A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England / Edition 1

A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England / Edition 1

by Jed Esty, Joshua Esty
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691115494

ISBN-13: 9780691115498

Pub. Date: 11/10/2003

Publisher: Princeton University Press

This book describes a major literary culture caught in the act of becoming minor. In 1939, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, "Civilisation has shrunk." Her words captured not only the onset of World War II, but also a longer-term reversal of national fortune. The first comprehensive account of modernism and imperialism in England, A Shrinking Island tracks

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Overview

This book describes a major literary culture caught in the act of becoming minor. In 1939, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, "Civilisation has shrunk." Her words captured not only the onset of World War II, but also a longer-term reversal of national fortune. The first comprehensive account of modernism and imperialism in England, A Shrinking Island tracks the joint eclipse of modernist aesthetics and British power from the literary experiments of the 1930s through the rise of cultural studies in the 1950s.

Jed Esty explores the effects of declining empire on modernist form—and on the very meaning of Englishness. He ranges from canonical figures (T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf) to influential midcentury intellectuals (J. M. Keynes and J.R.R. Tolkien), from cultural studies pioneers (Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson) to postwar migrant writers (George Lamming and Doris Lessing). Focusing on writing that converts the potential energy of the contracting British state into the language of insular integrity, he argues that an anthropological ethos of cultural holism came home to roost in late-imperial England. Esty's interpretation challenges popular myths about the death of English literature. It portrays the survivors of the modernist generation not as aesthetic dinosaurs, but as participants in the transition from empire to welfare state, from metropolitan art to national culture. Mixing literary criticism with postcolonial theory, his account of London modernism's end-stages and after-lives provides a fresh take on major works while redrawing the lines between modernism and postmodernism.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691115498
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/10/2003
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ix

INTRODUCTION

Late Modernism and the Anthropological Turn 1

ONE

Modernism and Metropolitan Perception in England 23

The Other Side of the Hedge 23

"A Planet Full of Scraps" 28

Englishness as/vs.Modernity 31

Autoethnography and the Romance of Retrenchment 36

Modernist Valedictions circa 1940 46

TWO

Insular Rites: Virginia Woolf and the Late Modernist Pageant-Play 54

Amnesia in Fancy Dress: Pageants for a New Century 56

"A Little Nucleus of Eternity ": J. C. Powys's A Glastonbury Romance 62

Rebuilding the Ruined House: T. S. Eliot's The Rock 70

"Innocent Island ": E.M. Forster's Passage to England 76

Island Stories and Modernist Ends in Between the Acts 85

THREE

Insular Time: T.S. Eliot and Modernism's English End 108

The Antidiasporic Imagination 108

Metropolitan Standard Time 112

Anglocentric Revivals 117

Notes from a Shrinking Island 127

Four Quartets and the Chronotope of Englishness 135

FOUR

Becoming Minor 163

The Keynesian National Object: Late Modernism and The General Theory 166

Local Color: English Cultural Studies as Home Anthropology 182

Ethnography in Reverse:(Post)colonial Writers in Fifties England 198

Conclusion: Minority Culture and Minor Culture 215

NOTES 227

INDEX 277

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