TMR Editorial #24: A (Moveable) Feast of Modernism

2 October 2020

2020 has meant, among many other things, spending a lot more time in our homes and, as a result, in our kitchens. Our relationship with food feels like it has changed this year. What feel like distant memories of lockdown bring back the smell of banana bread in the oven, the yeasty squidge of sourdough starters and the frustration at all the unavailable food delivery slots and seemingly-random shortages (who bought up all the flour in the country?). A seriously surreal section of the internet claimed everything is cake (including, we suppose, this editorial), Robert Pattinson sprinkled cornflakes on pasta and blew up his microwave, Boris Johnson banned fast food adverts and asked us to count calories, and the nation found a sudden new compulsion to stockpile tins of baked beans. A quick trip to the supermarket or a meal out at a restaurant now carries its own set of risks. The gnawing anxieties about the state of the world are eating away at us and we’ve all had a lot on our respective plates. 

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The Modernist Review #23

3rd September 2020

The word ‘review’ seems to pop up everywhere in academic life – it surfaces in official emails, looms annually on the horizon, rests at the start of writing projects in literature reviews, is accompanied by edits with peer-reviews and comes alive in reviews of new books, conferences and exhibitions. In modernist studies, we might associate the word with periodicals, and think back to Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap’s The Little Review. The Modernist Review describes itself as a review of the month in modernism. Reviews can act as surveys, assessments, appraisals, reconsiderations and reflections. At the end of a very surreal summer, many of us are reviewing and readying ourselves for what looks to be a challenging term ahead, and uncertainty surrounding online and face-to-face teaching hangs in the balance as we review the ongoing impact that COVID-19 has on our lives and work.

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The Modernist Review #22

4 August 2020

As we all settle down to the new abnormal, what are the things that are giving you warm fuzzy feelings? For us here at the Modernist Review, it’s the sense of community. It looks a little bit different this year, with our PGR training days and networking afternoons all being rescheduled; instead we’re finding it through our screens, with the sharing of PDFs and archive photographs that we can’t get our hands on in person, and with every buzz of twitter notification that pops up on our phones. Our weekly #ModWrite allows us a small glimpse of people’s to-do lists, opening up a space to share thoughts, ask questions, and post pictures of #ModBake biscuits and cakes. We hosted our very first #ModZoom last week, a Pomodoro-style virtual writing session, and it was wonderful to see the faces of modernists working literally across the globe and tap into some collective brain power. We’ll be here every Wednesday 3-4:30pm, so email us at info@bams.ac.ukif you’d like to join in! Continue reading “The Modernist Review #22”

The Modernist Review #21: Modernism’s Late Temporalities

3rd July 2020

We’re accustomed to thinking of timeliness as a moral quality: it’s rude to be late. There’s the white rabbit clutching his pocket-watch, mumbling ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!’ as the palpable anxiety of missed appointments prompts Alice to spiral. In light of COVID-19, the last few months have asked us to live in one such spiralling deferral. In Pandemic Temporalities: Crisis, Curve, Crip (in a Twitter keynote here) Beryl Pong suggests ‘We yearn for the “Before Time” and prepare for the “After Time”’ even as we know these delineations to be false and the effects of the virus to exacerbate already existing inequalities. Repeatedly, we’ve been told these are ‘unprecedented times’ – but unprecedented for who, in which epoch, under what conditions? Laura Ryan asks this very question in The ‘Late’ Modernism of Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille, exploring how a novel so ‘ahead of its time’ shows our own times to still be behind. As Ryan puts it in view of the Black Lives Matter protests: ‘Worldwide events today are the result of centuries-old dreams deferred, progress postponed, promises broken’. The urgency demanded of our contemporary moment can no longer afford for our institutions to be late to the party. Continue reading “The Modernist Review #21: Modernism’s Late Temporalities”

The Modernist Review #20: Moving Bodies


1st June 2020

Is the stay-at-home order making you notice your body more? Maybe it’s the niggling aches and pains that are making you miss the ergonomic desk chair in your office, or are making you wish you had one in the first place. Perhaps you’re a FitBit wielding, 10,000 steps per day kind of lockdown warrior – or, like us, you’re feeling victimised by your iPhone tracker telling you, ‘on average, you’re moving less this year compared to last year’. 

We never thought a socially-distanced supply run to Sainbury’s would be a conscious experience of joyful movement but, honestly, months of sitting still at home has changed the way so many of us think about our moving bodies. Our 20th issue of the Modernist Review invites you to reflect on motion through the bodies of modernism: through dancing and performance, and through disability and aestheticism. Here at BAMS, we’ve been embracing the stillness and moving things online in the worldwide bid to stay at home: the bi-annual committee meeting took place on (the now ubiquitous) Zoom, and it was great to see the faces of committee members old and new. And, in that vein, at the beginning of May not one but two winners of our annual BAMS Essay Prize were announced. Congratulations again to Megan Girdwood for her (very fitting!) essay on ‘Dance Dialogues in Mina Loy and Carl Van Vechten’, and to Harriet Walters for ‘Rural Ritual, Gardening Faith: Ford Madox Ford’s Memorial Plots’. No doubt many of us feel fresh envy for Ford’s access to a garden of one’s own. Girdwood and Walters’ essays will be published in Modernist Cultures, and we can’t wait to read them! 

