The Modernist Review #37

31 January 2022

Happy New Year! And welcome to a very exciting year for modernism. 2022 marks the centenary of what has been termed the ‘height of modernism’. 1922 was a momentous year for publishing with T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’ and Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room all released into the world; it was also the year that the BBC was founded, Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered and Alfred Hitchcock directed his first feature film. As such, here at The Modernist Review, we will keep you updated on all the special events and celebrations which are being planned for this year. 

While 1922 is heralded as the watershed moment for canonical modernism, this centenary is also an opportune moment to re-examine what is remembered and forgotten in modernism’s ever-shifting textual, cultural and critical landscape. What about May Sinclair’s novel, The Life and Death of Harriett Frean, Georgia Douglas Johnson’s poetry collection, Bronze, or the production of Germaine Dulac’s film, La Souriante Madame Beudet? All examples of works from 1922 which may or may not be considered modernist. A big part of modernist studies is to continue to probe and interrogate the boundaries and remit of our field: why are some works modernist and others excluded? And with that in mind, our first issue of The Modernist Review in 2022 gently eases us into some modernist re-thinkings of D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the somatic rhythms of imaginings of Salome.

In her article, ‘Rural Walking and the Sick Flâneur in D. H. Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy (1916)’, Nicola Dimitriou recasts this work by Lawrence as an example of his protest against mechanisation. Rather than representing escapism as it has previously been considered, Dimitriou demonstrates Lawrence’s commitment to adopting the persona of the sick flâneur. Sometimes a romantic figure of rural wandering, Lawrence’s position as a visitor to the Alps – and one who is ailing – complicates his relationship with his surroundings. This thread is taken up by Manon Hakem-Lemaire’s article on Lawrence. Hakem-Lemaire explores the ethical difficulties surrounding Lawrence’s Mornings in Mexico (1927) by suggesting that a generic realignment of the work can help us “transcend the postcolonialism binary”. Her explorations of sentimentality, cultural difference and the ethics of the onlooker bring an important perspective to the fore in terms of how categories of genre inform the writer’s work and the reader’s responsibility.

Responsible consumption is not, however, at stake in ‘E. M. Forster’s Art Object Etiquette’. Proper appreciation of art – whatever that means – is tackled by Aiswarya Jayamohan in their article considering how Forster queers ways of observing and appreciating visual forms. In particular, the “crudeness” he registers in looking at art ‘wrongly’, as dictated by coded practices of etiquette. In focusing on an oft-overlooked essay of Forster, Jayamohan expounds how Forster pushes back on highly socialised structures that govern how we look or do not look at art objects.

Frankie Dytor demonstrates, too, how Megan Girdwood encourages different ways of looking, namely at the figure of Salome, too often fated by a “two-sided interpretative coin of male horror and deviant body”. Dytor’s review of Modernism and the Choreographic Imagination shows that Girdwood eschews the specificity of performance in favour of a multimedial perspective of Salome’s dance: in their own summation, ‘the book is not a history of the dancing Salome, it is a history about the idea of Salome dancing’. Their review reflects that reimagined myths of modernism (such as Salome) are still inspiring reinventions of our understanding of female authorship and feminist interpretations.  

In the veins of optimism and reflection on improving circumstances, today is the last day to submit an individual paper for the BAMS conference, ‘Hopeful Modernisms’ (University of Bristol, 23-25 June 2022), and there is still time to propose other formats. We look forward to the BAMS community – new and old – gathering again, hopeful that this auspicious date proves propitious. We hope you enjoy reading the thirty-seventh edition of The Modernist Review.

Best wishes,

Emily & Jennifer


Image Credit: An Post, 2022.

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