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This chapter follows on from the last to trace the development of the prosthetic modernism discernible at the turn of the twentieth century, as it works through the modernist novel from Proust, Joyce, Stein and Woolf up to the extended late modernist work of Samuel Beckett. The chapter reads Beckett’s reception of Proustian and Joycean modernism, from his novels of the thirties and forties up to his late work Company and suggests that this reception might best be understood as a poetics of twining. Beckett offers an extended reflection on the ways in which the modernist novel performs a mode of twining, a joining together of mind with prosthetic extension; but he also enacts a specific form of untwining, which demonstrates how the novel has always shown the unbound, the disaggregated, to be a constituent part of the terms in which it conducts its binding properties.
The future development of literary radio studies as a discipline requires moving beyond the lingering (and completely understandable) text-fetishism of its early years. Archival lacunae covering the early years of radio, key years for modernist production – the difficulty of hearing works, let alone hearing them in context – has paradoxically flattened broadcast into script, an elision often perpetuated in scholarship. All this has created a critical environment in which the claim that radio is an intrinsically modernist medium is often supported, in circular fashion, by enumerating the already-recognized modernists within broadcast ranks, or citing the importance of radio as a disseminator of modernist poetry – in other words, eliding the medium itself in order to stress its efficacy as a delivery system. To move beyond the invaluable spadework of the recent ‘boom’, then, requires a more robust methodology for tracing the resonances of radio – an intermedial vocabulary not grounded exclusively in inscription
This chapter considers a range of methods for writing about literary soundscapes. R. Murray Schafer’s seminal coinage of soundscape residually informs current debates about the sonic dimensions of literary form, but the discursive alignment of print and voice and reading and listening is an enduring aspect of the history of modern literature. This history extends from the capacious descriptive ambition of the realist novel through to, and beyond, literary modernism’s experimental ambition to capture the sounds of modern life at a critical moment when an array of recording devices emerged to do what literature could not – record sound in real time. Spanning from Charles Dickens to Elizabeth Bowen, this chapter analyses the various ways writers from the nineteenth century to the present have responded to the sound worlds in which they lived by attending to the distinctive sonic textures of literary language and its unique capacity to channel the rhythms and voices of everyday socially embodied sound.
Oriented by theoretical work form C. S. Peirce and Walter Ong through conceptual poet John Cayley, from John Stuart Mill on poetry as ‘overheard’ to Steven Connor on the ‘white voice’ of silent enunciation – as well as, in contrast, by book sculpture in the conceptual mode of the bibliobjet, closed to all reading – this essay lends intensive granular audition to passages from Dickens through Virginia Woolf to Toni Morrison. Its effort is to register, and further to generalise, the phonemic dimension of what, loosely but famously called ‘secret prose’ in Dickens by Graham Greene, I will be identifying (after Ong’s ‘secondary orality’) as the ‘secondary vocality’ of the reading event in cases of uniquely impacted audiovisual overlap identified as ‘graphonic’ wording.
In Western literature music functions ‘as the vehicle for everything that cannot be represented or denoted.’ Anglophone literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries works with a specific musical tradition that we broadly term ‘classical music’ which encompasses a set of intellectual, aesthetic, historical and cultural ideas. From Wagner’s Total Art-Work to Walter Pater’s claims about music as the ‘consummate’ art form, classical music as an aesthetic paradigm has not just offered literature a set of cultural reference points, but philosophical and intellectual traditions that shape its aesthetic experiments and styles. Nowhere is the idea of music more fully delineated by a composer than in the work of Wagner, and his music has had perhaps the greatest influence on literature. Wagner provides a focal point for discussions of classical music in literature in this chapter, especially around the role of the Gesamtkunstwerk in Virginia Woolf’s negotiations with aesthetics and the artwork. Laura Marcus has argued that literary modernism took on filmic devices. This chapter argues that it did the same with music. Newly conscious of forms, languages, systems and somatic effects, modernist writers turned to music and particularly Wagner as a paradigm of artistic expression.
