Modernism: A Short Introduction by David Ayers

By David Ayers

This brief advent to Modernism analyses the move from the viewpoint of English and American literature.
Provides a severe review of a few of the relevant texts of literary Modernism.
Covers either validated works and people who have only in the near past come to severe attention.
Includes certain dialogue of significant authors, together with T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Wallace Stevens.

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The universe cannot be rolled up into a ball, presented and summarized, and neither can the self and its voice. It is not only truth which cannot be so presented; it is the person too, who in his or her very nature is also dispersed throughout time. Ezra Pound’s view of ‘Prufrock’ as a satire seems most notably incorrect at this point. If Prufrock has a tragedy, and if he suffers, what he suffers from is the same immersion within time, the same immersion in a fallen language, and the same being given over to the language of others as anyone else.

37 ‘The Waste Land’, Nancy Cunard and Mina Loy Not all remained optimistic and, as we have seen, ‘The Waste Land’ tends to identify modernism as a somewhat pessimistic and recondite or even elitist movement. Loy offers something different. She writes about love in an idiom which is forged to mirror, in however fragmented a fashion, truths and aspects of a mode of being that were not readily available in art. It is not clear that this new mode of being, which takes shape in the changing attitudes and practices of bohemians and artists, will yield happiness or anything resembling a ‘love’ which is now more elusive than ever.

Moreover, Pound’s model supposes a separation of language and experiential or aesthetic event, so there is a prelinguistic event or experience which the subject undergoes, and this can be later documented in language. The language serves the purpose of restoring to the reader some sense of the original prelinguistic experience, so language itself is a just a carrier, something to be overcome or seen through. As we have seen in our discussion of Pound, this leads in his work to a modelling of language as thing-like, as being concerned primarily with a correspondence of word and thing, and to a resistance to what he calls ‘rhetoric’ (grammar and syntax), which in the ‘Metro’ poem is almost abolished.

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