The Modernist Review #29

29 April 2021

Have you felt self-conscious lately? How very modernist of you. Perhaps it’s because (in the U.K. at least) we are beginning, very slowly, to adjust to a relaxing of the pandemic rules, and remind ourselves how to behave in social interactions, or wear something that isn’t loungewear. Or perhaps it’s because we are more self-aware of ourselves within our working space. No longer is ‘a room of one’s own’ a private domain but open to frequent outside scrutiny on Zoom or Teams. People we may not even know gaze into our homes and wonder at the wallpaper or the chaos or the occasional glimpse of a dog’s tail passing by, and few of us can or want to move to a new abode as often as Elizabeth von Arnim to find a tranquil personal space. The ubiquity of Zoom meetings forces us to look at ourselves within our working space, a dystopian parody of Ilse Bing’s photographic self-portrait – though we’re sure there are plenty of modernists who would have loved the memes about looking at oneself on Zoom, not to mention the solemnity of that yellow halo surrounding the speaker’s box. Continue reading “The Modernist Review #29”

Book Review: Unveiling historical blanching: Shola von Reinhold’s LOTE

29 April 2021

Isabelle Coy-Dibley, University of Westminster

“Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman,” Virginia Woolf said.

 “And/or Black,” Malachi said. (352-53)     

Continue reading “Book Review: Unveiling historical blanching: Shola von Reinhold’s LOTE”

Publishing the Archive: Samuel Beckett’s Philosophy Notes. An Interview with Steven Matthews and Matthew Feldman.

29 April 2021

Jonathan McAllister, University of Cambridge

Steven Matthews and Matthew Feldman ed., Samuel Beckett’s ‘Philosophy Notes’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020)


Old Greek: I can’t find my notes on the pre-Socratics. The arguments of the Heap and the Bald Head (which hair falling produces baldness) were used by the Sophists and I think have been variously attributed to one or the other. They disprove the reality of mass in the same way and by means of the same fallacy as the arguments of the Arrow and Achilles and the Tortoise, invented a century earlier by Zeno the Eleatic, disprove the reality of movement. The leading Sophist, against whom Plato wrote his dialogue, was Protagoras and he is probably the “old Greek” whose name Hamm can’t remember.


– Letter from Samuel Beckett to Alan Schneider, 21 November 1957.[1]

When asked in 1961 whether he was influenced by philosophical writing, Samuel Beckett said that he neither read nor understood philosophers. In the early 2000s, however, a corpus of reading notes, taken by Beckett between 1932 and 1938, came to the attention of scholars working on Beckett’s oeuvre. These notes cover the history of western philosophy, from the sixth century BCE to the late nineteenth century CE, and consist of roughly five hundred sides of handwritten and typed loose notebook pages. In the last two decades, these notes have been the source of much discussion and debate within Beckett studies, contributing to the questions concerning Beckett’s relationship with philosophy that have animated critics since the 1960s. Many scholars have sought to elaborate these notes’ significance to and place within the Beckett canon, sensitive to the ambiguities and paradoxes involved in philosophical readings of his texts. Peter Fifield, for example, has written that Beckett’s ‘texts are never a neutral ground to which we may bring an objective method; rather, philosophy is already present and at work in them’.[2] How then might we use these notes to enrich our understanding of the philosophy at work in the texture of Beckett’s prose and theatre? In late 2020, Oxford University Press published their much anticipated edition of Beckett’s ‘Philosophy Notes’ edited by Steven Matthews and Matthew Feldman, opening the debate to a wider audience of researchers and students than previously possible. This edition contains a thorough introduction and extensive footnotes written by two scholars who have spent much of their career reading and thinking about Beckett’s oeuvre, making it an invaluable addition to the shelves of any library. I asked Steven and Matthew to share their experiences of working with these notes over the last two decades and their insights into the significance of these notes to Beckett’s work for this interview with The Modernist Review.

Continue reading “Publishing the Archive: Samuel Beckett’s Philosophy Notes. An Interview with Steven Matthews and Matthew Feldman.”

Book Review: Affective Materialities

29 April 2021

Isabelle Jenkinson, University of Leeds

Affective Materialities opens with an invitation for its contributors. Kara Watts and Molly Volanth Hall describe how the body in modernist literature has been claimed differently within recent critical theory by ecocriticism and affect theory. Their invitation is to consider the modernist body as it appears at the intersection of these two schools of thought. In other words, the collection asks how we might consider the body in its material relation to ecologies and as a subject experiencing affect.  Continue reading “Book Review: Affective Materialities”

Book Review: Dynamic Form: How Intermediality Made Modernism

29 April 2021

Rachel Fountain Eames, University of Birmingham

Cara L. Lewis, Dynamic Form: How Intermediality Made Modernism (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 2020)

Cara L. Lewis’s first monograph, Dynamic Form, presents a reading of modernism that unites the historicist turn of New Modernist Studies with New Formalism, to show how re-establishing a dialogue between these two critical approaches encourages a deeper understanding of form itself. Lewis follows these two tributaries of criticism which, she argues, have grown too separate, resulting in a false dichotomy which risks diminishing the value of both. ‘As modernism has come to mean history, not form,’ she argues, ‘so too has form been transmuted into archive, into medium’ (6). Fortunately, Dynamic Form offers an expansive, intermedial approach to modernism which demonstrates the potential for intriguing new interpretations that a unified approach can facilitate. Drawing case studies from a cross-section of modernist literature – Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Mina Loy, Evelyn Waugh, Gertrude Stein – Lewis explores the cross-pollination of a diverse range of artistic media and literature in order to demonstrate the affordances of intermedial form for these writers.

