11 Modernism

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Cultural History of Britain 11
Timeline
 1837-1901 – Queen Victoria – the British Empire
 1899-1902 Boer War
 1901-1910 Edward VII (Edwardians)
 1910-36 – George V (Georgians)
 1914-1918 World War I
 1917 Russian Revolution
 1922 – Irish Free State
 1929-1933 The Great Depression – politically committed literature
 1936 – Edward VIII (abdicated)
 1936-52 – George VI
 1939-45 World War II
 1945 – Atlee’s Labour Government – the beginning of the welfare state
 1947 – Declaration of Indian Independence – end of the Second Empire
 1949 – Irish Republic
 1952- Elizabeth II
2) Social and Intellectual Background
The turn of the century (Fin de siècle)
a) Society
 modern society
 individualism, psychological privacy, isolation, sense of
fragmentation (McFarlane, „The Mind of Modernism” 81)
 rise of the working classes – social and political movements
 rise of the New Woman (Sarah Grand, McFarlane, „The Mind of
Modernism” 79)
b) Science
 positivism
 Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859)
 Einstein – theory of relativity (1905)(Bantock 13-56)
 scientific, mechanical worldview ↔ alternative versions, e.g.
Theosophy (especially after 1875) (McFarlane, „The Mind of
Modernism” 75)
2) Social and Intellectual Background
b) Science
 Psychology
 Stream of consciousness (William James, Principles of Psychology, 1890)
“A ‘river’ or a ‘stream’ are the metaphors by which it [the mind, inner life]
is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream
of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life.”
(James
quoted at Bradbury, British Novel 197)
 Henri Bergson: objective and subjective time (clock time and duration)
 psychoanalysis (from 1895) – Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung
→ direct reaction and debate in Modernist literature, e.g. D. H. Lawrence,
Aldous Huxley
c) Philosophy (ethics)
 relativity in philosophy and morality (Nietzsche)
 1914-18 World War I, age of anxiety
 private morality – Nietzsche’s popularity after 1890
 Marxism (McFarlane, „The Mind of Modernism” 79)
3) The Literary Scene
a) Turn of the century – Late Victorian literature
 Victorian poetry, ivory tower, escapism (Lord Alfred Tennyson,
Robert Browning)↔transitory figures (Modernist poetry of
Thomas Hardy)
 Late Victorian novel (Thomas Hardy, detective fiction,
Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde)
 Edwardians (1901-10): H. G. Wells, John Galsworthy, Arnold
Bennett
 Victorian moralism, formal social conventions and hypocrisies,
culture of commercialism and literature of profit
 modern but not Modernist
 influence of Naturalism (Bradbury, British Novel 69-75)
 well-made play
b) Changes at the Turn of the Century
influences fostering the emergence of Modernism (foreign
influences):
 French Symbolism
 French Naturalism
 Rediscovery of Italian Renaissance poetry
 translation of Dostoevsky’s novels – influenced most
Modernist writers, e.g. Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley
 Oriental literature (Japanese forms: Noh, haiku) and
philosophy (Buddism, occult philosophies)
 Ibsen – analytic drama
 1890s – The Nineties – acceptance of the Aesthetic Movement
 The Irish Renaissance (Holloway 61-113)
c) Modernism
 Definition – umbrella term: a wide variety of actual
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movements, which are subversive of romanticism or realism,
such as
Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Expressionism
Cubism
Futurism
Symbolism
Imagism
Vorticism
Dadaism
Surrealism
Impressionism: Claude Monet, Impression - Sunrise
Post-Impressionism: Paul Cézanne, Bathers
Expressionism: Edvard Munch, The Scream
Cubism:
Georges
Braque, Woman
with a Guitar
Surrealism: Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory
Suprematism: Kazimir Malevich, Black Square
Modernist Continental Influence and Britain
 1910: First Post-Impressionist Exhibition in London (Roger Fry)
 Bloomsbury Group
 Roger Fry, Vision and Design (1920)
 Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry: A Biography (1940)
 “On or about December 1910 human character changed” (Virginia
Woolf, “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown”, 1923)
c) Modernism in Literature
 it is an international tendency, not a universal style or tradition, art
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centred on a broadly symbolist aesthetics and an avant-garde view of
the artist
urban phenomenon, associated with capitals, intellectual centres
a conscious mannerism, based on shock, a violation of expected
continuities
realism↔ Modernism: deeper penetration of life through style,
technique and spatial form, art creating harmony, unity, life within
itself
task of art = to redeem a formless universe, a new universe of
discourse opposing a sense of universal fragmentation
Modernist texts work spatially, through a logic of metaphor or form
c) Modernism in Literature
 technical features
 sophistication and mannerism
 introversion
 technical display
 crisis of the aesthetic ideal growing out of Romanticism
 constant search for style (McFarlane, „The Mind of Modernism” 89)
 a crisis of culture, apocalypse of cultural community and a crisis of
reality
→ registers the collapse of myth, structure, organisation
↔ tries to recover this lost unity by creating harmony within the work
