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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”

Freud in the Soup: Implications of Hysteria in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’

01 June 2021

Sasha Clarke, Birkbeck College, University of London

When considering the development of the modernist form, Freudianism represents perhaps the most significant trajectory toward modernity. While Freud’s work is predominantly characterised by scientific rationality, similar sentiments were embraced by the great modern poets, most notably, T. S. Eliot, whose reference to the ‘dissociation of sensibility’ characterised the potential to separate thought from feeling.[1] As Freud found prominence in the late nineteenth century, largely as a result of his Studies on Hysteria published in 1895, it was the subject of these psychoanalyses, Bertha Pappenheim, who inspired the tropes most widely recognised as authentically modernist: self-fragmentation, irrationality, subjectivity, and the formative role of sexuality in developing one’s persona.

Continue reading “Freud in the Soup: Implications of Hysteria in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’”

Death Comes to the Party: Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway

01 June 2021

Charlotte Hallahan, University of East Anglia

In 1925, Woolf heard news of her friend Jacques Raverat’s death at a party. Afterwards, in her diary, she wrote: ‘I do not any longer feel inclined to doff the cap to death. I like to go out of the room talking, with an unfinished casual sentence on my lips’.[1] In Mrs Dalloway (1925), the solemn news of Septimus Warren Smith’s death interrupts Clarissa Dalloway’s party. But Clarissa sees Septimus’ death as a license to live, to return to her party (to, perhaps, ‘go out of the room talking’). In Woolf’s party, we see the curious meeting of life and death, where death holds the ability to give life order and meaning.

Continue reading “Death Comes to the Party: Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway”

Pubs, Clubs, and Hell: Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock

01 June 2021

Lucas Townsend, University of Roehampton

George Orwell lambasted Graham Greene’s corpus in a review of The Heart of the Matter (1948), stating that all Greene’s Catholic characters treat ‘hell [as] a sort of high-class nightclub’.[1] However, the comparison is apt for noir masterpiece Brighton Rock (1938), in which Greene depicts impoverished teenager Pinkie Brown—a choir boy-turned-gangster—as inordinately uncomfortable in the many spaces of festivity Brighton offers. Pinkie’s selective morality leads him to staunchly refuse offers of cigarettes, alcohol, and sex, and to instead derive pleasure from causing pain and his certitude of his own eternal damnation. The many scenes in the pubs, bars, nightclubs, and roadhouses of the seaside resort are constructed using a spectral amalgamation of spiritual vice and secular militarism—two concepts one would rarely associate with these places—and are symbolic of Greene’s skeptical argument against traditional values in a modern world.

Continue reading “Pubs, Clubs, and Hell: Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock”

Book Review: Modernism and Modernity in British Women’s Magazines

1 June 2021

Jennifer Cameron, University of Hertfordshire

Alice Wood, Modernism and Modernity in British Women’s Magazines (Abingdon: Routledge, 2020)

This book is an original study of the connections between British print culture and the modernist movement during the interwar years. Wood, a senior lecturer in English at De Montfort University, chooses to focus on four British women’s periodicals of the time, namely Vogue, Eve / Eve: The Lady’s Pictorial, Good Housekeeping, and Harper’s Bazaar. With this book, her second monograph, Wood continues her previously published research into interwar women’s magazines and literary culture. Continue reading “Book Review: Modernism and Modernity in British Women’s Magazines”

Living in the Flicker: Eerie England in Eric Ravilious’s November 5th, 1933

1 June 2021

Samuel Love, University of York

One day in 2013, the cultural theorist Mark Fisher went for a walk. He found himself in a landscape which, he said, ‘demanded to be engaged with on its own terms’.[1] Contemplating the Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Sutton Hoo, Fisher was struck by this landscape that ‘constitutes a gap in knowledge’, as ‘the beliefs and rituals […] that constructed the artefacts and buried the ship are only partly understood’.[2] The term Fisher used to describe this sort of place was ‘eerie’, a phenomenon explained by ‘a fascination for the outside, for that which lies beyond standard perception, cognition and experience’.[3] Continue reading “Living in the Flicker: Eerie England in Eric Ravilious’s November 5th, 1933”

Katherine Mansfield’s Meringues

1 June 2021

Jonathan Ellis, University of Sheffield

In a famous letter in 1919, Katherine Mansfield, reflecting on the effect of war on those that had made it home, wrote of the experience of seeing ‘death in life’. She gave as examples ‘a boy eating strawberries or a woman combing her hair on a windy morning’. ‘That is the only way I can mention them. But they must be there’.[1] What might ‘death in life’ look like in a story? If it could be present in a boy eating strawberries, might it also be present in a young man carelessly eating half a meringue?

Continue reading “Katherine Mansfield’s Meringues”

The Photograph from the Party: Amanda Lee Koe and Modernism’s Extended Pose

1 June 2021

Kevin Riordan, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

In 1928, Alfred Eisenstaedt took some photographs at a party in Berlin. In one of them, Anna May Wong, Leni Riefenstahl, and Marlene Dietrich are neatly posed before a gilded mirror. Dietrich, it seems, had spilled a flute of champagne on the front of Wong’s dress; the latter was pleased ‘she’d eschewed ornamentation for the simple black dress […] and pearls worn long’.[i] The splash, Wong figured, would be imperceptible in a photograph taken by this ‘dignified-looking man with a camera (or was it just a man with a dignified-looking camera?)’ (6). Continue reading “The Photograph from the Party: Amanda Lee Koe and Modernism’s Extended Pose”

Party Going in a Pandemic

1 June 2021

Thomas J. Sojka, Boston University

In Henry Green’s Party Going (1939), a fog descends upon London, stopping traffic and trains and leaving travellers bound for home or holidays stranded. A travelling party en route to the south of France seeks refuge in a nearby hotel, while many people are left standing outside, full of uncertainty of what to do next. The novel is one of plans interrupted, of inertia stalled, and of anxieties about the impossibility of mobility. Similarly, the world shuddered to a halt in early 2020 with the onset of a pandemic. But, unlike the fog in the novel, which lifts after four or five hours allowing for normal life to resume and for travellers to continue their journeys, the pandemic that drove us indoors and disrupted our travel has been here for a year and a half. In contrast to other party fiction from the interwar years, where the parties never seem to end—one only needs to think of the oft-quoted litany of parties[1] from Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies (1930)—the party in Party Going seems to never start. The frustration with this sense of being trapped and with the inability to do anything to change our circumstances makes Green’s novel a choice read for our present moment. The end, similarly, gives us some hope for the months ahead—the fog does lift, and everyone, suddenly, is able to resume their daily lives.

Continue reading “Party Going in a Pandemic”

Partying in Style with Doris Langley Moore

1 June 2021

Eleanor Jones

On a midsummer’s evening in 1929, the Bright Young Things hosted ‘[o]ne of London’s most successful parties’.[1] For the uninvited, the illustrated weekly journal Sketch was on hand to document the occasion, labelled the Watteau Party, which took place aboard the Friend Ship docked at Charing Cross Pier. Inspired by the French artist Antoine Watteau’s 1717 painting Pilgrimage to Cythera, the themed evening was executed in a manner typical of the organisers who, by the late 1920s, were renowned for their extravagant style and behaviour. From costumed balls and treasure hunts to elaborately choreographed pranks, Bright Young parties were widely reported on by the contemporary British press. The extended network of aristocrats, artistic personalities, and queer bohemians were complicit in creating a public image defined by artifice and fantasy. Continue reading “Partying in Style with Doris Langley Moore”

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