The Great War and the Language of Modernism

The Great War and the Language of Modernism

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With the expressions "Lost Generation" and "The Men of 1914," the major authors of modernism designated the overwhelming effect the First World War exerted on their era. Literary critics have long employed the same phrases in an attempt to place a radically experimental, specifically modernist writing in its formative, historical setting. What real basis did that Great War provide for the verbal inventiveness of modernist poetry and fiction? Does the literature we bring under this heading respond directly to that provocation, and, if so, what historical memories or revelations can be heard to stir in these words? Vincent Sherry reopens these long unanswered questions by focusing attention on the public culture of the English war. He reads the discourses through which the Liberal party constructed its cause, its Great Campaign. A breakdown in the established language of liberal modernity-the idioms of public reason and civic rationality-marked the sizable crisis this event represents in the mainstream traditions of post-Reformation Europe. If modernist writing characteristically attempts to challenge the standard values of Enlightenment rationalism, this study recovers the historical cultural setting of its most substantial and daring opportunity. And this moment was the occasion for great artistic innovations in the work of Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Combining the records of political journalism and popular intellectual culture with abundant visual illustration, Vincent Sherry provides the framework for new interpretations of the major texts of Woolf, Eliot, and Pound. With its relocation of the verbal imagination of modernism in the context of the English war, The Great War and the Language of Modernism restores the historical content and depth of this literature, revealing its most daunting more

Product details

  • Paperback | 140 pages
  • 154.9 x 231.1 x 25.4mm | 589.68g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous halftones
  • 0195178181
  • 9780195178180
  • 1,024,270

Review quote

Noted critic Sherry (Villanova Univ.) examines WWI from a historical perspective. Basing his discussion on the major writings of Pound, Eliot, and Woolf, he argues that critical scrutiny does not substantiate the commonplace formulation that WWI ushered in modernism and its emphasis on fragmentation and alienation, as previously thought. Sherry makes clear, through new and powerful readings of the authors of modernism, that much still needs to be said. . . Rated "Essential" and named "Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2004 * Choice * Sherry is impressive in advancing his sweeping and grand narrative through a series of close, finely observed readings that bring to light little-noted but important political and historic references that give many well-known poems and fictions their artistic as well as topical urgency * Modern Philology * its thesis [is] a fascinating one . . . Sherry makes a dazzling case . . . it is still all too rare for critics to read Modernist literature in its historical period, and Sherry's work in that direction is to be warmly welcomed. . . . his literary criticism is often illuminating. * TLS * The Great War and the Language of Modernism is a demonstrably intelligent book written by a careful scholar . . . Does it add a new level to the discourse on war and modernism and Virginia Woolf? Yes . . . and it offers us a new way of seeing Eliot and Pound as well. * Woolf Annual * The full power of Vincent Sherry's helpful book should be immediately evident to those reading even a single chapter. In toto, it is inescapable. The abundant close readings are enacted in full, with an almost Jamesian nuance, though without James's lightness of touch; here, one experiences language in the very firm grip of a strong reader inspired by a potent thesis. Of the three main chapters each seems, when one has completed the steady uphill climb required, to offer an irrefutable and by no means narrow view * Paideuma: Studies in British and American Modernist Poetry * Vincent Sherry restores key works by Eliot, Pound and Woolf to their original intellectual context, in particular, the highly charged political situation in war time London . . . In a series of dazzling close readings, the comic pomposities and pseudo-sagacities of Eliot's Poems 1920 are said to "perform somersaults on the speech and episteme of English liberal reason" . . . Sherry's treatment of this fascinating subject marks a notable achievement * Modernism\modernity * The central strength of this book arises from Sherry's prodigious talents as a close reader. He has done a great service in carefully reading how the language of Liberal reason was enlisted to support the War. . . . As well, he convincingly describes the `vacuous generality' that accompanied liberal justifications and censorship . . . There are also some great returns in the chapters on individual writers. In discussing the work of Pound, Sherry puts to good work Bhabha's concept of mimicry to articulate the relationship of the American expatriates to Liberal rationality. . . . The returns for understanding a work like Pound's `Propertius' are substantial. . . . Sherry has written an excellent book. * English Literature in Transition *show more

About Vincent Sherry

Vincent Sherry is Professor of English at Villanova University. He is the author of The Uncommon Tongue: The Poetry and Criticism of Geoffrey Hill, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Radical Modernism, and James Joyce: more

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9 ratings
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