of art, through myth – T. S. Eliot, “Ulysses, Order and Myth” (1923):
myth “is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape
and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy
which is contemporary history” (T. S. Eliot)
d) English Modernism
 No clear-cut periods, sharp divisions, like in the 19th century ↔
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major trends and tendencies
Virginia Woolf, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” (1924)
“in or about December, 1910, human character changed” ←
first Post-Impressionist exhibition in London, Matisse, Van
Gogh, Cézanne
Malcolm Bradbury’s periodisation: 1890s-1920s Modernism
it includes the Edwardians! (1901-1910)
1930s – politically committed literature
two main tendencies: new classicism and the continuation of
Romanticism (Symbolism) (Bradbury 199), but they are not
absolute opposites
several foreign writers and 2-3 generations of English writers
“English” Modernists (Literature)
 Joseph Conrad
 Thomas Hardy (as a poet)
 Henry James
 Samuel Butler
 T. S. Eliot
 Arthur Symons
 Katherine Mansfield
 D. H. Lawrence
 Ezra Pound
 E. M. Forster
 W. B. Yeats
 Virginia Woolf
 G. B. Shaw
 Aldous Huxley
 James Joyce
Early Feminism:
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
Women’s Situation in 19th-century Britain
 1830: no rights for married women, part of the legal entity of
the husband
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Property and income
Right to divorce (custody of children)
Public activities and offices
Suffrage
 1857: Matrimonial Causes Act (divorce)
 1870/1882: Married Woman’s Property Act (property and
income)
 1918: suffrage
 1920s – first women to get degrees at English universities
 1870s: women are allowed to attend university courses but no
degrees
Virginia Woolf (neé Stephen)
 Novelist, critic, feminist, editor
 influences: Chekhov, Dostoevsky, contemporary English
Modernists, Marcel Proust, Sigmund Freud, Henri
Bergson’s theory of objective and subjective time →
“moments of being” – duration (Goldman 3-4) → streamof-consciousness technique; memories, tunnelling
 Bloomsbury Group, Hogarth Press
 criticism of contemporary literature and promoter of
Modernist ideas – four volumes of Collected Essays
gathered posthumously by Leonard Woolf
Early Feminism: Virginia Woolf
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A Room of One’s Own (1929)
gender hierarchies and their possible subversion (Hanson 111)
Shakespeare’s sister
the fantasy of androgyny → fictional representation in Orlando
“And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of
us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain the
man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain the woman
predominates over the man.”
 “Professions for Women” (1931) – the “Angel in the House”
“Above all – I need not say it – she was pure. Her purity was supposed to be
her chief beaty – her blushes, her great grace. In those days – the last of
Queen Victoria – every house had its angel. And when I came to write I
encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on
my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. […] I turned upon
her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I
were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence.
Had I not killed her, she would have killed me. She would have plucked the
heart out of my writing.” (Professions for Women, quoted in Hanson 5-6)
Early Feminism: Virginia Woolf
Three Guineas (1938)
 12 fictional letters and drafts
 title ← three guineas donated by the narrator to a peace society, a women’s
college and an organisation for helping professional women (Black 18)
 central argument: links fascism to the status of women; “war is only one of
the products […] of a system of power and domination that has its roots in
gender hierarchy” – has been much debated (Black 6-7),
 war = “preposterous masculine fiction” (Black 19)
 Pacifism (Black 17)
 humanism of the Bloomsbury circle ↔ different in her views on women
(Black 2);
 social feminism ←”valorisation of women’s civilisation as a basis for social
and political transformation (Black 10)
 feminist-inspired quest for peace → first-wave women’s movement, sharing
ideas (Black 18)
 Woolf saw deeper controversies and problems, did not think that suffrage in
itself was the solution (Black 19)
Architecture
 Continent: new design and technique
 Frank Lloyd Wright – organic architecture
(1867-1959, America)
 Gropius – pioneer of modern architecture,
Bauhaus (1883-1969, Germany)
 Le Corbusier – modern high design (18871965, France)
Modern Influences in British Architecture – 1930s
 Charles Holden (1875-1960, London
Underground)
 Owen Williams (1890-1969, factories)
 Maxwell Fry (1899-1987, domestic
architecture)
Sculpture – Advent of Abstract Art
 Henry Moore (1898-1986)
 Barbara Hepworth (1903-75)
Henry Moore, Reclining Figure
Hepworth, Pelagos
Music: Benjamin Britten (1913-76)
 Purcell’s influence (performance of Dido and Aeneas)
 Many genres, most famous for operas, also film music
 Collaborated with outstanding modernist writers (Auden,
E. M. Forster)
 Works include:
 Peter Grimes
 Billy Budd
 The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
Works Cited
Bantock, G. H.. “The Social and Intellectual Background.” The Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. 7. From James to Eliot.
