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A Shrinking Island : Modernism and National Culture in England - Jed Esty

A Shrinking Island

Modernism and National Culture in England

By: Jed Esty

Paperback Published: 30th November 2003
ISBN: 9780691115498
Number Of Pages: 304

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This book describes a major literary culture caught in the act of becoming minor. In 1939, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, "Civilisation has shrunk." Her words captured not only the onset of World War II, but also a longer-term reversal of national fortune. The first comprehensive account of modernism and imperialism in England, "A Shrinking Island" tracks the joint eclipse of modernist aesthetics and British power from the literary experiments of the 1930s through the rise of cultural studies in the 1950s.

Jed Esty explores the effects of declining empire on modernist form--and on the very meaning of Englishness. He ranges from canonical figures (T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf) to influential midcentury intellectuals (J. M. Keynes and J.R.R. Tolkien), from cultural studies pioneers (Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson) to postwar migrant writers (George Lamming and Doris Lessing). Focusing on writing that converts the potential energy of the contracting British state into the language of insular integrity, he argues that an anthropological ethos of cultural holism came home to roost in late-imperial England. Esty's interpretation challenges popular myths about the death of English literature. It portrays the survivors of the modernist generation not as aesthetic dinosaurs, but as participants in the transition from empire to welfare state, from metropolitan art to national culture. Mixing literary criticism with postcolonial theory, his account of London modernism's end-stages and after-lives provides a fresh take on major works while redrawing the lines between modernism and postmodernism.

Industry Reviews

"A vital, useful and impressive rereading of the aesthetics and politics of late modernism."--Royce Mahawatte, Times Literary Supplement "Esty's argument ... [is] profoundly stimulating, and is perhaps most convincing when he turns his attention (however briefly) to the writers who followed modernism... [I]t definitely compels us to revise common assumptions about English literature of the last century."--Raphael Ingelbien, Belgian Journal of English Languages and Literature

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction Late Modernism and the Anthropological Turnp. 1
Modernism and Metropolitan Perception in Englandp. 23
The Other Side of the Hedgep. 23
"A Planet Full of Scraps"p. 28
Englishness as/vs.Modernityp. 31
Autoethnography and the Romance of Retrenchmentp. 36
Modernist Valedictions circa 1940p. 46
Insular Rites: Virginia Woolf and the Late Modernist Pageant-Playp. 54
Amnesia in Fancy Dress: Pageants for a New Centuryp. 56
"A Little Nucleus of Eternity ": J. C. Powys's A Glastonbury Romancep. 62
Rebuilding the Ruined House: T. S. Eliot's The Rockp. 70
"Innocent Island ": E.M. Forster's Passage to Englandp. 76
Island Stories and Modernist Ends in Between the Actsp. 85
Insular Time: T.S. Eliot and Modernism's English Endp. 108
The Antidiasporic Imaginationp. 108
Metropolitan Standard Timep. 112
Anglocentric Revivalsp. 117
Notes from a Shrinking Islandp. 127
Four Quartets and the Chronotope of Englishnessp. 135
Becoming Minorp. 163
The Keynesian National Object: Late Modernism and The General Theoryp. 166
Local Color: English Cultural Studies as Home Anthropologyp. 182
Ethnography in Reverse:(Post)colonial Writers in Fifties Englandp. 198
Conclusion: Minority Culture and Minor Culturep. 215
Notesp. 227
Indexp. 277
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691115498
ISBN-10: 0691115494
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 30th November 2003
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.13 x 16.51  x 1.27
Weight (kg): 0.42