Chapter 2 follows the coal extracted from the countryside of rural England to arrive in the humming, phosphorescent, non-stop pulsation of the metropolis. Virginia Woolf’s argument for a writer’s need to control her own rest and living space in A Room of One’s Own provides a basis for analyzing how social action determines the built environment. In order to articulate the growing relation between industrial “exhaust” and physical “exhaustion,” the chapter turns to a discussion of “atmosphere” in James Joyce’s Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses. Surveying the trajectory of environmental groups such as the Smoke Abatement League of Great Britain, I consider both the benefits and limitations to the primarily visual aesthetics that surrounded discussions of pollution. The rise of gasworks to create “clean,” smokeless fuels removed soot from the air but often poisoned workers and waterways. I outline a modernist aesthetics of atmosphere that is not primarily visual but proprioceptive. Atmosphere in its local and global, visible and invisible manifestations reveals the subtle interactions between personal and public spaces in the metropolis.
The introduction considers ecological conservation movements in relation to modernity as a restless process of exhausting natural resources and human labor. I survey the emerging field of ecocritical modernist studies and situate my intervention as a focus on archival materials that chart the rhetorical development of environmental activists. I outline modernism as a strategic form of regeneration that avoids exhaustion through strategic breaks towards formal innovation. I consider the material and aesthetic basis of restlessness as it affects the artistic and contemplative life. I give the scope of the project and introduce the main authors in the study: D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys, and Chinua Achebe. I also look at E. M. Forster’s own environmental activism and Virginia Woolf’s new definitions of modern literature. I draw on aesthetic theories from Immanuel Kant, Walter Benjamin, and Fredric Jameson to show how artistic contemplation may still take place in the chaotic environments of modernity.
The sixth chapter, “Gray Modernism,” argues that modernist experimentation with narrative form draws theoretical and disciplinary inspiration from the invention of gerontology and geriatrics as a science. During the twentieth century, aging becomes the subject of clinical interest, a temporal pathology detachable from the body it affects. Similarly, for modernist novels like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, duration becomes separable from the highly charged aesthetic moments it contains. Though Orlando lives through many centuries, she does not grow old; instead, her greatest transformation occurs when her gender instantaneously switches from male to female. The novel creates a divide between the systems of duration and aging on the one hand, and the momentariness and constructedness of identity on the other. By breaking with the conventions that link duration and objective, shared time, Woolf situates aging in an ironic temporality that disrupts the forward press of years.
Aging, Duration, and the English Novel concludes by comparing the affordances of cinema and the novel as they relate to the representation of aging. Emerging near the end of this study’s historical focus, cinema offered new formal possibilities for capturing the process of growing old. Returning to the question of duration through a discussion of Woolf’s, Bergson’s, and Deleuze’s writing on cinema, this section teases out the formal arguments about narrative explored in the previous chapters. In fact, the comparison between cinematic and textual narrative underlines this book’s thesis: that the affordances of form structure historically specific possibilities—affective, social, and political—for older people. The afterword also affirms an expanded version of this thesis by arguing that age—as a biocultural process—serves as a form with its own ability to organize human life and read texts.
In the twentieth century, the aftermath of Wilde’s trial generates a new interest in the Dark Lady sequence as a means of heterosexualising Shakespeare and his Sonnets. Their powerful appeal as expressions of male-male desire continues, however, in the work of Wilfred Owen, and the chapter explores the nostalgia and hostility which the Sonnets aroused among soldiers in World War I. Post-war, the Sonnets become a vehicle for modernist poetics through the work of Laura Riding and Robert Graves, and their citation by William Empson makes them central to New Criticism. Whilst the biographical interpretation of the Sonnets intensifies through the Shakespeare novel, the idea of the Dark Lady, focused particularly on Sonnet 130, opens up new possibilities for women and women of colour to re-voice the Sonnets at the end of the century.
The new opportunities, experiences, and limits of liberal internationalist order produced a distinctive kind of feminist-internationalist genre, the internationalist typewriter fiction. The bestselling novelist Rose Macaulay, Hogarth Press intimate Alice Ritchie, journalist and novelist Winifred Holtby, also Virginia Woolf: all wrote of clerks, secretaries, and typists at liberal internationalist offices during the postwar period, for a feminist audience both dependent on and resistant to empire. These fictions contest the familiar modernist trope of the passive “typist home at teatime,” as in Eliot and Conrad, and open up new ways to read the textual traces of liberal governance. Feminist depictions of liberal world order, particularly in the Mandate territories of Africa, allow us to track the complex network of paperwork, romance, and race that organized neo-imperial rule under the Mandate system. Depictions of typists and office work also allow us a new way into reading the imaginative life of the new technical-managerial economic order that rose to increasing prominence between the wars.
