The Modernist Review Issue #11

‘the blood, the noise, the endless poetry…’

War, communism, secret archives, and poetry: this month’s issue of the Modernist Review has it all.

Matthew Chambers kicks things off with a special double book review, following Matthew Taunton’s double book launch in April and May of 2019. He praises A History of 1930s British Literature (edited by Benjamin Kohlmann and Taunton) for the variety of its critical approaches, and the rigour which enables the volume’s huge range of authors to challenge canonical readings, encouraging readers to look at what is familiar in a different light. As for Red Britain, it examines the pervasive influence of the Russian Revolution on British mid-century culture, drawing on a study of multiple writers such as H. G. Wells, G. K. Chesterton, Stephen Spender, Arthur Koestler, and Dorothy Richardson. According to Chambers, the book offers ‘a thorough, clear, and fresh way through [the] archive’ which ‘provides a substantive alternative to tired discussions on art and politics, literature and culture, class, Auden, Spain, and so forth.’

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Book Reviews: Red Britain and A History of 1930s British Literature

Matthew Chambers, University of Warsaw

Matthew Taunton, Red Britain: The Russian Revolution in Mid-Century Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019)

Red Britain: The Russian Revolution in Mid-Century Culture (2019) approaches the familiar topic of the influence of the social and political changes in Soviet Russia in Great Britain, but offers a refreshing take on this historical development. Its five chapters focus on how concepts of the future, mathematics, justice and law, agriculture, and orality/illiteracy linked with religion were all impacted by the Russian Revolution. Matthew Taunton (University of East Anglia) identifies three ‘overarching’ arguments for the book which appear in each chapter: 1) that periodisation needs to consider developments prior to 1917 and later than 1956; 2) that one should work against the polarising political framework of the Cold War when considering the early impact of the Revolution, and 3), that this impact be set within the context of ‘a longer history of nationally grounded Anglo-Russian cultural and political relations’ (p. 6).

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Review: The T. S. Eliot International Summer School

Cécile Varry, Université de Paris

The 11th T. S. Eliot International Summer School (London, 6th to 14th July 2019)

I attended the T. S. Eliot Summer School for the first time in 2018, and it was a revelation. I was in the first year of my PhD — a year of people asking me (in a spectrum of tones ranging from irony to genuine concern) what on earth was left to be said about T. S. Eliot, and frankly, I was starting to wonder. In this context, and coming from a higher education system in which one gets regular friendly reminders that the Author is Dead, I was surprised to discover that T. S. Eliot, and T. S. Eliot studies, were very much alive. I left with renewed enthusiasm and unprecedented levels of confidence in my project.

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D. H. Lawrence: ‘The Blind Man’ and the Untranslatable War

Emon Keshavarz, Durham University

D.H. Lawrence’s ‘The Blind Man’ was included in his collection England, My England (1922). It presents an episode in the lives of a First World War veteran, Maurice Pervin, and his wife, Isabel. Bertie Reid, an effeminate ‘man of letters’ and a friend of Isabel’s, visits the Pervins in a story which, despite its brevity, is rich with Lawrentian philosophy and symbolism.[1] Maurice’s physical condition – he was blinded in Flanders – serves to demonstrate the untranslatable experience of the First World War.

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Book Review: The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem

Nadira Wallace, Royal Holloway, University of London

Oliver Tearle, The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)

One of T. S. Eliot’s views in the early 1920s was that we should think about literature as an organic whole or system, not as a collection of the writings of individuals[1]. There was, for Eliot, the ‘whole’ of world literature, the ‘whole’ of European literature, the ‘whole’ of English literature, and so on. Picture a library but with all the leaves of the books feeding off and generating each other (though this is not the image Eliot used). Eliot also suggested that: ‘a common inheritance’ and a ‘common cause’ unite all ‘true’ artists alive at the same time, whether they know it or not. In Oliver Tearle’s The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem, we could adapt Eliot’s argument and say that, for the poets under analysis, the most pressing ‘common inheritance’ was the Great War. And, formally at least, their ‘common cause’ the writing of a long poem in response to that War.

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The Trouble With Modernism: Responses

‘In other words, we should… make it new? Now that really would be some trouble worth making.’

Michael Shallcross, ‘The Trouble with Modernism: A Dialogue’

Issue #10 of the Modernist Review saw Michael Shallcross and Luke Seaber enter into a dialogue about the current status of modernist studies. They discussed the ways in which the ‘New Modernist studies’ has changed the study of modernism, the professional demands of the modern academy, and where it might go from here. Inspired by Modernism/modernity and their commitment to facilitating scholarly conversations on their print+ platform, TMR is delighted to publish two responses to ‘The Trouble With Modernism: A Dialogue’. We hope to continue this important dialogue about the direction and scope of our current practice, opening up a discursive space for discussion. 

Michael and Luke will be replying to these responses in a special article to be published on 8th August.

With thanks, 

Gareth, Cècile, Polly and Séan Continue reading “The Trouble With Modernism: Responses”

The Modernist Review Issue #10: Troublesome Modernisms

The Modernist Review is a magazine which wears its heart on its sleeve when it comes to the use of that troublesome word. Like its parent association the British Association of Modernist Studies, its title commits it to the interrogation and exploration of a cultural phenomenon which has been discursively constructed since its origin. Unlike a ‘movement’ with a concrete set of personnel and aims, such as suffragism or even futurism, ‘modernism’ has always been multi-faceted and loose, its conditions and qualities contested from its inception. Its dominance as a cultural descriptor of strands in Twentieth Century writing and art has oscillated, its fate linked to its terminological adoption by institutions. Examples of this latter fact are increasingly common as empirical archival work plays an ever-larger role in contemporary criticism: the conjoining of method and canon by F. R. Leavis et al. in the pages of Scrutiny; the association, by publisher John Calder, of Wyndham Lewis and Samuel Beckett as opposite temporal ends of a continuous stream; the coining of the term ‘New Modernist Studies’ by academics in a position of considerable influence and status through the editorial apparatus of an institutionally-supported academic journal. It is therefore not priestly navel-gazing or a weakness for arcane nomenclatorial bickering that leads us to focus on the trouble of this word. We are still very close to modernism by historical standards, and its skull still chatters away in the ossuary.

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The Trouble with Modernism: a Dialogue

Luke Seaber and Michael Shallcross


In early 2018, Luke Seaber (UCL) took to Twitter to share his suspicion that ‘current Modernist Studies has something of an academic Ponzi scheme about it’. This comment caught the eye of Michael Shallcross (an independent researcher), who contacted Seaber to see if he might be interested in initiating an email exchange on the state of contemporary modernist studies. Seaber and Shallcross are perhaps well-placed to provide semi-detached commentary. They are both scholars of the seemingly anti-modernist figure, G.K. Chesterton, but their research has focused upon Chesterton’s relationships with writers more closely associated with modernism (T.S. Eliot and George Orwell for Seaber; Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, and Ezra Pound for Shallcross). Similarly, they each occupy a position of relative professional remove: neither has a lectureship in modernism, but each is employed within academia (Seaber is Tutor in Modern European Culture on the international foundation year at UCL; Shallcross works in academic and student support at York).

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