Ed. Boris Ford. London: Penguin Books, 1983, 13-60.
Black, Naomi. Virginia Woolf as Feminist. Ithaca, London: Cornell UP, 2004.
Bradbury, Malcolm and James McFarlane. “The Name and Nature of Modernism.” Modernism – A Guide to European Literature
1890-1930. Ed. Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane. London: Penguin Books, 1991: 19-56.
Bradbury, Malcolm. “London 1890-1920.” Modernism – A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930. Ed. Malcolm Bradbury and
James McFarlane. London: Penguin Books, 1991: 172-190.
Bradbury, Malcolm. The Modern British Novel 1878-2001. Revised edition. London: Penguin Books, 2001.
Bullock, Allan. “The Double Image.” Modernism – A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930. Ed. Malcolm Bradbury and James
McFarlane. London: Penguin Books, 1991: 58-70.
Davidson, Harriet. “Improper Desire: Reading The Waste Land.” The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot. Ed. A. David Moody.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994: 120-131.
Eliot, T. S. “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York,
London: W. W. Norton, 2001: 1092-8.
Eliot, T. S. “Ulysses, Order and Myth.” The English Modernist Reader. Ed. Peter Faulkner. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press,
1986: 100-104.
Eliot, T. S. “The Metaphysical Poets.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York, London:
W. W. Norton, 2001: 1098-1105.
Goldman, Jane. The Feminist Aesthetics of Virginia Woolf – Modernism, Post-Impressionism and the Politics of the Visual.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
Hanson, Clare. Virginia Woolf. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994.
Holloway, John. “The Literary Scene.” The Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. 7. From James to Eliot. Ed. Boris Ford.
London: Penguin Books, 1983, 61-114.
Johnson, Trevor. A Critical Introduction to the Poems of Thomas Hardy. Houndsmills: Macmillan, 1991.
Kearns, Cleo McNelly. “Religion, Literature, and Society in the Work of T. S. Eliot.” The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot. Ed.
A. David Moody. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994: 77-93.
Works Cited
Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York, London: W. W. Norton, 2001.
Longenbach, James. “’Mature Poets Steal’: Eliot’s Allusive Practice.” The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot.
Ed. A. David Moody. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994: 176-188.
Marcus, Laura. “Woolf’s Feminism and Feminism’s Woolf.” The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf. Eds.
Susan Roe and Susan Sellers. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000: 2009-244.
Materer, Timothy. “T. S. Eliot’s Critical Program.” The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot. Ed. A. David
Moody. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994: 48-59.
Mays, J. C. C. “Early Poems: from ‘Prufrock’ to ‘Gerontion’.” The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot. Ed. A.
David Moody. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994: 108-120.
McFarlane, James. “The Mind of Modernism.” Modernism – A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930. Ed.
Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane. London: Penguin Books, 1991: 71-94.
Moody, A. David. “Four Quartets: Music, Word, Meaning and Value.” The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot.
Ed. A. David Moody. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994: 142-157.
Salingar, L. G. “T. S. Eliot: Poet and Critic.” The Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. 7. From James to
Eliot. Ed. Boris Ford. London: Penguin Books, 1983: 443-461.
Schulkind, Jeanne. “Introduction.” Virginia Woolf. Moments of Being. Ed. Jeanne Schulkind. New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976: 15-29.
Scott, Clive. “Symbolism, Decadence and Impressionism.” Modernism – A Guide to European Literature 18901930. Ed. Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane. London: Penguin Books, 1991: 206-227.
Scott, Peter Dale. “The Social Critic and his Discontents.” The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot. Ed. A.
David Moody. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994: 60-76.
Williamson, George. A Reader’s Guide to T. S. Eliot – A Poem-by-Poem Analysis. New York: The Noonday
Press, 1966.
Zach, Natan. “Imagism and Vorticism.” Modernism – A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930. Ed. Malcolm
Bradbury and James McFarlane. London: Penguin Books, 1991: 228-242.
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