Americanizing Britain: The Rise of Modernism in the Age of the Entertainment Empire

Americanizing Britain: The Rise of Modernism in the Age of the Entertainment Empire

by Genevieve Abravanel
     
 

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At the beginning of the twentieth century, many in Britain believed their nation to be a dominant world power that its former colony, the United States, could only hope to emulate. Yet by the interwar years, the United States seemed to some to embody a different type of global eminence, one based not only on political and economic stature but also on new forms of

Overview

At the beginning of the twentieth century, many in Britain believed their nation to be a dominant world power that its former colony, the United States, could only hope to emulate. Yet by the interwar years, the United States seemed to some to embody a different type of global eminence, one based not only on political and economic stature but also on new forms of mass culture like jazz and the Hollywood film. Britain's fraught transition from formidable empire to victim of Americanization is rarely discussed by literary scholars. However, the dawn of the "American century" is the period of literary modernism and, this book argues, the signs of Americanization—from jazz records to Ford motorcars to Hollywood films—helped to establish the categories of elite and mass culture that still inspire debate in modernist studies. This book thus brings together two major areas of modernist scholarship, the study of nation and empire and the study of mass culture, by suggesting that Britain was reacting to a new type of empire, the American entertainment empire, in its struggles to redefine its national culture between the wars. At the same time, British anxieties about American influence contributed to conceptions of Britain's imperial scope, and what it meant to have or be an empire. Through its treatment of a wide range of authors and cultural phenomena, the book explores how Britain reinvented itself in relation to its ideas of America, and how Britain's literary modernism developed and changed through this reinvention.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Abravanel persuasively and engagingly demonstrates we may even see this figuration—the US as an oppositional space, as modernity, as the future—as one of the fundamental thematic and ideological underpinnings of British literary modernism itself. Across a fascinating and diverse range of writers, including H. G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, Wyndham Lewis, Elizabeth Bowen, Evelyn Waugh, and, most especially and complicatedly, T. S. Eliot, Abravanel follows the image of America like a vivid thread running through the motley tapestry of British modernist writing." —American Literary History

"[A] compelling case for the role Americanization played in Great Britain's sense of national self.... Abravanel's lucidly written, closely argued text will be an invaluable resource.... Highly recommended." —CHOICE

"In this absorbing and clear-eyed study, Genevieve Abravanel shows us how key works of British modernism warded off an 'American Age' whose image they fixed by opposing. Reactivating the links between Leavis and the New Critics, she also reads present-day features of the U.S. and U.K. literary academies as enduring symptoms of the modernist moment. Americanizing Britain achieves something that few scholarly studies do: it alters the story of its own institutional preconditions, making Anglophone literary studies strange to itself." —Paul K. Saint-Amour, author of The Copywrights

"It is a commonplace of twentieth-century history that Britain has been conquered and colonized by American mass culture. But in this thoughtful and nuanced contribution to our understanding of the phenomenon, Genevieve Abravanel persuasively demonstrates how a distinctive British form of literary modernism developed to counter the perceived effects of Americanization and in the process re-imagined Englishness." —Jeffrey Richards, author of Films and British National Identity

"Essential, solid, and penetrating.... [P]ossesses that great virtue of having successfully navigated a maelstrom of eddies and crosscurrents in an exciting and emerging subfield within British literary modernism." —Clio: A Journal of Literature, History and the Philosophy of History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199754458
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/06/2012
Series:
Modernist Literature and Culture Series
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Genevieve Abravanel is Assistant Professor of English at Franklin and Marshall College.

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