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The Persistence of Modernism


  • Page extent: 226 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.51 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521896429)

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  • Published February 2009

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The Persistence of Modernism
Cambridge University Press
9780521896429 - The Persistence of Modernism - Loss and Mourning in the Twentieth Century - By Madelyn Detloff

The Persistence of Modernism

Modernism is commonly perceived as a response to the cataclysmic events of the early twentieth century. To what extent then can we explain its continued persistence? Madelyn Detloff argues for modernism's relevance to our own age, a time of escalating loss, retribution, and desire. Some of the social formations that inspired modernist cultural production – xenophobic nationalism and imperial hubris – are still with us. Writers such as Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein, who saw themselves as outsiders with a precarious sense of belonging to their dominant culture, are, Detloff claims, still able to give us insight into our contemporary narratives of loss, recovery, memory, and nation. Detloff extends her conceptualization to include current writers like Pat Barker and Hanif Kureishi, who have taken up the modernist thread in their own work; the result is an ambitious study that will appeal to all students and scholars of modernism.

Madelyn Detloff is Associate Professor of English and Women's Studies at Miami University, Ohio.

The Persistence of Modernism

Loss and Mourning in the Twentieth Century

Madelyn Detloff

Miami University, Oxford, OH

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Information on this title:

© Madelyn Detloff 2009

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2009

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication DataDetloff, Madelyn, 1965–The persistence of modernism : loss and mourning in the twentieth century / Madelyn Detloff.p. cm.Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-0-521-89642-91. Modernism (Literature) 2. Loss (Psychology) in literature.3. Woolf, Virginia, 1882–1941–Criticism and interpretation.4. Stein, Gertrude, 1874–1946–Criticism and interpretation.5. H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), 1886–1961–Criticism and interpretation. I. Title.PN56.M54D48 2009820.9′353–dc222008038893

ISBN 978-0-521-89642-9 hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

For Mary, Pete, Kerianne, and Elizabeth


Illustration information
List of abbreviations
Introduction: “The captivating spell of the past”
Part One  War, time, trauma
1         Woolf's resilience
2         Stein's shame
3         H.D.'s wars
Part Two  The modernist patch
4         Pictures, arguments, and empathy
5         The promise and peril of metic intimacy
6         Orpheus, AIDS, and The Hours
Epilogue: Toward a survivable public mourning


Fred Spear, “Enlist,” 1915. Boston Public Safety Committee. Photo courtesy of the Princeton University Poster Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.


While the entire manuscript has been heavily revised since they were originally published, sections of chapters 1, 3, and the epilogue have appeared in print.

Portions of chapter 1 appeared in “‘Thinking Peace into Existence’: The Spectacle of History in Between the Acts,” Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 28 (1999), 403–33. Portions of chapter 3 appeared in “‘Father, don't you see I'm burning?’ Identification and Remembering in H.D.'s World War II Writing,” Incest and the Literary Imagination (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2002), pp. 249–80, reprinted with permission of the University Press of Florida. Portions of chapter 3 and the epilogue appeared in “‘'Tis Not My Nature to Join in Hating, but in Loving’: Toward Survivable Public Mourning,” Modernism and Mourning, ed. Patricia Rae (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2007), reprinted with the permission of Associated University Presses.

This manuscript has evolved over many years through many phases of my life. To list all of the people to whom I am indebted is a daunting task. Thank you to all of my peers, students, and mentors at the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of California Humanities Research Institute; California State University, Los Angeles; and Miami University for their support and camaraderie. I am grateful to my editor at Cambridge University Press, Ray Ryan, for his patience and direction, to the anonymous readers of the manuscript, who made several helpful comments that have strengthened the final version of this book, my production editor, Tom O'Reilly, and to my fabulous copy editor, Kay McKechnie.

I am especially grateful to my friends and advisors at the University of California, Santa Barbara: H. Porter Abbott, Maurizia Boscagli, Julie Carlson, Aranye Louise Fradenburg, Victoria Harrison, Miranda Maupin, Judith Raiskin, and Joe Rollins. For material support, I wish to thank the University of California Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, the American Association of University Women, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

To my former colleagues and students at Cal State LA – I admire you all for your dedication and grace under pressure. Special thanks to our fabulous “paintball” team and writing group, Hema Chari, Michelle Hawley, and Maria Karafilis. The English Department at Miami University has been intellectually and materially supportive of my research. I have benefitted tremendously from the feedback and advice of many friends and colleagues across the university. Among them special thanks to Yu-Fang Cho, Jim Creech, Sheila Croucher, Stefanie Dunning, Claire Goldstein, Eric Goodman, Carolyn Haynes, Elisabeth Hodges, Katie Johnson, Cheryl Johnson, Anna Kosofska, Sally Lloyd, Laura Mandell, Denise McCoskey, Mary McDonald, Tim Melley, Susan Morgan, Susan Pelle, Kate Ronald, Sven-Erik Rose, Martha Schoolman, Sherrie Shumavon, Jonathan Strauss, Keith Tuma, Liz Wilson, and Emily Zakin. Karen Mitchell and Susan Pelle are among the many wonderful graduate students who have inspired my work and teaching. Lynn Hall and Erin Douglas, graduate assistants extraordinaire, provided timely and as always impeccable assistance preparing the manuscript.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet many amazing feminist and queer scholars who have inspired my work. I'm grateful to the members of the H.D. International Society and International Virginia Woolf Society for their groundbreaking work and camaraderie. Thank you especially to Brenda Silver for her mentorship in my graduate school days; Carla Freccero for her intellectual companionship at the UCHRI; Patricia Rae for her generosity and leadership in putting together Modernism and Mourning. Patty Ingham, Siobhan Somerville, Amelia Montes, Mark Kerr, and Jeanne Scheper have sustained me with their friendship and support over the course of many years. Thank you to Gaile Pohlhaus, Jr. for being here in the nick of time. To my family, Theresa Raniere, the late Paul S. Raniere, James Detloff, Jo Ann Detloff, Mary Gammel, Pete Detloff, Kerianne Hearns, and Liz Raniere-Zimmerman – thank you for your love and encouragement.

I could not have completed this book without the friendship, encouragement, advice, and support of Chloé Hogg. Mary Jean Corbett, in addition to being a dear friend, has been a professional godsend who guided me through some of the roughest patches of the writing process. Finally, thank you does not seem adequate to express my deep appreciation to Robyn Wiegman for years of friendship, advice, and intellectual generosity. Her tireless and often unacknowledged mentorship makes it possible for so many of us to imagine better futures, and to work for their materialization.

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