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The Modernist Review #17

Dear Internet, we don’t really care how much Shakespeare and Newton wrote under quarantine; it is not easy to work at the moment. Last month, when we postponed our February issue in solidarity with the UCU strikes, we couldn’t imagine the kind of disruption that lay ahead. Universities around the world are closing their campuses, and BAMS is postponing events until further notice: this includes the pedagogy training day in Edinburgh (originally scheduled for 3rd April) and the Modernist Toolbox networking afternoon in Brighton (originally 24th April). We will be in touch about potential new dates as soon as we can. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to practise social distancing as much as possible, and we will do our best to build on the online community that BAMS has been developing throughout the years. 

In this spirit, the Modernist Review is looking to host a dialogue about moving teaching and events online. We are launching an open call for 500-word pieces reflecting on the response to COVID-19 in the Modernist Studies community and beyond. We want to hear about your experience, the tips and resources you are finding useful, as well as your concerns with what looks like a very sudden digital turning point. Lee Skallerup Bessette opens the conversation with a piece entitled ‘Teaching Online in Extraordinary Times’, where she calls for an ethics of trust and collaboration, and urges us to create spaces that allow communities to form. If you would like to contribute to this dialogue, please email us at or message us on Twitter to discuss the angle you would like to explore!

In the midst of all this, TMR does have a lot to rejoice in and look forward to. We want to say a massive thank you to our former PGR representatives and editors, Séan Richardson and Gareth Mills (as well as a wistful goodbye, and a happy reminder that although TMR editing lasts only for a season, BAMS is most definitely #forlife). We are also extending a huge, enthusiastic welcome to our newly elected team members Bryony Armstrong and Josh Phillips. You can read about last year’s achievements, the new editors, and their take on future projects in our annual Postgraduate Representative Update. Thank you to everyone who voted in the election!

Now back to business, although not business as usual TMR has a few suggestions to entertain you during quarantine. (Some of you may end up with a lot more reading time on their hands, while many of you will have a lot less; we encourage you to support people with caring responsibilities.)

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start): with amoebas, lizards, birds, and all things primordial. Christy Heflin reviews Cathryn Setz’s Primordial Modernism, which ‘brings the reader along an evolutionary path’ as it discusses Eugene Jolas’ journal Transition within the framework of modernist animal studies. Next, from modernist creatures to musical composition, Katherine Firth’s review of Australian Music and Modernism assesses Michael Hooper’s survey of Australian serialist music from the 1960s and 70s, which seeks to correct a nationalistic account of the works of six male composers. In a comment that resonates with last year’s TMR Dialogue, Firth calls for a more reflective use of the word ‘modernist’. 

As many of you might be about to re-visit your bonds with the everyday objects of your homes, Farah Nada tells us a touching story of lost clothes. She discusses two of Elizabeth Bowen’s short stories, ‘Making Arrangements’ (1926) and ‘Shoes: An International Episode’ (1929), looking at the way garments can carry affective traces of their owners’ subjectivities. In the continuation of our issue on Environments, Camilla Bostock reminds us that spring is coming no matter what, as she looks out to the modernist garden. She uncovers an undergrowth of peculiar plant-life in Katherine Mansfield’s short stories, highlighting how Mansfield’s vegetable encounters, with aloe plants and uncategorizable New Zealand bushes, bear upon her sense of self.

Finally, we are and we apologisesending you off with a kiss. TMR’s own Bryony Armstrong traces the tactile and intimate history of the modernist kiss in her article, drawing on encounters in D.H. Lawrence’s fiction and Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. Although we warmly recommend you read, share and enjoy this article, the Modernist Review urges you to consider refraining from public sharing of saliva where possible, and reminds you to wash your hands thoroughly and often. Reciting The Waste Land while doing so is optional. 

We hope that this issue brings you some light relief and food for thought, and we encourage you to get in touch with any submissions for TMR. We send our support to our readers and welcome suggestions for how we can make the most of our lively community and keep on developing an ethics of care in these challenging times. 

Best wishes,

Cécile, Polly, Bryony & Josh 


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