The Reimagining of Place in English Modernism

BookThe Reimagining of Place in English Modernism

The Reimagining of Place in English Modernism

Clemson University Press


December 11th, 2015

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The work of English modernists in the 1920s and 1930s – particularly D.H. Lawrence, John Cowper Powys, Mary Butts and Virginia Woolf – often expresses a fundamental ambivalence towards the social, cultural and technological developments of the period. These writers collectively embody the tensions and contradictions which infiltrate English modernism as the interwar period progresses, combining a profound sense of attachment to rural place and traditions with a similarly strong attraction to metropolitan modernity – the latter being associated with transience, possibility, literary innovation, cosmopolitanism, and new developments in technology and transportation. In this book, Sam Wiseman analyses key texts by these four authors, charting their respective attempts to forge new identities, perspectives and literary approaches that reconcile tradition and modernity, belonging and exploration, the rural and the metropolitan. This analysis is located within the context of ongoing critical debates regarding the relationship of English modernism with place, cosmopolitanism, and rural tradition; Wiseman augments this discourse by highlighting stylistic and thematic connections between the authors in question, and argues that these links collectively illustrate a distinctive, place-oriented strand of interwar modernism. Ecocritical and phenomenological perspectives are deployed to reveal similarities in their sense of human interrelationship with place, and a shared interest in particular themes and imagery; these include archaeological excavation, aerial perspectives upon place, and animism. Such concerns stem from specific technological and socio-cultural developments of the era. The differing engagements of these four authors with such changes collectively indicate a distinctive set of literary strategies, which aim to reconcile the tensions and contradictions inherent in their relationships with place.

Author Information

Sam Wiseman is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Erfurt and will be teaching at the university upon completion of this project. He has recently presented academic papers on M.R. James and Edith Nesbit, and is working on an article that will examine the role of tidal causeways in texts by Angela Carter, Susan Hill and Andrew Michael Hurley.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
I. Regions, Revenants, Reimaginings7
II. Cosmopolitan and Technological Perspectives11
III. Chapter Overview14
1. Strange Old Feelings Wake in the Soul: Ambivalent Landscapes in D.H. Lawrence19
I. Everything Has Suffered Change19
II. A Fragment of the Shell of Life25
III. If We Had Tree-Speech33
IV. Over the Border40
2. The Pen of a Traveller, the Ink-Blood of Home: John Cowper Powys’ Imaginative Realism49
I. Daydreaming of England49
II. Phantasmal Worlds56
III. A Thousand Tangents62
IV. Imagination Recreates the World69
3. In Two Worlds at Once: Animism, Borders and Liminality in Mary Butts79
I. The Sacred Game79
II. Their World and His Own87
III. Wonder Is the Answer95
IV. On All Sides But One102
4. All Boundaries Are Lost: Travel, Fragmentation and Interconnection in Virginia Woolf111
I. Nothing Settles or Stays Unbroken111
II. Shells, Bones and Silence118
III. Odd Affinities124
IV. We Are the Thing Itself131
Conclusion: Expanding Modernist Communities139
Index 168