A Sense of Shock

A Sense of Shock : The Impact of Impressionism on Modern British and Irish Writing

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What did modern British and Irish literature have to do with French impressionist painting? And what did Henry James have to do with the legal dispute between John Ruskin and J.M.W. Whistler? Or Joseph Conrad with terrorism, the newspapers, and photojournalism? What links Walter Pater with Conrad's portrait of a genocidal maniac in Heart of Darkness? Adam Parkes argues that we must answer such questions if we are to appreciate the full impact of impressionist aesthetics on modern British and Irish writers. Complicating previous accounts of the influence of painting and philosophy on literary impressionism, A Sense of Shock shows why this writing needs to be read in its historical context. In the hands of such practitioners as Conrad, Ford, James, Moore, Pater, and Woolf, literary impressionism was shaped by its engagement with important social issues and political events that defined the modern age. As Parkes demonstrates, the formal and stylistic practices that distinguish impressionist writing were the result of dynamic and often provocative interactions between aesthetic and historical factors.
Ultimately, Parkes suggests, it was this incendiary combination of aesthetics and history that enabled impressionist writing to make a major impact on the literary culture of its time. This book will appeal to students and scholars of nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, as well as the growing readerships for books that explore problems of literary history and interdisciplinarity.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 158 x 236 x 32mm | 580.6g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0195383818
  • 9780195383812
  • 1,792,063

Review quote

A Sense of Shock is, as its title suggests, a bold, inevitable book. Never before has literary impressionism been dissected with such precision and-even more dazzlingly-such imagination. The connections between this too-often slighted art and its historical circumstances (anarchism, terrorism, nationalism, feminism, homosexuality) are shown to end nowhere, making it impossible to conceive of impressionism merely as an aesthetic procedure. Adam Parkes is as robust, as
myriad-minded, as his subject, and he has written a book not just for scholars, not just for writers, but for anyone interested in language as an ongoing force in our lives. * James Longenbach *
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About Adam Parkes

Adam Parkes is Associate Professor of English at the University of Georgia. He is the author of Modernism and the Theater of Censorship (OUP 1996).
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