of the latter was lifted only in 1960. So Lawrence struggled to identify himself with his English fellows, those puritanical and prudish men, which raised for him questions of national identity – only to be exacerbated by the First World War’s cheerful jingoism which he found repellent from the very beginning.

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Insufficiency of Lyric: Tadeusz Różewicz’s Revision

Aleksandra Majak, University of Oxford

It was late summer when the father of my best friend brought me to the house of the Polish modernist poet Tadeusz Różewicz (1921–2014). I sat on a dark green folding couch talking with the poet’s widow, Mrs Różewicz. I don’t know when our words changed into music but at some point, we all started to sing a pre-war song. Its lyrics filled the living room. ‘Life passes quickly / like a torrent time rush’– the father and Mrs Różewicz united in a vigorous chant while my best friend and I exchanged looks, trying not to roll around laughing like some absurdist characters from Różewicz’s drama. Not long after, the father of my friend died, and now when I read Różewicz’s poems I keep returning to the memory of the lyrics shared between us in the surreal intimacy of the poet’s house. 

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Book Review: Writing the Radio War

Ian Whittington, Writing the Radio War (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018)

Charlotte Hallahan, University of East Anglia

In the last two decades, academics have turned their attention to the ways in which modernist writers experimented with the new form of the radio broadcast in the early twentieth century. How did modernist writers adapt to the new soundscapes of the radio industry? What does it mean to ‘write’ sound? This scholarship has typically attended to the aesthetic and formal innovations of the new medium, and focused on how writers were inspired by these new technologies to record the ‘distant and often adulterated sounds of art and life’, in E. B. White’s words.[1] But the BBC’s monopolisation of British-broadcasted radio waves forced many writers’ radio experiments to conform to the institution’s ethical and social imperatives. Todd Avery’s (UMass Lowell) Radio Modernism (2006), Debra Rae Cohen (University of South Carolina), Michael Coyle (Colgate University) and Jane Lewty’s (University of Amsterdam) Broadcasting Modernism (2009), and Emily Bloom’s (Columbia University) The Wireless Past (2016), to name a few, draw attention to the relationship between modernist writers and cultural institutions like the BBC—to the often complex interactions between autonomous artists and transmitters of mass culture in the early and mid-twentieth century.

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Book Review: Surrealism at Play

Susan Laxton, Surrealism at Play (Maryland: Duke University Press, 2019)

Aoiffe Walsh, Royal Holloway, University of London

Surrealism’s position in the world of the historic avant-garde continues to provide rich and fruitful discourse. Susan Laxton’s Surrealism At Play is a study of the surrealist movement that puts Walter Benjamin’s notion of Spielraum, ‘free-play’, at the forefront of its aesthetic theory. This prioritisation of the philosophical significance of play offers new insight into some of the movement’s most widely-explored and sometimes tense affiliations; for example, surrealism’s intersections with such concepts as communism, psychoanalysis and historical consideration.  

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Book Review: Britain Can Make It

Diane Bilbey (eds), Britain Can Make It: The 1946 Exhibition of Modern Design (London: Paul Holberton, 2019) 

Zachary Hope, University of Chicago

The social, cultural, and historical tensions presented by the 1946 Britain Can Make It (BCMI) exhibition, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, are apparent in the many turnings of its name. Appropriating the mutual (and usefully mythic) resilience demonstrated by ‘Britain can take it,’ a ubiquitous wartime refrain itself taken from the title of a state-sponsored documentary, BCMI attempts to turn recent wartime experience on the Home Front into grounds for a postwar, market-based consensus that could accomplish the transition from wartime to peacetime. Yet a new book on BCMI, titled Britain Can Make It: The 1946 Exhibition of Modern Design (2019), edited by Diane Bilbey, also provides evidence of occasions when public response to the popular exhibition, which averaged a remarkable 20,000 visitors each day, took exception to the all-consensualising national capability proclaimed by its given name. Descriptive and pictorial reconstructions and analyses of the spaces within the exhibition give specific examples of a more general dissensus by paying consistent attention to the different ways in which individual displays were received by the visiting public. Again, however, one of Bilbey’s own contributions, on ‘Naming the Exhibition,’ aptly summarises these responses in the subsequent corruptions of BCMI’s name (p. 39). If Britain can make it, which is itself contested—‘Can Britain Make It?’ asks Leslie Illingworth in a cartoon for Punch—it is also the case that ‘Britain Can’t Have It’ because, citing the Evening Standard, ‘Britons can’t buy it’ (p. 42). Taking the force of its persuasion from prior solidarities, BCMI turns toward a post-austerity future that remains frustrated by the continuing austerity of the postwar present. Indeed, this dissatisfaction is revealed within the very marketplace of a consumer culture that should be the means of refashioning a solidarity previously ensured by imperatives of national wartime production. For Britons, continues the Evening Standard, ‘Britain Can Make It is the most frustrating show on earth’ (p. 43). 

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