This chapter takes up the friends and enemies of the liberal world order of 1919, beginning with the anti-liberal provocations of the postwar avant-garde. At its center it focuses on the ambivalent relationship of Leonard and Virginia Woolf to liberal internationalism. I propose a new reading of the political Virginia Woolf as a writer devoted to rethinking liberal governance, rather than a critic writing “against empire,” and read her breakthrough anti-bildungsroman, Jacob’s Room, as an extended inquiry into liberal governmental order. I put Woolf’s approach to liberal government in dialogue with H. G. Wells’s World State fiction and his Outline of History, a major intellectual event of the postwar period.
Sally Bayley traces Plath’s emerging relationship to her journal persona and creed. Bayley focuses on the intense period of Plath’s late teenage years and early adulthood, including the beginnings of university education. She also reveals the importance of the diarists Plath read to Plath’s own journal activities and larger poetic practices. Of special importance is Virginia Woolf, and Bayley helps us to see afresh Plath’s off-quoted exhilaration at Woolf’s reference to cooking haddock and sausages, which says more about Plath herself than it does the subject of her comments. Bayley shows us how Plath’s ideas about the ‘melting’, emerging self, move from the journals and into poems such as ‘Ariel’ and ‘Lady Lazarus’.
Holly Ranger establishes a relatively neglected but crucial context for Plath’s work, illuminating Plath’s frequent classical allusions and her sophisticated intertextual dialogue with literary history. Among the many poems that Ranger helps us to see anew are the bee poems, shot through as they are with references to Virgil. All the while, Ranger reveals Plath’s ambivalence towards her classical project, her contradictory impulses to reject this canon, yet the impossibility of her ignoring it.
This chapter suggests that Ian McEwan’s vexed relationship with British modernism can be resolved by understanding modernism as an aesthetic and political resource that his novels adapt to new conditions of life in the twenty-first century. Looking at several of the novels with the obvious connections to modernist literature – Atonement, Saturday, Solar and The Children Act – this chapter explores the ways McEwan engages with and updates three key modernist ideals: the aesthetics of transgression and rupture; the view of human nature; and modernism’s claims for the relevance of the literary. Common to each of these ‘updates’ is a shedding of the grandiose claims of modernism in favour of more modest and minor concepts of literary value better attuned to the indirect and limited ways that literature operates today.
This chapter examines Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (1853), Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage (1915–1938), and selections of non-fiction writing by Virginia Woolf published between 1919 and 1925. It argues that the fluid psychology we traditionally associate with twentieth-century experiments in literary form begins with the impact of nineteenth-century climate science on realist fiction. The atmospheric modes of female consciousness and ethereal embodiment that women’s presumed sensitivity to climate engenders in novels like Jane Eyre and Bleak House thus give rise to later, feminist engagements with female authorship such as Richardson’s and Woolf’s. Taking May Sinclair’s pioneering use of the term ‘stream of consciousness’ to describe Pilgrimage in 1918 as a pivot point, the chapter connects Richardson’s acknowledged debt to Villette with the climatic underpinnings that inform Woolf’s responses to both of these novels as well as her famous definition of modern fiction as ‘an incessant shower of innumerable atoms’.
This chapter explores the relationship between Shakespeare and climate. Taking its inspiration from weather disruptions to the 2017 Shakespeare Association of America conference, it riffs on the tweets that this climatic disturbance generated and the themes they reveal. It deals with the issues of: climate and its material effects on Shakespearean composition and performance, whereby climate and culture may be said to be co-constitutive; the resistance in Shakespeare’s time to codifying climate, in partial acknowledgement of climate’s unpredictability; and thus the extent to which Shakespearean texts portend human and non-human entanglement in the Anthropocene.