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.
Beci Carver, University of Exeter
Matthew Griffiths, The New Poetics of Climate Change: Modernist Aesthetics for a Warming World (London: Bloomsbury, 2017)
Imagine a version of William Wordsworth’s ‘The Solitary Reaper’ in which the air is ablaze, like an Australian sky, with bushfire light. The singer is stooped over to reap, but there is no crop: she is ghostwalking through an old routine. She sounds like a bird – a nightingale or cuckoo – but has never heard birdsong. She seems to be mourning something, but she could be mourning everything. The pastoral mode has always been characterised by pre-emptive elegy, as if the natural phenomena it described were better understood in their absence. But there is something viscerally different about a pastoral poem that spells out the environmental crisis it fears. Once, when Alice Oswald read out ‘Dunt: A Poem for a Dried-up River’, ‘someone had an asthma attack because she forgot to breathe’.
Hattie Walters, University of Birmingham
And I have always believed that, given a digging-fork and a few seeds and tubers, with a quarter’s start, I could at any time wrest from the earth enough to keep body and soul together.
In the first days of April 1919, literary modernist and impressionist Ford Madox Ford was digging in a potato patch at Red Ford cottage in Hurston near Pulborough, awaiting the arrival of his lover, Australian painter Stella Bowen. An empty, seventeenth-century labourer’s cottage, Red Ford felt remote and steeped in history, was full of red-brick and red-tiles, was papered in green moss and costed five shillings a week. It was also damp, leaky-roofed and rat-ridden with rotten lathes and sunken ceilings, but flanked by a great oak, nestled under a sandstone cliff, and facing a meadow, ‘scarlet and orange runlet’ and opposing woodland. The ‘moribund’ plot seemed at first unwelcoming, as Ford described the building creaking with superstition as the ancient rafters worked ‘their sockets in the walls’. However, Red Ford was to be the setting for his attempted post-war restoration: both of self, and of the assumptions that governed daily pre-war life through his biographical garden exploits.
The Modernist Review is very much aware that the ice caps are melting. We’ve all seen the bright, all-encompassing orange hue on the latest pictures from Australia. People are dying, homes are being destroyed, ecosystems are burning and collapsing. The nymphs are departed or departing; we are in the midst of a mass extinction and a climate crisis.
‘In other words, we should… make it new? Now that really would be some trouble worth making.’
Michael Shallcross, ‘The Trouble with Modernism: A Dialogue’
Issue #10 of the Modernist Review saw Michael Shallcross and Luke Seaber enter into a dialogue about the current status of modernist studies. They discussed the ways in which the ‘New Modernist studies’ has changed the study of modernism, the professional demands of the modern academy, and where it might go from here. Inspired by Modernism/modernity and their commitment to facilitating scholarly conversations on their print+ platform, TMR is delighted to publish two responses to ‘The Trouble With Modernism: A Dialogue’. We hope to continue this important dialogue about the direction and scope of our current practice, opening up a discursive space for discussion.
Michael and Luke will be replying to these responses in a special article to be published on 8th August.
Gareth, Cècile, Polly and Séan Continue reading “The Trouble With Modernism: Responses”