Book Review: Modernists and the Theatre

2 June 2022

Annie Williams, Trinity College Dublin

James Moran, Modernists and the Theatre: The Drama of W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf (London: Bloomsbury, 2022)

Yeats, Pound, Lawrence, Joyce, Eliot, and Woolf: often amassed as the ‘1922 core’ (p. 1) of Anglo-American and Irish literary modernism, these six writers are regularly credited with having defined the aesthetics of the period. However, scholarship on modernism’s six ‘obvious suspects’ (p. 1) tends to spotlight their poetry and their prose rather than their plays. James Moran’s Modernists and the Theatre (2022) seeks to redress this critical neglect by framing this central group as six writers who actively engaged with theatre throughout their lives. The result is an informative study in which Moran persuasively challenges the critical assumption that these writers’ engagement with the dramatic form was ever fleeting, insignificant, or non-existent. Continue reading Book Review: Modernists and the Theatre

Book Review: Modern Writers, Transnational Literatures: Rabindranath Tagore and W. B. Yeats

4 April 2022

Jinan Ashraf, Dublin City University

Ragini Mohite, Modern Writers, Transnational Literatures: Rabindranath Tagore and W. B. Yeats (Liverpool: Clemson University Press, 2021)

There appears to be no end of critical and interpretive studies on Rabindranath Tagore and W. B. Yeats. This is in part due to their distinct positions as predecessors of modernisms, the availability of cross-referenced studies on their literary and cross-cultural collaborations, their thematic formulations of aesthetic modernisms, and ideations of the home and the hearth across a range of literary forms borrowing from European, Asiatic and Eastern literary traditions. Readers of Modern Writers, Transnational Literatures: Rabindranath Tagore and W.B. Yeats would appreciate Ragini Mohite’s timely and nuanced study of the fraught relationship between Yeats and Tagore both for its modernist perspective and transnational discourse. Mohite is sensitive to Yeats’ and Tagore’s complex positions as contemporaneous intertextualists in attending to the ‘complementarity, tensions, and thematic echoes’ (p. 4) in such texts as Tagore’s Gora, The Home and the World, Red Oleanders, and The Post Office and Yeats’ Cathleen ni Houlihan and Purgatory besides others. Mohite’s useful tracing of paternalist tropes in colonial and gendered spaces allows readers to locate thematic and formal resonances in the works of Yeats and Tagore while making these writers quite apparent subjects for a study of the broad networks and borders of transnational currents in literary studies in the twenty-first century.  Continue reading “Book Review: Modern Writers, Transnational Literatures: Rabindranath Tagore and W. B. Yeats”

Book Review: Historical Modernisms: Time, History and Modernist Aesthetics

4 April 2022

Katie Jones, Swansea University

Jean-Michel Rabaté and Angeliki Spiropoulou (eds.). Historical Modernisms: Time, History and Modernist Aesthetics (London, New York, New Delhi, Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic, 2022)

Marking the centenary of modernism’s year of miracles, Historical Modernisms makes a timely addition to scholarship – but not only for this reason. The eleven chapters, including an interview with Hayden White, explore and undo modernism’s associations with ahistoricity, as supposedly exemplified by the avant-gardes, by reading modernist arts in context. Jean-Michel Rabaté and Angeliki Spiropoulou expertly introduce the book; they ‘remain sceptical about the idea of transhistorical modernism, as do all the contributors to [Historical Modernisms]’ (5).  While we might locate modernity across time, as a reterospectively given term, modernism– unlike “dada” or similar self-defined movements – implies the critical urge to delineate, thereby restricting its usefulness to describe works of other eras. Continue reading “Book Review: Historical Modernisms: Time, History and Modernist Aesthetics”

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: Modernism and the Choreographic Imagination: Salome’s Dance After 1890

31 January 2022

Frankie Dytor, University of Cambridge

Megan Girdwood, Modernism and the Choreographic Imagination: Salome’s Dance After 1890 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021).

In a series of fictitious letters written in Florence around 1900, two friends pondered the existence of a nymph-like young woman they had spotted running through the frame of a fifteenth-century fresco. Enamoured, as if in love, they marvel that they have found her everywhere in art, from antiquity to the renaissance and beyond. She is, they describe,

A fantastic figure – should I call her a servant girl, or rather a classical nymph? [. . .] Sometimes she was Salome dancing with her death-dealing charm in front of the licentious Tetrarch; sometimes she was Judith carrying proudly and triumphantly with a gay step the head of the murdered commander (Gombrich, 2017, 107) 

