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. 

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The Modernist Review Issue # 14

What is modernist studies today? This question has doggedly plagued the field since the ‘New Modernist Studies’ announced itself in PMLA over a decade ago. And yet the answer might no longer be found bound within journals – instead, the accurate response may be the number of bodies squashed into a room at the Modernist Studies Association in Toronto. These attendants gathered to hear a roundtable on precarity, a subject matter that has become the watchword for not just modernism, but all fields of literary study. As the professoriate, like a perennial pop star, seeks to continually radicalise their object of discussion, an ever-growing chasm is apparent: there is no point in reinventing the wheel if you do not have a car to drive. This point was underscored by the roundtable organiser, Alix Beeston (Cardiff University), noting that modernist studies is not currently a hiring field: ‘What does it mean to speak of the future of modernist studies in a year where there are no TT [tenure track] jobs in modernist studies?’ 

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Auden’s Poetics of the Closet: On This Island

Christopher J. Adamson, University of Southern California

‘To impose upon my passion the mask of discretion […] this is a strictly heroic value,’ Roland Barthes writes in A Lover’s Discourse. ‘Yet to hide a passion totally (or even to hide, more simply, its excess) is inconceivable: not because the human subject is too weak, but because passion is in essence made to be seen: the hiding must be seen: I want you to know that I am hiding something from you […] I advance pointing to my mask: I set a mask upon my passion, but with a discreet (and wily) finger I designate this mask. Every passion, ultimately, has its spectator.’[1]

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