Modernism and Postmodernism
andrzej gasiorek and peter boxall
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This chapter deals with work published in the ﬁeld of modernism and postmodernism in 2006 and is divided into two sections: 1. Modernism; 2. Postmodernism.
In the course of the last three years, our reading of published work on modernism and postmodernism has thrown up various recurring issues. It would be exaggerating the case to suggest that there is a homogeneity of concerns here, or that some kind of critical ‘dominant’ has emerged during this short period, but it’s clear that certain preoccupations and methodological/theoretical approaches have greater currency than others. In this, our ﬁnal year of reviewing these linked research ﬁelds, we want not only to focus on the year’s work in 2006 but also to highlight what seem to us to have been the key over-riding concerns to have emerged during the last three years. It goes without saying that our remarks aren’t intended to be deﬁnitive; we make no pretence to have covered everything that’s been published (and of course it should be noted that the year’s work covers monographs, not articles in academic journals) but we hope to have identiﬁed at least some of the most absorbing trends. Two really obvious features of recent research in the ﬁeld of modernism stand out: the ﬁrst is its concern with material practices; the second is its commitment to seeing modernism as part of a wide discursive ﬁeld. These two preoccupations frequently go together and inform each other. The days in which modernism was viewed primarily in aesthetic terms (the legacy of the New Critics and Scrutineers looming large) really are long gone. Now, everybody is super-keen to show how much they have learned from cultural studies, the New Historicism, and post-structuralism(s), though it’s the ﬁrst two of these approaches that have had far the greatest inﬂuence. This means Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, 16 ß The English Association (2008) All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com doi:10.1093/ywcct/mbn002
Modernism and Postmodernism | 51 that there is an attentiveness to the history of the book; to the institutions through which modernism was disseminated and mediated; to the role of literary agents, publishing houses, advertisers, and book reviewers; to the public spaces in which writers forged alliances and fought cultural battles; to the ways in which emerging writers and artists fashioned careers for themselves by engaging with literary markets; and to the history of ‘little magazines’, those early conduits of so much modernist work. At the same time, because critics see modernism as inseparable from a wider discursive economy, they also relate it to the numerous writing practices within which—and often against which—it deﬁned itself: literary essays, book reviews, newspaper articles, popular magazine pieces, propaganda work, and all writing that could be seen more generally as ‘lowbrow’ or ‘middlebrow’. The focus is on the ways that earlier accounts of modernism misread it because their obsession with its aesthetic innovations and artistic heroism led them to ignore the socio-cultural matrices in which and through which it emerged. That said, a fascinating feature of this year’s work on modernism is a renewed interest in the aesthetic. But more on that later. It is easy enough to illustrate the general point we have been making so far. The books we are going to discuss all make it themselves in their opening statements. Of the various monographs published in 2006, we propose to concentrate on the following: Patricia E. Chu, Race, Nationalism and the State in British and American Modernism; Patrick Collier, Modernism on Fleet Street; Celia Marshik, British Modernism and Censorship; David Miller and Richard Price, eds, British Poetry Magazines,...