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The Modernist Review Issue # 13

In 1998, two momentous events occurred that would profoundly change the nature of literary scholarship: the founding of the Modernist Studies Association and the UK launch of the KitKat Chunky.

On the surface, it might seem that the latter of these two events, a confectionary innovation designed to fatten the cheeks and lighten the wallets of sweet-toothed schoolchildren is the lesser of the two. After all, MSA was the beginning of an inter-continental re-appraisal of what modernism was supposed to be; it paved the way towards the normalisation of inter-disciplinary literary studies focused on the early twentieth century, stripping its own high priests of their sacerdotal robes and inviting a disparate community of scholars to be more than the sum of their parts. But the very success of MSA, which spawned our own BAMS, focused international collegiality, and now begins to lead the way in terms of digital humanities formats, makes it a poor symbol for what is happening in our wider culture today.

The KitKat Chunky, on the other hand, is a near-perfect example. Spawned in the halcyon Blairite years of the late 90s, it seemed to be the ideal indulgence for a nation looking forward to a decade of glut. A $200 million movie had just been made about the danger of sinking all your assets into one, tragically doomed, enterprise, and had been handsomely rewarded for it. There was no limit to the sartorial excesses of the boybands, especially when it came to their perma-bleached bangs. The left had come to its senses, was fixing up all that ghastly poverty, and consumerism was now more than OK. Don’t worry about breaking your chocolate up into little pieces, just gobble it down in one massive go. A new dawn had broken, had it not?

More-is-more had defeated the modernist less-is-more, except, eventually, it turned out it hadn’t, and now two decades of shrinkflation have left the ‘chunky’ lover’s  delectation of choice weighing in at a mere 40g – less than a AA battery, should you choose to eat one. Having abandoned the disturbingly socialist model of a breakable, shareable snack bar, the unified oblong brick now actually gives less than the ordinary four-finger variety. By opting for chunk, consumers are being punished for their lack of restraint and selfishness. As chocolate-forum-commenteer ‘Saps’ (profile picture – a bag of Skips) puts it, ‘people preferring a chunky kitkat over the 4 finger is a perfect indicator as to why we’re fucked as a nation’.

This is our way of saying that this issue of The Modernist Review is our chunkiest yet, with no less than 7 articles. However, this is to try and buck the trend of a world bedevilled by over-sold and over-marketed intellectual products that celebrate individual brilliance and serve as perishable coals for the aspiration engine. We are doing well. The Modernist Review was planned over snatched Skype conversations and the website was built in a caravan toilet (really). But we now have had over 17,000 visitors from all over the world and actively celebrate keeping the inbox under control. This chunky issue represents the amount of ideas and pitches we now receive, and is offered in the hope it will be broken up, shared with friends, and taken in the collegiate spirit intended: as a meaningful dialogue about important cultural matters by authors who have taken care over their work.

We are pleased to publish two reviews of recent books, on the continually interesting topic of Italian Futurism (Tim Clarke) and the intriguing Djuna Barnes (Peter Adkins). Also featured is a review of the recent conference on Surrealism (Margaux Van Uytvanck) and a lovely essay on Barnes’s Nightwood, sexuality and clothing by Kirsty Hewitt. This issue concludes the debate around ‘modernism’, too, with a third intervention from Tasmania-based academics (Naomi Milthorpe, Robbie Moore, and Eliza Murphy,) along with a response to the dialogue by the initiating authors Luke Seaber and Michael Shallcross, exercising their right-to-reply.

We are also delighted to publish a some selections from WI5HING WELL, a modernist themed poem by Humphrey Astley. Our second poetry publication since Ekphrastic Poems by Suzannah V. Evans, we warmly welcome more contributions of this nature.

We will not hold it against you if you devour this issue in one go. If you decide to add some more fingers to our ever-growing project, please do get in touch at as usual – we look forward to hearing from you.

Polly, Séan, Gareth & Cécile


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