In this innovative study, Tyler Whitney demonstrates how a transformation and militarization of the civilian soundscape in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries left indelible traces on the literature that defined the period. Both formally and thematically, the modernist aesthetics of Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, Detlev von Liliencron, and Peter Altenberg drew on this blurring of martial and civilian soundscapes in traumatic and performative repetitions of war. At the same time, Richard Huelsenbeck assaulted audiences in Zurich with his “sound poems,” which combined references to World War I, colonialism, and violent encounters in urban spaces with nonsensical utterances and linguistic detritus—all accompanied by the relentless beating of a drum on the stage of the Cabaret Voltaire.
Eardrums is the first book-length study to explore the relationship between acoustical modernity and German modernism, charting a literary and cultural history written in and around the eardrum. The result is not only a new way of understanding the sonic impulses behind key literary texts from the period. It also outlines an entirely new approach to the study of literature as as the interaction of text and sonic practice, voice and noise, which will be of interest to scholars across literary studies, media theory, sound studies, and the history of science.
Echo Chambers provides an illuminating discussion of the representation of “voice” in novels by Dickens, Joyce, Faulkner, Lowry, and Gaddis. Focusing on the paradoxes of “voice” as an indication of how different authors understand the contradictions of “identity,” O'Donnell charts the recent history of subjectivity as reflected in the development of modern fiction. With strong theoretical underpinning—O'Donnell skillfully utilizes the theories formulated by Bakhtin, Derrida, Bersani, De Man, Deleuze, and Guattari, among others, and the semiotics of voice put forth by Julia Kristeva—Echo Chambers shows how identity is inherently contradictory, conflicted, and multiple.
This insightful volume compellingly demonstrates that “voice” is a revealing (because contradictory and heterogeneous) site where language, the body, culture, and subjectivity meet. Echo Chambers makes an important contribution to the study of modern literature, the semiotics of identity, and cultural poetics as they are informed by the projections of voice in modern narrativ
In The Ecology of Modernism, Joshua Schuster examines the relationships of key modernist writers, poets, and musicians to nature, industrial development, and pollution. He posits that the curious failure of modernist poets to develop an environmental ethic was a deliberate choice and not an inadvertent omission.
In his opening passage, Schuster boldly invokes lines from Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” which echo as a paean to pollution: “Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast black shadows at nightfall!” Schuster labels this theme “regeneration through pollution” and demonstrates how this motif recurs in modernist compositions. This tolerance for, if not actual exultation of, the by-products of industrialization hindered modernist American artists, writers, and musicians from embracing environmentalist agendas.
Schuster provides specific case studies focusing on Marianne Moore and her connection of fables with animal rights; Gertrude Stein and concepts of nature in her avant-garde poetics; early blues music and poetry and the issue of how environmental disasters (floods, droughts, pestilence) affected black farmers and artists in the American South; and John Cage, who extends the modernist avant-garde project formally but critiques it at the same time for failing to engage with ecology. A fascinating afterword about the role of oil in modernist literary production rounds out this work.
Schuster masterfully shines a light on the modernist interval between the writings of bucolic and nature-extolling Romantics and the emergence of a self-conscious green movement in the 1960s. This rewarding work shows that the reticence of modernist poets in the face of resource depletion, pollution, animal rights, and other ecological traumas is highly significant.
Among the brilliant writers and thinkers who emerged from the multicultural and multilingual world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were Joseph Roth, Robert Musil, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. For them, the trauma of World War I included the sudden loss of the geographical entity into which they had been born: in 1918, the empire was dissolved overnight, leaving Austria a small, fragile republic that would last only twenty years before being annexed by Hitler’s Third Reich. In this major reconsideration of European modernism, Marjorie Perloff identifies and explores the aesthetic world that emerged from the rubble of Vienna and other former Habsburg territories—an “Austro-Modernism” that produced a major body of drama, fiction, poetry, and autobiography.
Perloff explores works ranging from Karl Kraus’s drama The Last Days of Mankind and Elias Canetti’s memoir The Tongue Set Free to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s notebooks and Paul Celan’s lyric poetry. Throughout, she shows that Austro-Modernist literature is characterized less by the formal and technical inventions of a modernism familiar to us in the work of Joyce and Pound, Dada and Futurism, than by a radical irony beneath a seemingly conventional surface, an acute sense of exile, and a sensibility more erotic and quixotic than that of its German contemporaries. Skeptical and disillusioned, Austro-Modernism prefers to ask questions rather than formulate answers.
Taking seriously Ireland’s euphemism for World War II, “the Emergency,” Anna Teekell’s Emergency Writing asks both what happens to literature written during a state of emergency and what it means for writing to be a response to an emergency.
Anchored in close textual analysis of works by Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, Flann O’Brien, Louis MacNeice, Denis Devlin, and Patrick Kavanagh, and supported by archival material and historical research, Emergency Writing shows how Irish late modernism was a response to the sociopolitical conditions of a newly independent Irish Free State and to a fully emerged modernism in literature and art. What emerges in Irish writing in the wake of Independence, of the Gaelic Revival, of Yeats and of Joyce, is a body of work that invokes modernism as a set of discursive practices with which to counter the Free State’s political pieties.
Emergency Writing provides a new approach to literary modernism and to the literature of conflict, considering the ethical dilemma of performing neutrality—emotionally, politically, and rhetorically—in a world at war.
This broad overview by an established poet and cultural critic reveals the rich tapestry of African American poetry as it has emerged over the past century.
From early 20th-century writings to present-day poetry slams, African American poetry exhibits an impressive range of style and substance. Lorenzo Thomas has written an important new history of the genre that offers a critical reassessment of its development in the 20th century within the contexts of modernism and the troubled racial history of the United States.
Basing his study on literary history, cultural criticism, and close readings, Thomas revives and appraises the writings of a number of this century's most important African American poets, including Margaret Walker, Amiri Baraka, Askia M. Toure, Harryette Mullen, and Kalamu ya Salaam. Thomas analyzes the work of Fenton Johnson within the context of emerging race consciousness in Chicago, contributes to critical appraisals of William Stanley Braithwaite and Melvin B. Tolson, and examines the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout the book, Thomas demonstrates the continuity within the Afrocentric tradition while acknowledging the wide range of stylistic approaches and ideological stances that the tradition embraces.
By reassessing the African American poetry tradition, Thomas effectively reassesses the history of all 20th-century American literature by exploring avenues of debate that have not yet received sufficient attention. Written with intelligence and humor, his book is itself an extraordinary measure that reflects years of scholarship and opens up African American poetry to a wider audience.