Rereading the New
A Backward Glance at Modernism
Leading scholars speculate on the postmodern aspects of modernist literature
The literary world has in the past two decades celebrated the centenaries of Joyce, Eliot, and Pound, the three pillars of Anglo-American modernism. Only now, Kevin J.H. Dettmar contends, are we starting to appreciate “what was apparent to the Modernists all along – that the monuments of high Modernism already contained within them the seeds of their own de(con)struction.”
The contributors to Rereading the New: A Backward Glance at Modernism argue that we are in the midst of a cultural paradigm shift. First literary critics greeted the birth of modernism with outrage, decrying its anarchy; then the New Critics sought to control it with interpretation. Today, critics are beginning to rediscover modernism’s inherent anarchy, this time from the postmodernist prospective. The result is the emergence of a new way of reading – and writing – about modernism.
The book collects essays by established scholars as well as fresh new voices that provide a variety of perspectives on modernism. The first selection, “Inventing Modernism,” shows how modernist writers worked together to craft a coherent identity; the second, “Modernist Aesthetics,” critiques Lyotard and other theorists on the assumptions underlying modernist texts. In “Modernism and Mass Culture,” we see how Stein, Lawrence, and Eliot reacted to a burgeoning mass culture, while “Rereading the New” provides postmodernist readings of Conrad, Woolf, and Djuna Barnes, as well as Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake.
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