We also hosted our very first #ModMovie night, and loved the voters’ pick of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’. If you still want to watch it, you can find the video link on our Twitter page. Of course, one of the standout moments is Chaplin’s dance to his ‘Nonsense Song’, proving himself to be the ultimate modernist hipster icon – he did the moonwalk before Michael Jackson made it cool. Dancing, as it turns out, has become one of those positive gems that have been emerging out of this global health crisis. Several leading dance companies have been streaming their performances online, sometimes with a pay-what-you-can goodwill donation system, and we’ve been grateful to enjoy performances that might not have been accessible to us before, whether because of price, time or location. 

For Róisín O’Brien, reviewing Ramsay Burt and Michael Huxley’s Dance, Modernism, and Modernity, dance is more than just a form of vicarious escapism, but something that ‘expand[s] notions of modernism(s)’ and ‘intersects with modernity’. Her review provides an insight into a new ‘historiography of dance and modernism’, though not, perhaps, at the artists that we might expect to hear about when we think of dance and the modernist canon. Burt and Huxley’s ‘selection aims not to write the artists in question into the canon, but rather to question their omission in the first place’. O’Brien highlights the impact of surveys of modernist dance outside of the academy, pointing out that ‘dance artists […] may benefit from the close readings of works’. Do you fall into this category? Have you been taking any online dance classes, streamed on YouTube or live on Zoom or Instagram? We’d love to hear about modernist dancing happening in our respective homes!

Francesca Dytor takes a rather more specific look at another figure of modernist dance who might never have crossed your horizon, whether you have two left feet or not. Her article explores ‘the case of the now little-known dancer Alexander Sacharoff’, who moved through a series of poses in a way that might not seem typical of dance to the untrained eye. ‘This stony beauty left many critics cold’, while others felt ‘awed at the potency invested in the simple positioning of a fingertip, or the turn of the thigh.’ Maybe this is an awe we’ll try to feel as we look down at our typing fingers in our 982nd hour at our computers. (Not, that is, that we’re writing anything past ramblings at the moment.) 

Taking a step back from her vivid analysis of Sacharoff, Dytor calls us to think more about how the dancing body takes ‘centre stage, invites criticism, demands praise, and at certain moments has been a crucible for debate over the proper nature of the body.’ The usually too-rigid idea of ‘the proper nature of the body’ brings us to Michael Davidson’s Invalid Modernism: Disability and the Missing Body of the Aesthetic, reviewed for us by Aaron Pugh. He highlights how ‘Davidson wisely cautions us to remember how an understanding of “the aesthetic” can represent “not merely a branch of philosophy but a series of acts and practices that makes sensible what society would prefer not to see”.’ This book ‘reveals a litany of bodies and minds which […] could not be contained, reduced or marginalised within “normative versions of national, gendered, or racialised identity”.’ Pugh’s review comes at a time when, amid the reams of Covid-related discourse, the voices of disability campaigners in universities have been, and should continue to be, highlighted and even vindicated just a little. Classes have been moved online and, in particular, lectures are being recorded after years of our disabled students and colleagues being told that this was not possible. As we eagerly await the day that university buildings reopen and we can joyously reunite with the books we had to leave behind, let’s take the time to consider what our institutions could do to create spaces that accommodate the movements of everybody and not just able bodies.

We might not be able to move much, or very far, but we hope that this month’s dive into modernist movement brings you some joy, and maybe even puts a spring in your step as you embark on an essential voyage out to the supermarket or some government-mandated exercise. And if you live in England, maybe you and five friends can channel the six narrators of The Waves as you gather in the sunshine for some socially-distanced socialising. And, as ever, we encourage you to get in touch with us if you’ve any ideas or pitches for TMR! Our shiny new email address is tmr@bams.ac.uk, and we’re on Twitter at @Modernistudies

With all best wishes, and we hope you are managing to stay safe,

Cécile, Polly, Bryony and Josh

The Modernist Review #18: Pedagogies

Over the past few weeks, academic Twitter has been ablaze with debates over the dos, don’ts and hows of pandemic teaching, ranging from the helpful (threads of tips and resources from zoom aficionados, encouragements to give up on unattainable perfection) to the very much not (debates on who has it harder, childless academics or academics with children). Frankly, it’s a mess. 

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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.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #17”

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. 

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