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By Jed Esty

This booklet describes a big 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 conflict 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 energy from the literary experiments of the Nineteen Thirties in the course of the upward thrust of cultural stories within the 1950s.

Jed Esty explores the results of declining empire on modernist form--and at the very that 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 reports pioneers (Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson) to postwar migrant writers (George Lamming and Doris Lessing). concentrating on writing that converts the aptitude power of the contracting British nation 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 in regards to the dying of English literature. It portrays the survivors of the modernist iteration now not as aesthetic dinosaurs, yet as members 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 strains among modernism and postmodernism.

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Extra info for A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England

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R. Tol- L AT E M O D E R N IS M 19 kien, and Charles Williams. Butts’s spiky pastoralism, Tolkien’s archive fever, and Williams’s pulp-fiction mythopoetics all represent a countermodernism gaining visibility and currency in the thirties as the fate of metropolitan modernity itself—especially in England—seems to hang in the balance. Although I read Woolf and Eliot as participants in the same Anglocentric turn, it is important not to blur distinctions between these two writers. Despite their sustained friendship, they represented opposing wings of the literary establishment.

Dalloway, and A Passage to India were published. These texts exemplify the overlapping power of two spatiotemporal logics associated with metropolitan perception. In them, modernism’s epistemological reach across space and time complements its mystification of the here and now, its depiction of the metropole itself as a blind spot or absent totality. Englishness as/vs. 32 Yet its abbreviated avant-garde episode and vaunted social stability make English artistic life seem remarkably unmodern at the same time.

63 Woolf’s sense of isolation and contraction were, however, tempered by a redemptive version of insularity, in which humane English values represented a sane alternative to the barbarism of Hitler, but only insofar as those values could be separated from the imperial aggression that had become a hallmark of British power. The confrontation with an expan- M O D E R N I S M A ND M E T R O P O L I TA N P E R C E P TI O N 39 sionist, racist Germany provided English intellectuals with an unflattering reflection of their own imperial system.

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