The Modernist Review #40: Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance

2 June 2022

In Modernism and Performance (2007), Olga Taxidou observed that ‘the concept of performance [has] remained stubbornly connected to the critical legacies of the historical avant-garde and stubbornly ignored in canonical readings of literary Modernism’ (8). Indeed the concept of ‘performance’ still presents significant challenges to the theorization, categorization, and periodization of modernist artworks. Yet this provides us with a fertile opportunity to critically reflect upon the ways in which artists and theorists responded to modernity in the early twentieth century, revising our theoretical understanding of the culture and politics of this period by deploying the concept of ‘performance’. The debate concerning how a performative aesthetics or theory accords with or troubles our understanding of the relations between modernism and the avant-garde is thus a question that still warrants critical scrutiny. This is a provocation that animates the short articles published in this issue, with four writers responding in their own way to this question.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #40: Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance”

The Modernist Review #38

28 February 2022

There is an obvious satisfaction in the precision of a four-week month, but the brevity of February is nonetheless surprising; modernist time warps abound. And here we are again to present another issue of The Modernist Review. With a rich offering of content this month, our contributors cycle through circadian rhythms, carve up abstract woodcuts, reflect on archiving archives, ruminate on the mouth of James Joyce’s fictional alter-ego and reconcile the anxieties and embarrassment of ageing modernist writers. Though we’ve racked our brains for a theme, the closest we’ve come is a sense of fragmentation, a churning through literary archaeology in order to break something new loose—as evidenced in our cover image this month, Cézanne’s ‘La Carrière de Bibémus’. This is your cue to settle in with a brew.

Continuing a conversation on a text featured in our last issue, Dominic Berry‘s article ‘Ecstatic Twilight and the Night-Day Polarity in D. H. Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy (1916)’ delves into a study of the conflict between the ‘negating, modern confusion of being’ with what one might call ‘the oscillating, or circadian, mode of becoming’. According to Berry, Lawrence’s  emphasis on the dynamic relationship between opposite poles allows the author to overcome the impasse of dualism.

A ‘modern confusion of being’ is brought into a new and different kind of order in the work of Wassily Kandinsky, Anne Regina Grasselli argues in ‘Wassily Kandinsky’s Woodcuts: Early Representations of Non-Objective Imagery’. The article explores the ‘new, non-objective pictorial language’ of Kandinsky’s prints which led him to the establishment of a fully abstract style in the first decades of the twentieth century. 

Rory Hutchings‘s review of Eliot and Beckett’s Low Modernism: Humility and Humiliation by Rick De Villiers maps the cultivation of low modernism in the works of T.S. Eliot and Samuel Beckett, demonstrating how each writer poses a challenge to a positivist modernism. According to Hutchings, the study offers ‘a new way to consider two of modernism’s enduring icons’. Remaining with the canonical but refreshing understandings of salivation and selfdom, Annie Williams‘s article is entitled ‘James Joyce and the Modernist Mouth’. Williams explores twentieth-century modernist literature and its cross-references with salivary diagnostics with a focus on oral dysfunctions in Joyce’s early texts. Williams notes how the characters’ “reluctance to speak, spit, or kiss” has deep implications, as it sheds light on their conflictual approach to “nationality, language, and religion” and often accompanies their “crises of selfhood”.

From crises of the individual to crises of the critical, Emily Bell reviews Historicizing Modernists: Approaches to ‘Archivalism’, edited by Matthew Feldman, Anna Svendsen and Erik Tonning. The oft-cited notion of an ‘archival turn’ in modernist studies is scrutinised in this text, as Bell highlights, elucidating the study’s questions of what we choose to preserve as ‘archive’ and the methods we use to do so, as well as pointing to alternative ways of conceptualising the idea of the archive. Bell reflects on the volume’s focus on the practice and production of modernist archives, examined through specific archives of major modernist figures and ‘new perspectives on how archives historicise modernism through various approaches – queer, transnational and feminist, for example’. 

In a few words of housekeeping, this issue is our first with our new postgraduate representatives, Jinan Ashraf, Elena Valli, and Hannah Voss. They are very excited to be joining the BAMS team and we are thrilled to have them; please extend a warm welcome and do feel free to reach out to them in their new capacity.

Finally, given the uncertainty of the last few weeks and days, especially within the academy but also globally, we are grateful to our authors for offering hope by pointing to the past, a reminder that it is through the benefit of hindsight that we are able to make ‘ordered sense of what might otherwise be seen as a fragmented cluster of shapes’ (Grasselli). Furthermore, we are grateful to our colleagues who continue to fight to create a viable future in academia for those like our contributors, and we postgraduate editors.

With best wishes,

Jennifer, Emily, Hannah, Elena & Jinan

Image credit: Paul Cézanne, La Carrière de Bibémus, c. 1895, oil on canvas, Museum Folkwang. Public domain.

