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”
Bryony Armstrong, Durham University
In January 1923, the newly registered brand, Kissproof, advertised its lipstick with the words: ‘New! Different! Exquisitely modern!’. As lipstick entered the realm of acceptability, the lips became the fleshy recipient of intense colour sculpting. Yet Kissproof’s unsmudgeability is suggestive not simply of attentive lip care in the twentieth century mode of toilette, but of attention to the touch that makes lipstick smear. The ‘new, different, exquisitely modern’ product – with a slogan that could be an epithet for modernism itself – was foregrounded by changing cultural understanding of the romantic-sexual kiss in the early twentieth century.
Farah Nada, University of Exeter
In Elizabeth Bowen’s short story ‘Sunday Evening’ (1923) the following exchange takes place:
[…] ‘They didn’t wear fig leaves till after the Fall.’
‘That must have been nice […] – I mean the no fig-leaves. But inexpressive—’
‘—Yes, inexpressive. I was going to say, rather impersonal.’
‘Oh, come, Gilda, if one’s own skin isn’t personal, what is!’
[…] ‘I don’t think it’s very personal. After all, it’s only the husk of one – unavoidably there. But one’s clothes are part of what one has got to say. Eve was much more herself when she […] had got the fig-leaves on […].’
‘Then do you think covering oneself up is being real?’ […].
‘I don’t know,’ said Gilda Roche. ‘The less of me that’s visible, the more I’m there.’
Camilla Bostock, University of Plymouth
In an early autobiographical vignette, ‘In the Botanical Gardens’ (1907), the short story writer Katherine Mansfield has a transformative experience. She writes:
suddenly it disappears—all the pretty, carefully-tended surface of gravel and sward and blossom, and there is bush, silent and splendid. […] And everywhere, that strange, indefinable scent. As I breathe it, it seems to absorb, to become part of me—and I am old with the age of centuries, strong with the scent of savagery.
With the BAMS Elections held in January 2020, we welcome a whopping ten new committee members to the team: postgraduate representatives Bryony Armstrong (Durham University) and Josh Phillips (University of Glasgow), and board members Rebecca Bowler (Keele University), Daniel Moore (University of Birmingham), Beryl Pong (University of Sheffield), Rod Rosenquist (University of Northampton), Matthew Taunton (University of East Anglia), Juliette Taylor-Batty (Leeds Trinity University), Alex Thomson (University of Edinburgh), Adam Watt (University of Exeter).
Today, current postgraduate representatives Cécile Varry (Université de Paris) and Polly Hember (Royal Holloway, University of London) look back on last year’s achievements, while Bryony and Josh tell us what they hope to accomplish next.
Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University
This is, to put it mildly, not business-as-usual, not normal. These are not “ideal learning conditions” for anyone, faculty, staff, or students. These actions that we are undertaking, to wholesale move entire campuses’ worth of courses from in-person to distance learning, is unprecedented. We are all under tremendous stress and pressure to try and make what seemed like it would be impossible, not just possible, but effective.
Christy Heflin, Royal Holloway, University of London
Cathryn Setz, Primordial Modernism: Animals, Ideas, Transition (1927-1938) (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019)
Cathryn Setz’s book Primordial Modernism: Animals, Ideas, Transition (1927-1938) is part of a series from University of Edinburgh Press titled Edinburgh Critical Studies in Modernist Culture, edited by Tim Armstrong and Rebecca Beasley. Divided into four chapters, Setz brings the reader along an evolutionary path – from amoeba, to fish, then lizard and finally bird – while thoroughly examining Eugene Jolas’ experimental literary journal transition within the framework of modernist animal studies. However, there is much more than just a recital of animal imagery found within this important interwar publication. Setz weaves these creatures and the writers who invoke them into historical, political and scientific contexts showing that these references were not occurring in any sort of vacuum but were in fact part of the cultural zeitgeist. Throughout the book Setz establishes many new pathways of inquiry for both established and beginner scholars of modernism, giving the reader the impression of being guided by a benevolent mentor. There was no haphazard natural selection from the review’s contributors, and Primordial Modernism is organized in such a way that everything is laid out clearly and explained in such depth that many aspects of the book could be pursued for future scholarship.
Katherine Firth, The University of Melbourne
Michael Hooper, Australian Music and Modernism, 1960-1975 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)
Australian Music and Modernism, 1960-1975, the new monograph by Michael Hooper (University of New South Wales), is a rather more specific intervention into the field than the title might suggest. Rather than providing a survey of Australian modernist music during a period of exciting development and diversity, the book reconsiders the late twentieth-century formation of a view of ‘Australian’ serialist music and the continuously evolving reputation of five male composers: Peter Sculthorpe, Nigel Butterley, Richard Meale, Don Banks, and David Lumsdaine. Hooper’s book corrects a celebratory and nationalist model of these composers’ music that emerged in the late 1980s.