By Jed Esty
This e-book describes an immense literary tradition stuck within the act of turning into minor. In 1939, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, ''Civilisation has shrunk.'' Her phrases captured not just the onset of global warfare II, but in addition a longer-term reversal of nationwide fortune. the 1st complete account of modernism and imperialism in England, A Shrinking Island tracks the joint eclipse of modernist aesthetics and British strength from the literary experiments of the Thirties during the upward push of cultural reviews within the 1950s.
Jed Esty explores the results of declining empire on modernist form--and at the very which means of Englishness. He levels from canonical figures (T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf) to influential midcentury intellectuals (J. M. Keynes and J.R.R. Tolkien), from cultural reviews pioneers (Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson) to postwar migrant writers (George Lamming and Doris Lessing). targeting writing that converts the aptitude power of the contracting British kingdom into the language of insular integrity, he argues that an anthropological ethos of cultural holism got here domestic to roost in late-imperial England. Esty's interpretation demanding situations renowned myths concerning the demise of English literature. It portrays the survivors of the modernist new release no longer as aesthetic dinosaurs, yet as individuals within the transition from empire to welfare nation, from metropolitan artwork to nationwide tradition. blending literary feedback with postcolonial thought, his account of London modernism's end-stages and after-lives offers a clean tackle significant works whereas redrawing the traces among modernism and postmodernism.
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Additional info for A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England
Hobson, like Forster, wrote in the aftermath of the Berlin Conference (1884) and the Boer War (1899–1902)—two events that deﬁned the vast scope of European imperialism in theory and revealed its strategic shakiness as a practice. Hobson roundly criticized the Great Powers for their conduct of global empire building. He called for Britain to abandon Joseph Chamberlain’s expansionist policy in favor of a more genuinely internationalist federation. Hobson’s Imperialism has become a wellknown text in the history of British colonial and anticolonial cultural debate, in part because Hobson—chieﬂy an economist—describes imperialism’s bad spiritual and aesthetic consequences.
In chapter 3, I read Four Quartets as a late modernist form that powerfully transvalues England itself, converting it into a signiﬁcant cultural totality rather than a merely negative and even generic embodiment of European modernity (as in The Waste Land). Of course, as in Woolf, the formal shifts are relative, based on revisionary impulses and changing emphases, not on an outright revolution in either values or style. Despite the structural importance of demetropolitanization to their changing literary practice, Woolf and Eliot (and Forster) consciously moderate xenophobic nationalism: even in their later works, raw nativism is still etherialized into “the literary tradition,” dissolved into “Christian community,” or rendered as an intensely private, anticorporatist experience.
As the evidence will suggest, both of these strands of Anglocentrism borrowed cultural authenticity from the colonies and gained authority from the participation of canonical modernists. In chapter 2, I trace the odd career of a neotraditional subgenre, the pageant-play, in English modernist writing of the thirties (including the “minor” modernism of writers like J. C. Powys and Charles Williams). Eliot and Forster experimented with the production of pageant-plays, while Woolf’s ﬁnal novel, Between the Acts, takes a village pageant as its central subject.
A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England by Jed Esty