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”

Post-Millennial Modernism? Late Style and Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing

3rd July 2020

Liam Harrison, University of Birmingham

Content Note: Violence, Sexual Assault

‘I’m screaming in the blackness. Scream until I’m done my body. Full of nothing. Full of dirt the. I am’.[1]

This burst of sound and fury marks the beginning of the end of Eimear McBride’s visceral tale of trauma, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2013). McBride’s debut novel has been discussed in terms of its modernist inheritance possibly more than any other novel in the twenty-first century.[2]  The discussions of A Girl’s modernist debts across book reviews and academic criticism have focused on its formally disjointed style, while the novel’s intertextuality has been praised as a sign of McBride’s modernist credentials. Instead of reading A Girl as ‘modernism’s return of the repressed’,[3] or describing it through Joycean and Beckettian superlatives,  I suggest we might turn to the notion of ‘late style’ as an alternative means of navigating McBride’s engagement with modernist legacies.

Continue reading “Post-Millennial Modernism? Late Style and Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing”

The ‘Late’ Modernism of Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille

3rd July 2020

Laura Ryan, University of Manchester

Claude McKay once said of his 1928 novel Home to Harlem – the first American best-seller by a black author and a key text of the Harlem Renaissance – that it would take ‘another thirty or forty years’ for his readers to see it ‘in its true light – to appreciate it in the spirit in which [he] wrote it’.[1]  Yet McKay could surely never have predicted that more than nine decades later another of his novels – Romance in Marseille – would be published for the first time to critical fanfare. 

Continue reading “The ‘Late’ Modernism of Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille”

A Delay In Glass: Marcel Duchamp, the Possible, and the Aversion to Déjà Vu

3rd July 2020

Tyrus Miller, University of California, Irvine


In his Green Box (1934) of reproduced notes and images related to his uncompleted and shattered Large Glass, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-23), Marcel Duchamp famously characterized his meticulously assembled work not as a “picture” or “painting” but as a “delay in glass”:

Continue reading “A Delay In Glass: Marcel Duchamp, the Possible, and the Aversion to Déjà Vu”

Book Review: Mirrored in a Glowing Cover: Carl Rollyson’s The Last Days of Sylvia Plath

3rd July 2020

Aleksandra Majak, University of Oxford

Carl Rollyson, The Last Days of Sylvia Plath (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2020)

Content warning: violence

In his preface to The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, Carl Rollyson says that every biography is also an autobiography, expressing an implicit belief that something in the author’s own life qualifies them to speak to the life of another. As I read this line, I recalled my first encounter with Sylvia Plath, opening the blue Faber volume of her lyric on the ‘Morning Song’. The poem’s simultaneous seeking and rejecting of motherly love felt instantly familiar, yet also deeply uncomfortable. Later, I have come to believe that to write about Plath is not only to confront the public myths and tropes of her life, work, and suicidal death, but also one’s own psychobiographical motives. In other words, to ask: what is it that speaks to me personally about the author known as, in the words of American critic M.L. Rosenthal, a ‘confessional’ poet? Through trying to answer this question, the readers of biography could not only discover something new about the most well-known American female poet, but perhaps also about themselves.

Continue reading “Book Review: Mirrored in a Glowing Cover: Carl Rollyson’s The Last Days of Sylvia Plath”

I’m Afraid That’s All We’ve Got Time For: An Interview with Jen Calleja


3rd July 2020

Jen Calleja is the author of I’m Afraid That’s All We’ve Got Time For (Prototype, 2020) and the Man Booker International Prize-shortlisted translator of Marion Poschmann’s The Pine Islands (Serpent’s Tail, 2019). She was recently shortlisted for the Short Fiction/University of Essex Prize 2020 and longlisted for the Ivan Juritz Prize for Creative Experiment in Text 2020. Her translations have appeared in The New Yorker, The White Review and Granta, and she writes a column on translation for the Brixton Review of Books. She is researching and writing for a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Continue reading “I’m Afraid That’s All We’ve Got Time For: An Interview with Jen Calleja”

Interview: Shola von Reinhold

3rd July 2020

Shola von Reinhold is a Scottish socialite and writer. Shola has been published in the Cambridge Literary Review, The Stockholm Review, was Cove Park’s Scottish Emerging Writer 2018 and recently won a Dewar Award for Literature. Their debut novel LOTE (2020) ‘immerses readers in the pursuit of aesthetics and beauty, while interrogating the removal and obscurement of Black figures from history’. The story follows Mathilda as she traces the path of ‘forgotten’ Black modernist Hermia Druitt from archive to visions to parties to artist residency where secrets and secret societies take her to the depths of a lotus-eating proto-luxury communist cults…

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Book Review: Lateness and Modernism: Untimely Ideas about Music, Literature and Politics in Interwar Britain

3rd July 2020

Nell Wasserstrom, Boston College

Sarah Collins, Lateness and Modernism: Untimely Ideas about Music, Literature and Politics in Interwar Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019)

Within literary studies, the growing body of critical work dedicated to “late modernism” has tended to define the term in more or less two ways: first, as the “cultural turn” of modernism in the 1930s, and second, as a late (1930s-50s) reflection on the (failed/flawed) project of so-called “high” modernism. These two discourses are by no means mutually exclusive, as the many studies over the past few decades have shown: Tyrus Miller’s seminal work, Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts between the World Wars (1999); Jed Esty’s A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England (2004); Marina Mackay’s Modernism and World War II (2006); and, more recently, Thomas S. Davis’s The Extinct Scene: Late Modernism and Everyday Life (2016). Despite differences in context, periodization, and choice of figures, texts, and method, these critical works attribute the late modernist “turn” to a specific historical event (the General Strike of 1926, for example, or the contraction of empire), and each event marks the particular way in which late modernism forms a “break” from modernism “proper.”

Continue reading “Book Review: Lateness and Modernism: Untimely Ideas about Music, Literature and Politics in Interwar Britain”

Special Issue CfP: Modernism’s Late Temporalities

Margaret Anderson once advertised ‘THE LITTLE REVIEW IS IMMORTAL’ and suggested that readers should subscribe ‘If you want to keep eternally young’. Yet, for its final issue in 1929, Jane Heap counter-claimed that the ‘23 new systems of art’ the magazine had championed were ‘(all now dead)’. Hyperbole, sure, but the rapid swing between immortality and death speaks to some of the ways modernism has been characterised as late before it even began.

Continue reading “Special Issue CfP: Modernism’s Late Temporalities”

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