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.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #37”

The Modernist Review #36

6 December 2021

Nothing could be more modernist than the way we’ve experienced time in 2021. How is it possible that 2022 is about to hit us faster than Octave Mirbeau’s car, and yet so many of the days have crept by with the mire of stream of consciousness meticulousness? The festive season is finally upon us, though, and we’re once again trying to sum up a year in the life (Gilmore Girls who?) as BAMS PG Reps here at the Modernist Review. Speaking of festivities, things got busy this summer as we enjoyed all of the wonderful talks, interviews and panels at the Festival of Modernism. This online conviviality came a few months after the Postgraduate Training Day, too, finally back after the 2020 hiatus; we loved connecting online with our fellow postgraduates and learning about all things pedagogy from our illustrious exec and other exciting guests. We’re all about to get together this week, too, for another Zoom version of New Work in Modernist Studies. While we wish we could be raising a glass together in person, we’re delighted that postgrads from around the world are able to join us again this year to share their work. Continue reading “The Modernist Review #36”

The Modernist Review #35: the Transnational

8 November 2021

In the last year and a half, we have all been reminded that transnationality is not synonymous with travel. The way people and ideas extend beyond national boundaries is about far more than getting on a train, a ship, or a plane (take note, those who flew by private jet to COP26). Zoom talks, virtual art exhibitions, blogs and vlogs let us see, hear, and read things from across the globe with more ease than ever.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #35: the Transnational”

The Modernist Review #34: Modernism and Science

30th September 2021

The beginning of Autumn is a great time for reflection, and 2021 has given us more than enough to think about. As we debate the ethics of vaccine boosters, try to interpret the erratic rise and fall of the graphs, and do our best to resist imitating Chris Whitty’s ‘Next Slide Please!’ whenever we open Powerpoint, it’s clear that science – and the debates it elicits – have become increasingly unavoidable. The last two years have shown more than ever the ways in which science – its methods, images, and practical applications – pervade and shape both our lived experience and our artistic interpretation of our place in the natural world. Of course, though science’s cultural presence may have been particularly stark of late, it is certainly nothing new. This issue of the Modernist Review brings a wealth of examples of the varied ways in which modernism and science were interwoven in the first half of the twentieth century to generate innovative aesthetics, striking social commentary, and dramatic philosophical and political conversations across fields.

Continue reading “The Modernist Review #34: Modernism and Science”

The Modernist Review #33

We had a lovely summer in the UK. This year it was on a Wednesday. We can’t lie though and say we’re not excited for the sinfully early reemergence of the pumpkin spice latte, which we’re pretty sure T. E. Hulme would have included in his poem ‘Autumn’ had he had a cosy cafe down the road. It’s the last few weeks of being able to take a book outdoors, though, and finish off that summer reading we said we’d do (what’s that joke about managing to turn all your hobbies into chores, again?), and we’re determined to make the most of it before the leaves fall and the madness of school and university term hits.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #33”

The Modernist Review #32: Book History & Networks

2 August 2021

Have you experienced the joy of returning to your favourite bookshop yet? Flicking through pages to decide what to choose, asking a bookseller for a recommendation, with the smell of paper and possibly the clink of teaspoons and the whir of a coffee machine from the cafe at the back. Maybe you listened to ‘coffee shop sound effects’ on YouTube while you read during lockdown – a lot of that reading was probably on a screen, as librarians (our unsung heroes) rushed to provide eBooks, and publishers limited review copies to digital rather than print. It’s been a strange year for books, and it’s made us here at the Modernist Review leaf back through the pages of book history to a century ago, and think deeply about the networks in which we read and exchange books.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #32: Book History & Networks”

The Modernist Review #31: Visual Cultures

1 July 2021

In Jean Rhys’s 1927 short story, ‘Mannequin’, we open to the scene of Anna trying to find her way to the lunch room, dressed in the ‘chemise-like garment of the mannequin off duty’.[1] On the cusp between a state of dress and undress, between human individuality and thingness, clocked-on objectification and clocked-off satiation of hunger, Anna and the other mannequins represent a crossroads of modernist preoccupations with visual culture. Rhys traverses the bridge between mannequin as human model and mannequin as static window-dressing with Parisian grace, grappling with the tension between stillness and movement that embodies the ways of seeing and being seen in modernist artforms. In this Benjaminian age of mechanical reproduction, where does the agency lie in visual forms of representation? Continue reading “The Modernist Review #31: Visual Cultures”

The Modernist Review #30: Modernist Festivities

1 June 2021

If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that festivity is a central way in which we sustain our social relations. In the COVID-19 pandemic, parties have gained new levels of attention in the public sphere, with sociability being policed and politicised. We have seen both the positive and negative effects of this: socially distanced or online parties become warm and fuzzy news items, while superspreader events become sources for opprobrium and outrage. Continue reading “The Modernist Review #30: Modernist Festivities”

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