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Any engagement with David James’s sense of the ‘recrudescence’ of modernism in contemporary literature as a whole must confront the legacies of the so-called ‘poetry wars’ in the 1970s. In this chapter I turn to the repercussions of the ‘poetry wars’ more widely, and their impact on the concept of enigmatical poetry. Sustaining a wariness towards what David Caplan terms these ‘simple oppositions’, I nevertheless register their critical efficacy in distinguishing between enigmatical ‘clowning’ and Don Paterson’s refutation of lyrical indulgence. Rather than vying to register the obsoleteness of these terms, I argue that the persistence of allusive and ellusive poetry in both ‘camps’ indicates that the poetry wars are continuing in a modulated form. The terms require recalibration: Geoffrey Hill’s poetry, like Carol Ann Duffy’s, would normally be described as ‘mainstream’, yet Hill rails against the latter’s version of democratic poetry in his fourth lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry. Whereas Paterson’s default position is of aesthetic conciliation, Hill’s enigmatical poetry allows our understanding to be challenged and, sometimes, to be defeated.
James Joyce and T. S. Eliot advanced a ‘double consciousness’ in their approach to myth that pervades Tony Harrison’s Metamorpheus(2000) and Sandeep Parmar’s Eidolon(2015). This double consciousness is not unique to modernism, but it intensifies in early twentieth-century literature, inscribing modernists’ desire to explore what Michael Bell describes as ‘the problematics of history under the sign of myth’. The mythic counterpointing that underpins Harrison’s work indicates that his modernist influences have been neglected by critics and poets such as Simon Armitage, eager to position his poetry as eschewing unnecessary complexity. However, whereas Metamorpheus and Eidolon would both be symptomatic of metamodernist literature in Andre Furlani’s understanding of the term, it is only in Eidolon that the legacies of ‘fractured’ writing allow for an enigmatical account of Helen, one of the most elusive figures in Greek myth.
This article reconstructs Jean-François Lyotard’s theory of the sublime in contemporary art, focusing on his claim that such art ‘presents’ the unpresentable, and tracing its origins in Kant’s account of the sublime. I propose that Lyotard identifies a difficulty concerning Kant’s account: to understand why the disparate elements in the experience of the sublime (idea of reason, sensible representation) should be synthesized to form that experience. Lyotard recasts this difficulty as a pragmatic problem for artistic practice – how to ‘testify’ to the absolute in a non-absolute, sensibly perceivable object (the artwork) – that can be understood to drive avant-garde artistic experimentation.
From the Great Depression to the early 1950s, Chicago was the center of African American literary production. On the South Side, writers such as Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Frank Marshall Davis, Margaret Walker, and William Attaway authored works that broke new ground in African American letters. They came of age artistically in the wake of the Great Migration, and the migratory experience and the challenges of creating new lives in the city became the grand themes of their writing and underpinned a broader creative flowering first manifested in the vibrant jazz and blues of the 1920s. Through local institutions, New Deal cultural agencies, and left-wing artists’ organizations, writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance interacted with performing and visual artists and social scientists, achieved unprecedented critical and commercial success, and sought to build infrastructures supporting black cultural initiatives. Collectively, they created a body of literature that was thematically powerful enough to portray a time of massive economic desperation and social dislocation while stylistically supple enough to incorporate many of the formal innovations of literary modernism.
This chapter outlines the literary history of Chicago from the city’s inception to the present day. Guided by the idea of Chicago as the crossroads of modern America, the chapter argues that the city occupies a distinctive place in American literature by virtue of its particular geographic and material features. As Chicago developed from prairie outpost to modern metropolis inthe nineteenth century, it became home to a diverse range of literary voices that grappled with representing the city’s new urban realities in its literature. The introduction also outlines how especially women, African Americans, and ethnically diverse immigrants have contributed to Chicago literature, and how successive generations of writers have provided different visions of the city that are influenced by the complex cultural and historical contexts of both the city and America at large. Pointing out that the literary history of Chicago is one of reaction by individual writers to their urban environment, the introduction considers the centrality of Chicago literature for styles and movements such as realism, naturalism, and modernism, before providing a short outline of the book’s five sections.
This chapter examines the legacy of the Chicago Renaissance (1910–25) by focusing on the relationship between writers Sherwood Anderson and Floyd Dell. The chapter pays special attention to Dell’s late-life evaluation of Anderson – Anderson died in 1941, while Dell lived until 1969 – and draws extensively from Dell’s papers at the Newberry Library in Chicago, which underscore his hostility toward literary modernism as well as his associated dislike of Anderson. Although in the 1910s and 1920s, Dell was known as a bohemian writer/editor and leftist political figure, in later years, he became more conservative and tended to stress his allegiance to more traditional literary forms – in particular, realism – and to downplay his championship of the “new.” This tension between realism and modernism is evident in Dell’s ambivalent response to Winesburg, Ohio (1919), Anderson’s modernist-oriented portrayal of life in a small, Ohio town. The article also shows how these tensions may be seen in Chicago literature written after the Renaissance and notes that realism remained the dominant mode of representation during the 1930s and 1940s.
