Modernism : A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930, Paperback

Modernism : A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930 Paperback

Edited by James Walter McFarlane, Malcolm Bradbury

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


This is an exploration of the ideas, groupings and the social tensions that shaped the transformation of life caused by the changes of modernity in art, science, politics and philosophy.




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A collection of essays which veers from the fascinating, well-written and insightful to the dull, tortuous and sophomoric. There are seven sections: 'modernism' as a term; the intellectual and cultural background of modernist literature; the cities in which modernism grew; literary movements; poetry; novel; drama. The first two were pretty good. The others are spotty, and often very repetitive: it might have been better to have more focussed essays, like the one on Thomas Mann, rather than split, say, Ezra Pound between 'London,' 'Imagism and Vorticism,' 'The Modernist Lyric,' 'The Crisis of Language' etc etc... Often the essayists reach for comparisons to the visual arts, which makes sense, but since there are no illustrations it will only be helpful to people who already understand modernism is the visual arts. Easily the most irritating feature of this book, though, is the tendency of some of the essayists to make insanely partisan judgments, particularly about dadaism and surrealism: this was published in the '70s, when political radicalism was really all about a 'change of vision' rather than, say, politics, which meant that professors and poets were the best people to thus radicalize the world. Blurgh. Definitely read the essays 'the modernist lyric,' 'poems and fictions,' 'the introverted novel,' 'the theme of consciousness' and 'modernist drama' though.