The correspondence, written by Aby Warburg and André Jolles, has become a well-known example of Warburg’s burgeoning theory of the afterlife of forms. This theory, which the art historian would continue to develop and refine throughout his life, argues that certain emotively charged gestures (which he termed ‘Pathosformeln’) recur throughout the art of the Western world. These gestures could be mapped, providing ‘a genealogy of resemblances’ linking an antique image of a nymph to a photograph of a modern-day woman.  Continue reading “Book Review: Modernism and the Choreographic Imagination: Salome’s Dance After 1890”

Book Review: The New Wallace Stevens Studies

6 December 2021

Domonique Davies, University of Reading

The New Wallace Stevens Studies, Edited by Bart Eeckhout and Gül Bilge Han, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Wallace Stevens’s well-known adage, ‘It Must Change’, has been continually reflected on through critical discussions of his work.[1]  Over the last twenty years, socio-political movements have been echoed in literary criticism, with the development and expansion of ecocritical studies, queer studies, and re-evaluations of imperialism and colonialism. The New Studies in Wallace Stevens signals that it is time to effect change in Stevens studies and reevaluate his works and thought. As Bart Eeckhout comments in his chapter on Stevens and Queer Studies, ‘there may be some value in attempting to redraw a number of circles around Stevens’ (p. 178). Even so, while a paradigm of fresh perspectives is set out in this text, it is not without remembrance of how Stevens criticism has evolved, and a particular strength of the contributions is the acknowledgement of key work by Helen Vendler, J. Hillis Miller, Frank Lentricchia, and Alan Filreis, helping to situate the development of Stevens studies over the years.

Continue reading “Book Review: The New Wallace Stevens Studies”

Book Review: Psychomotor Aesthetics: Movement and Affect in Modern Literature and Film

6 December 2021

Alex Braslavsky, Harvard University

Ana Hedberg Olenina, Psychomotor Aesthetics: Movement and Affect in Modern Literature and Film (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020)

In her recent book Psychomotor Aesthetics, Ana Hedberg Olenina asks a critical question: what role does physical experience take in the appreciation of art? Throughout her impeccably researched book, Olenina pores over the relevance of psychomotor aesthetics in the realms of literary composition, oral performance, cinema acting, and the experience of film viewing at a time when, in her words, “Art forms were now viewed as matrix, or blueprints for eliciting sensations” (xiv).  Continue reading “Book Review: Psychomotor Aesthetics: Movement and Affect in Modern Literature and Film”

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. 

Continue reading “Book Review: The Making of Samuel Beckett’s Company/Compagnie”

Book Review: Transatlantic Modernism and the US Lecture Tour

8th November 2021

Francesca Mancino, Case Western Reserve University

Robert Volpicelli, Transatlantic Modernism and the US Lecture Tour (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021)

In his study of the transatlantic lecture circuits of Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, Rabindranath Tagore, Gertrude Stein, and W. H. Auden, Robert Volpicelli explores the difficulty of balancing one’s role as a writer with that of a lecturer. In spite of divergences in personalities and lecture topics, this juxtaposition is attributed to how one adjusts to their wavering sense of ‘personal dislocation’ (2). Volpicelli suggests that this sense of dislocation is particularly personal and spatial, seen in his description of Auden as a ‘poet-turned-projectile’ (2). Aside from the evident physical aspect of transatlantic travel, this ‘projectile’-like movement is applicable to self-dislocation and the transition from writer-to-lecturer. 

Continue reading “Book Review: Transatlantic Modernism and the US Lecture Tour”

Book Review: Modernist Objects

1 July 2021

Dazheng Gao, Durham University

Noëlle Cuny and Xavier Kalck, Modernist Objects (Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2020)

This eclectic collection of essays places objects at the heart of modernism. Or, to put it in another way, it attempts to establish the field of object study as underpinned by a modernist frame of meaning and, by doing so, manage a unified view of objects while retaining the capaciousness of the term ‘modernism’. One encounters the phrase ‘modernist objects’ with a certain trepidation as either halves of the term has gathered a degree of conceptual density that only becomes more elusive with every act of definition. The addition of every strand of new, valid significance is essentially a well-ventilated instance of alienation from its own airtight self-referentiality. On this occasion, it is the acknowledgement of the insecurity of the subject as the pre-eminent source of epistemological productivity, which is poised on two problems: the problem of the real (the contestation of the rigid categorization of objects that distinguishes between commodity and symbol, between ‘goods and gods’ (2); the recognition of deceitful perceptions, unstable surfaces of things) and the problem of the human (the object that is human body, whose meaning resists cancellation when the validity of all else is questioned; object experiments that ultimately are ‘human-oriented operations (10)’).

Continue reading “Book Review: Modernist Objects”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started