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. 

At the BAMS Networking day back in 2018, many members and Review readers suggested that an inclusive pivot towards non-literary forms of modernism would benefit the community. One way we followed this up was with a guest issue on visual modernism edited by Will Carroll, and it emerged as a topic of debate in our dialogue on modernism in the response by Naomi Milthorpe, Robbie Moore and Eliza Murphy, ‘Modernism Adjacent’. We are pleased to continue this development with reviews of three books which explore painting, radio and print culture and their intersections with literary modernism. Reviewing Writing the Radio War: Literature, Politics and the BBC, 1939-1945 by Ian Whittington, Charlotte Hallahan suggests the study ‘opens up further questions about the writer at the mid-century’, and that it particularly asks ‘what was the relationship between the autonomous artist and the social institution?’ This has long been a vital question for modernist studies, and one which has evolved since attention paid to publishing structures and networks have dissolved the ageing narrative of a strictly avant-garde modernism defined by a Lewisian/Sorelian diremptive break. This is also reflected in Aoiffe Walsh’s review of Surrealism at Play by Susan Laxton: while Walsh acknowledges that Laxton begins by emphasising the roots of Surrealism in the ‘playful chaos of Dada’, she notes that the author turns to emphasise it’s ‘discursive and public nature’ and involvement with institutional artist structures. Our final reviewer Zachary Hope looks into Britain Can Make It: The 1946 Exhibition of Modern Design, an exhibition curated by the V & A, which as an exhibition of an exhibition, is doubly invested in institutional as both investigational and representational practice.

Other feedback from the community we have received has also suggested that we focus on international modernisms, an exciting direction the discipline is moving in generally, particularly through large projects such as Andrew Thacker’s work on global modernist periodicals. Aleksandra Majak writes on Polish modernist poet Tadeusz Rózewicz, and it is a wonderful and informative piece on a strand of modernism overlooked in the British academy, despite its remarkable history. Jo Jones and Ameya Tripathi explore this theme through anglophone connections with western European literary traditions: Jones on DH Lawrence and French literature, Tripathi through their work on Nancy Cunard and Spanish printing.

We hope that you agree that whether or not the Christmas dinner is turkey, goose or the in-vogue veggie nut roast, modernism should always be the main meal, and hope too that that as many of you travel home for your winter recreation these articles might stave off political and seasonal ennui. Those who attended NWiMS in a festive Liverpool on December 6th can speak of the camaraderie and solidarity of this community, whose bonds are beyond strictly intellectual and professional. This might be exemplified by the spectacle of your ‘everdevoting’ (FW 407) editors making the 5 hour drive from London in a clapped out Ford Focus listening to One Way Song (1932) on CD. We thank BAMS member Sophie Oliver for her excellent work as organiser.

This is the last editorial written with BAMS Reps Sean Richardson and Gareth Mills in post – their terms end at the end of the month, and we will be seeking two replacements. They would like to thank the community for their support and engagement over the last two years and look forward to remaining connected as readers of this magazine. If you would like to put yourself forward as a Rep, they offer their guidance and support and can be reached via twitter or email. Polly and Cécile will see you in January with our very first eco-themed special issue. Until then –

Wishing you all the merriest Christmas! 

Polly, Cécile, Gareth and Séan

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