The little magazines Poetry: A Magazine of Verse and the Little Review were instrumental in promoting the Chicago Literary Renaissance and Chicago modernism. I investigate their central roles, reading these magazines as privileged sites of modern cultural production and reception as well as important cultural objects in their own right. First, I explain how these magazines relied on local benefactors and advertising to jostle for position among Chicago’s musical, visual, and theatrical arts, as well as within a periodical field that included such other established Chicago magazines as The Dial. I then consider the literary presence of Chicago in both magazines, incorporating digital humanities methodologies to locate Chicago-based contributors (including Carl Sandburg and Sherwood Anderson, along with lesser-known figures) and to identify the many poems and prose pieces associated with the city – highlighting individual literary achievements as well as shared images and tropes.
Mark Goble uses the concept of convergence to explore the implications of formal and temporal compression, economy, and slowness in an age of unprecedented expansion and speedup. Richard McGuire’s Here presents an extreme example of spatial restriction and temporal expansion, while novels by Ruth Ozeki, Richard Powers, and William Gibson juxtapose ecological, scientific, technological, and theological timespans to human ones in ways that echo postmodern and science fiction precursors, but with very different aims and warnings in mind for denizens of the Anthropocene.
In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century in which the writer, literary theorist, and activist Hamlin Garland lived in Chicago, he made great efforts to make the city the center of American literature. While later readers categorized his work simply as Midwest regionalism, Garland believed that regionalist literatures constituted global avant-gardes and that developing regional literary centers would lead to a transformation of literary value. This chapter surveys Garland’s work across thirty years, examining his theory of literary localism, his investment in developing the Chicago literary and artistic world, his changing vision of the American West, and his deflected relationship to early American modernism. In addition to his most famous writings, Main-Travelled Roads and Crumbling Idols, the chapter discusses less well-known works including The Land of the Straddle-Bug, Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly, his writings on Alaskan mining and Native American reservations, and his biography of U. S. Grant. It also explores his affiliations with Chicago personalities including Henry Blake Fuller, Harriet Monroe, and the influential Chicago magazines the Chap-Book and Poetry.
This essay considers modernist internationalism and formal mutation in light of the globalized media ecology brought about by imperialism’s capitalist monopoly of the world-system. Since imperialism and colonialism constituted the first ever properly global system of control and circulation, modernism’s global imaginary and technical innovations cannot be understood outside of a world economic and technological frame. Building on scholarly narratives of modernism’s global vision and its metropolitan incorporation of the colonial periphery/“other,” this article shows how new media technology allowed for the rounding of the world and the advent of new literary forms such as the montage. Media discussed include cinema, photography, magazines, and the phonograph, while poets considered include but are not limited to Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Blaise Cendrars.
Chicago occupies a central position in both the geography and literary history of the United States. From its founding in 1833 through to its modern incarnation, the city has served as both a thoroughfare for the nation's goods and a crossroads for its cultural energies. The idea of Chicago as a crossroads of modern America is what guides this literary history, which traces how writers have responded to a rapidly changing urban environment and labored to make sense of its place in - and implications for - the larger whole. In writing that engages with the world's first skyscrapers and elevated railroads, extreme economic and racial inequality, a growing middle class, ethnic and multiethnic neighborhoods, the Great Migration of African Americans, and the city's contemporary incarnation as a cosmopolitan urban center, Chicago has been home to a diverse literature that has both captured and guided the themes of modern America.
This chapter places Elizabeth Bishop’s work within the cross currents of the aesthetic and poetic movements that constituted modernism. While it might be expected that Bishop and her contemporaries such as Randall Jarrell, John Berryman and Robert Lowell would form part of the generation that would inherit the sensibilities of modernism, what quickly becomes clear, particularly in relation to Bishop, is both her reticence at being identified with any one particular school or movement and her agility in moving between the definitions produced by, and for, modernism. In part her singular position on the peripheries of modernism was a self-selected one, Bishop is happier to stand apart from the categorizing and theorizing impulses of her time. In addition, the fact that she was a gay woman
When did the period of musical Romanticism end? This question is enticingly simple, but the answer is surprisingly difficult. Drawing on the recent developments in the historiography of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century music, this chapter examines some of the categories commonly used to describe this period – late Romanticism, early modernism, maximalism, and Weltanschauungsmusik – and their methodological and epistemological orientations. It will be argued that these categories, far from being merely convenient labels for stylistic categorisation, can be understood as different responses to the complex historiographical challenges arising from the destabilised ontological foundation of the work-concept. Grounded in a discussion of the alienation between Arnold Schoenberg and Richard Strauss between 1909 and 1914, this chapter contends that the question concerning the end(s) of musical Romanticism can thus only be rendered approachable as a heuristic idea, in the way it prompts us constantly to question, challenge, and rethink the historiographical foundations of an era.
