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Book Review: Historicizing Modernists: Approaches to ‘Archivalism’

28 February 2022

Emily Bell, University of Antwerp

Historicizing Modernists: Approaches to ‘Archivalism’, edited by Matthew Feldman, Anna Svendsen and Erik Tonning (London: Bloomsbury, 2021)

This study of new turns in modernist archives in all their guises represents an admirable effort to bring together research with a central paradox: the implied emphasis on (literary or creative) process in the analysis of archives requires a destabilization of such process. This collection of essays overcomes this, however, casting its net far, wide and deep into the possibilities furnished by archival documents and the potentialities within ongoing archive formation. In this way, the study is not afraid to expose the vulnerability of the discipline. The archivist’s desire for comprehensiveness is confronted by the concomitant inevitability that such comprehensiveness renders the archive ever more diverse, disparate and unwieldy. This is all useful, however, for affirming the contextualising matrices that surround an author and their work, as endorsed by the new modernist studies.  Continue reading “Book Review: Historicizing Modernists: Approaches to ‘Archivalism’”

Book Review: The Making of Samuel Beckett’s Company/Compagnie

6 December 2021

Jonathan McAllister, University of Cambridge

Georgina Nugent-Folan, The Making of Samuel Beckett’s Company / Compagnie (Brussels: University of Antwerp Press, 2019).

Tried to get going again in English to see me through, say for company, but broke down. But must somehow.

Samuel Beckett to Ruby Cohn, 3 May 1977.[1]

One of the arguments often levelled against genetic criticism is the following: tracing the composition of an artwork tells us little about the significance of the work itself. The most concise formulation of this critique of which I know is given by the late Roger Scruton: ‘what a thing is and how it came to be are two different questions, and the answer to the second may not be the answer to the first’.[2] For this reason, one critic has unreasonably argued that ‘genetic criticism explains nothing, and never has’.[3] But Georgina Nugent-Folan shows that there are substantive intellectual reasons for pursuing a compositional analysis of Beckett’s work. Of relevance to my review is the processual nature of his prose, which foregrounds the pursuit and motive of reading and writing creative texts. What genetic criticism allows scholars to do is offer tentative answers to the questions of how and why we go about these strange activities. 

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Book Review: The Passion Projects: Modernist Women, Intimate Archives, Unfinished Lives

7 December 2020

Eilish Mulholland, The Queen’s University of Belfast

Melanie Micir, The Passion Projects: Modernist Women, Intimate Archives, Unfinished Lives (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019)

The history of Anglo-American modernism can feel monolithic in definition. Ranging from a plethora of guides, anthologies, curricula and collections to commemorative tea towels, mugs, tote bags and tell-all biographies, the understanding seems to be that modernism was formed by a group of definitive writers such as Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemmingway, James Joyce, W.H. Auden and Wallace Stevens. The history of modernism appears to be firmly settled in the form of articles, novels and critical commentary in which we come to know writers intimately. We know of their friends, family and lovers. We know from journals and letters every intimate detail about their lives. We know even where they visited and even what they ate and drank. These snippets of life and style are at first unassuming. Amid reading, writing and researching, amongst the frenzy of collating and connecting we fall into an assumption, an assumption that when it comes to a writer’s biography,we always assume that the information we desire will simply be there. Continue reading “Book Review: The Passion Projects: Modernist Women, Intimate Archives, Unfinished Lives”

queer archival tactics and ‘the stories we tell’

9 November 2020

Molly C Farrell, Glasgow University

Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2020).

Shola von Reinhold, LOTE (London: Jacaranda Books, 2020). 

‘[N]arrative may be the only available form of redress for the monumental crime that was the transatlantic slave trade and the terror of enslavement and racism’, says Saidiya Hartman (Columbia University) in a 2018 interview.[1] ‘That’s a long way of saying that the stories we tell or the songs we sing or the wealth of immaterial resources are all that we can count on’.[2] The colonial economy, slavery and its afterlife, and the historical continuation of racism are the roots upon which our modernity was built, from which our modernisms were created and recorded, and which have lent to the creation of archives used in modernist studies today. This review considers two texts that examine the specific challenges in practice of isolating queer black subjects within the archives of modernist research: Hartman’s book from 2019, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, and Shola von Reinhold’s debut novel, LOTE, published in the first half of 2020. It considers the value of experimental ‘archival tactics’ in recent cross-genre attempts to re-/construct the queer black subjects of modernism, using the vocabulary of queer archival practice. 

Continue reading “queer archival tactics and ‘the stories we tell’”

Opening the Archive: T. S. Eliot’s Letters to Emily Hale. An Interview With Lyndall Gordon

Cécile Varry, Université de Paris


Will you do me a great favour? I enclose a money order for $4. Will you go to Galvin, or to Howard in Cambridge, and order some red or pink roses, Killarney I suppose. I understand that Emily is to act in the Cambridge Dramatic play which will be early in December […]. I enclose a card; please put it in a small envelope and address it to her simply Miss Hale, ‘Brattle Hall’, and have the roses for the Saturday night performance. 

Letter from 26-year-old T. S. Eliot to Conrad Aiken, Saturday 21 November 1914. The Letters of T. S. Eliot, Volume 1: 1898-1922, ed. Valerie Eliot & Hugh Haughton (London: Faber and Faber, 2009), p. 76. 

Continue reading “Opening the Archive: T. S. Eliot’s Letters to Emily Hale. An Interview With Lyndall Gordon”

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