Bahun, Sanja. Modernism and Melancholia: Writing as Countermourning. Oxford: OUP, 2014. 236 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-997795-6. Hb. $45.00.
Goldstone, Andrew. Fictions of Autonomy: Modernism from Wilde to de Man. Oxford: OUP, 2013. 204 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-986112-5. Hb. $73.00.
This paper positions Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013) at the vanguard of a resurgent modernism in the 21st-century Irish novel, in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crash. It asserts the value of experimental literature to a country which has awoken from a dream of late capitalist prosperity into a sobering confrontation with late capitalist crisis.
McBride’s novel reproduces certain generic characteristics of the historical realism which was the dominant literary mode of Celtic Tiger Ireland. However, it also innovates: McBride’s new, fragmentary adaptation of Joycean stream-of-consciousness navigates its familiar themes through the internal states of its traumatized protagonist.
Timár, Andrea. A Modern Coleridge: Cultivation, Addiction, Habits. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 264 pages. ISBN 9781137531452. Ppk. £55.
Jordan, Julia. Late Modernism and the Avant-Garde British Novel: Oblique Strategies. Oxford UP, 2020. 256 pages. ISBN 9780198857280. Hb. $80.00.
Perloff, Marjorie. Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2016. 204 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-05442-1. Hb. $23.98.
This paper offers a reading of Ali Smith’s 2014 novel, How to Be Both, in the context of Aby Warburg’s iconological interpretation of the frescoes by Francesco del Cossa in the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara. Having reconstructed the story behind the creation, attribution, and reading of the frescoes, the paper argues for recognizing them as a major source of inspiration for Smith’s narrative. Furthermore, the principle of “bothness” is recognized as the novel’s foremost concern; both formal—pertaining to paratextual, graphic, and typeset solutions employed by the narrative—and thematic. With the help of Warburg’s concept of Nachleben and his proposition of traveling forms and images, How to Be Both is ultimately identified as a novel vitally indebted to Warburg’s theoretical and interpretative model. Last but not least, it testifies to the “after-life” of Warburg’s ideas. (RK, WSZ)
Davison, Claire and Gerri Kimber, eds. The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, Volume 1. Letters to Correspondents A-J. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2020. 680 pages. ISBN 9781474445443. Hb. £175.
Brown, Bill. Other Things. Chicago: Chicago UP, 2015. xiv + 396 pages. ISBN 9780026076652. Hb. $40.00
Newman, Daniel Aureliano. Modernist Life Histories: Biological Theory and the Experimental Bildungsroman. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2019. 234 pages. ISBN 9781474439619. Hb. £80.
J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999) features two emblematic modernist representations of the aging artist, William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” and T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which have not been given enough critical attention. Focusing on the Romantic notions underlying David Lurie’s worldview, current critical discourse, with the notable exception of Mike Marais, suggests that Lurie’s career follows the patterns of the Bildungsroman. Taking its cue from Marais, the present intertextual reading discusses Lurie’s “anti-Bildungsroman” in the light of the novel’s non-Romantic intertexts. It argues that they highlight, on the one hand, Lurie’s chiastic thought-processes, which are likely to bracket any progress or development. On the other hand, they reveal his (self)-ageism and the entrenched ageism of the literary tradition he relies on. Those, in turn, also give a pessimistic prognosis of his discovering a protective discourse or worldview which would allow him—and post-apartheid South Africa—to “age gracefully.” Likewise, they manifest yet another aspect of the novel’s unreliable narration, which—unlike Lurie’s sexism and racism—is rooted in so universal fears that, instead of alienating readers from his perspective, it makes his bleak vision of post-apartheid South Africa even more compelling. (AR)
With focus on the tropes of aging and death in Edward Albee’s The Sandbox (1960) and Tennessee Williams’s The Milktrain Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963), the essay investigates the negotiation of the protagonists’ identity through specters of age and the means of encountering death, and it analyzes the representation of the dramas’ senior citizens with special regard to the ways in which these characters challenge mainstream cultural constructions of aging. On their deathbed, both Albee’s and Williams’s protagonists are reconnecting with their pasts in idiosyncratic ways: they build up a conscious “age autobiography” (Margaret Morgenroth Gulette) in an inventory of events and feelings assessing a complete(d) life and achieve an “agewise” (Gulette) identity that comes full circle in the very moment of grace. The characters who escort these two elderly women on their last journey reconceptualize the sense of intimacy between people. The dialogic potential of their empathy, care, and unconditional support during the end-game of the protagonists accommodates difference in various contexts by blurring the boundary between the old and the young as well as the one between men and women, because death has neither age nor gender. Thus, these intergenerational exchanges help elder characters’ agewise enterprises into the unknown gain a cathartic sense of freedom. (RMC)
This essay is devoted to a discussion of Stephen Daldry and David Hare’s film adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s critically acclaimed but controversial Holocaust novel, The Reader (1995; 2008), through one of the film’s many intertexts—Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog” (1899). The scenes related to this short story are crucial to the understanding of Daldry and Hare’s filmic reinterpretation of Schlink’s novel, since they form the mise en abyme of Hanna and Michael’s ambiguous story and stalled self-reflection. The parallels and contrasts of Chekhov’s and the filmmakers’ narratives call viewers’ attention to the ambivalences inherent in the main characters’ representation. Inspired by a passing reference to Chekhov in Schlink’s novel, the scenes alluding to “The Lady with the Little Dog” provide a metanarrative in The Reader, and, as such, reflect the adaptors’ heightened sensitivity to the ambivalences and complexities of reflecting the trauma of the Holocaust—not only for “the second generation” of Germans after World War II. (AR)
Mourant, Chris. Katherine Mansfield and Periodical Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2019. 301 pages. ISBN 9781474439459. Hb. £80.