Continue reading “Book Review: Dynamic Form: How Intermediality Made Modernism”

A Writer Prepares: Reading Woolf’s Diary as Rehearsal Process

29 April 2021

Ellie Mitchell, University of St Andrews

Although diaries seldom make an appearance in her fiction, Virginia Woolf kept one for almost the entirety of her adult life, and her diary played a leading role in the composition of her works.[1]Certainly, since Leonard Woolf’s publication of the abridged A Writer’s Diary in 1953, it has become a critical commonplace to observe that Woolf plans, practises, and reflects on her writings in her diary.[2]What remains to be investigated, however, are the precise ways in which this planning, practice, and reflection are carried out. From as early as 1903, Woolf refers to her diarising as ‘training for eye & hand’, but what does this training involve?[3]Which aspects of writing does Woolf practise in her diary, and how precisely does she practise them? Continue reading “A Writer Prepares: Reading Woolf’s Diary as Rehearsal Process”

The Modernist Review #28: Modernism in the Contemporary

26 February 2021

This special issue of the Modernist Review aims to bring together approaches to modernism that relate to contemporary times. Much in the way that life as we know it has changed since the spread of Coronavirus, modernism grew out of a time of great change in the early part of the 20th-century. Urmila Seshagiri suggests that contemporary fiction is interested in modernism’s defamiliarizing act and the rewriting of “public and private discourses through the violent, surprising, or thrilling erasure of the habitual and the known.” In commissioning works for this issue, I asked contributors to think about the ways in which the ideals and aesthetics of modernism are still relevant today, and what inspirations and techniques we can use to reflect our own realities. In this vein, Orlaith Darling unpicks the ways in which writers June Caldwell and Lucy Sweeney Byrne borrow from James Joyce’s Ulysses in her article Rewriting Joyce in contemporary Irish women’s short fiction. Caldwell shapes Joycean characteristics to paint a contemporary picture of Dublin in her story ‘Dubstopia’, using her main character as a vehicle to explore the city in a similar way to Joyce’s Leopold Bloom. Darling reads Sweeney Byrne’s story ‘Le Rêve’ in the context of Dubliners, both what it borrows and how it subverts Joyce’s own stories within the collection.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #28: Modernism in the Contemporary”

Somewhere Else Things Are Changing

26th February 2021

Chloe Austin

In that heady summer when the apocalypse seemed to have temporarily receded, I talked my family into a weekend at the seaside. While I sold them on the white cliffs of Botany Bay, I knew my ulterior motive: We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South had opened at the Turner Contemporary in Margate and I was determined not to miss it. Among the range of mediums, subjects and techniques on display were a selection of quilts, most of which were made in a small town on a bend of the Alabama River, called Boykin but more commonly known as Gee’s Bend.[1] Mainly women, the Gee’s Bend quilters are tied by the familial and communal bonds of the African American hamlet where quilting skills have been passed down and innovated upon for generations.

Continue reading “Somewhere Else Things Are Changing”

Book Review: Annotating Modernism

26th February 2021

Julie Irigaray, The University of Huddersfield

Amanda Golden, Annotating Modernism: Marginalia and Pedagogy from Virginia Woolf to the Confessional Poets (Abingdon: Routledge, 2020)

‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’  After a year when teachers have had to adapt to online teaching, this adage sounds particularly insensitive and inappropriate. In the case of Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, and Ted Hughes, one can say that those who do can also be teachers. Great poets do not automatically become great teachers, but Amanda Golden’s Annotating Modernism demonstrates how these four put a lot of effort into designing and delivering courses that would enable their students to achieve a better understanding of modernism, as well as the creative process itself.

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Toni Roberts interviews Jesse Ataide of @queer_modernisms

26 February 2021

Toni Roberts

When did you become interested in Modernism and queerness? What was it that resonated with you and how did you come to create the @queer_modernisms Instagram account?

My interest in modernism and queerness is the culmination of a lot of different factors. I come from a conservative, rural, religious background, and until I left for college my exposure to contemporary pop culture was very limited—no television or secular music, and a select group of movies. As an artistically-inclined, socially awkward little boy I found an escape in reading, as well as the visual arts, and, later, classic Hollywood films. 

Continue reading “Toni Roberts interviews Jesse Ataide of @queer_modernisms”

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