This chapter explores musical Romanticism as a historiographical concept. Drawing on a range of sources, from nineteenth-century writings to textbooks published in the twentieth century, it probes the distinction that has been made between classicism and Romanticism, noting that it is only when musical Romanticism is over that the concept of a Romantic era starts being crystallised. It investigates the degree to which the year 1848 can be considered to be a symbolic moment for the end of Romanticism and, through the music of the second half of the nineteenth century, considers the relationship between musical Romanticism and closely related concepts such as neo-Romanticism, realism, and modernity. Drawing on a wide range of historiographical writings from the second half of the twentieth century, it explores changing conceptions of where musical Romanticism is deemed to reside, whether in instrumental music or vocal music, and whether within the Germanic realm or beyond it. It investigates the place and role of women within musical Romanticism and explores their absence in writings on musical Romanticism in relation to broader writings on Romanticism and feminism.
Elizabeth Bishop observed the central tensions in mid-century American poetics from a distance, which allowed her the space to resolve them in her own work in idiosyncratic and shifting ways. This chapter thus looks to her correspondence as an archive of an ad hoc poetic theory. There we see Bishop developing unique constellations of, first, the formality of accentual-syllabic verse and the flexibility of free verse and, second, a residual commitment to modernist impersonality and an emerging aesthetics of confessional disclosure. The chapter draws primarily on letters between Bishop and both Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton to advance its argument and offers readings of Bishop’s poems “Song for the Rainy Season” and “Poem” as evidence of their author’s unique engagement with mid-century poetics.
In Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man, Mailer attempts to make sense of the life of a painter he deemed one of his greatest influences. In Advertisements for Myself, he included a short piece called “An Eye on Picasso,” and had also planned to pen a biography of Picasso as early as 1962. Moreover, Mailer himself also dabbled in the visual arts, producing a number of sketches that invoke a Modernist aesthetic in their relative abstraction. This chapter traces these connections, and illuminates the role that Cubism played in determining the shape and dimension of Mailer’s literary canon during the second half of the twentieth century.
How Norman Mailer enters the discussion of Modernism may be as opaque as the discussion of Modernism itself. Several lines of approach, however, may be useful: First, which traditions did Mailer gravitate towards; second, how did Mailer define himself as an artist; third, what were the central elements of his worldview and poetics; and fourth, what questions of form and style did his work attempt to explore? This chapter situates Mailer’s work within the literary and historical context of the Modernist movement by focusing on his use of persona, his worldview, and the thematic content of his work.
Elizabeth Bishop wrote with an awareness of developments in the visual arts at the beginning of the twentieth century, often seen as spearheading the Modernist movement in all the arts. As well as being a profoundly visual poet and sharing an interest in detailed description with her mentor Marianne Moore, Bishop also questioned the idea of a settled point of view and embraced both uncertainty and multiplicity in relation to seeing. Temperamentally she found an affinity with the idea of the Baroque in seventeenth-century writing and in the parallels with twentieth-century art drawn in art theory. Her early attraction to Surrealism also had to do with the disorientating effects of seeing and the uncertain boundary between inner and outer worlds. A writer who also painted herself, though in a small way, Bishop was always alert to issues of spatial representation, and how art and writing traced a similar process of their own emergence.
W. B. Yeats began writing about the theatre in the mid-1890s, after a trip to Paris where he first saw French symbolist theatre. From the time that the Irish Literary Theatre (later the Abbey) began producing his plays in the early 1900s, Yeats was regularly, and vigorously writing about theatre, with key essays appearing in the little magazines Samhain and Beltaine. From about 1910 onwards, his writing about theatre becomes more meditative, more concerned with his occult interests, and for a period focused on his interest in Japanese Nō theatre. Collectively, Yeats’s fugitive writings for the theatre constitutes an organum for the theatre, which is consistent across more than forty years, and which stands among the most significant contributions to modernist reconceptualisations of theatre.
When W. B. Yeats won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, he singled out his contribution to theatre as one of his main achievements. The critical consensus since his death has not shared this view, and his theatrical work has largely been overlooked. This book contends that Yeats is not only an important modernist playwright, but also a thinker about theatre whose originality can be compared to that of Brecht or Artaud.