Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"What ever happened to modernism" by Gabriel Josipovici (Yale, 2010)

He charts the history of Modernism, writing "Wordsworth and Friedrich ... seem early on to jettison the notion of genre" (p.48) and "the novel is precisely the form that emerges when genres no longer seem viable" (p.65). He goes as far back as the Greeks (as did many of the Modernists).

He thinks that some people have missed the point about Modernism. He doesn't like Peter Gay's "Modernism: The Lure of Heresy" ("This dreadful book ... Though Gay's book is especially bad, ..."). He writes

  • "the effort, through art, to recognise that which will fit into no system, no story, that which resolutely refuses to be turned into art ... is at the heart of the Modernist enterprise", p.113
  • "Modernism is a response to simplifications of the self and of life which Protestantism and the Enlightenment brought with them", p.153

He points out (it's been on my mind too) that writers/artists may feel the need to make it difficult for readers/viewers to normalize their work. By "normalize" I mean try to see the work as having a single viewpoint, traditional perspective, single voice, non-contradictory parts, etc.

He considers how Cezanne, Cervantes, Picasso, etc changed things, and how different Modernists faced similar challenges. He suggests that Stevens' "The Comedian as the Letter C" is his version of 'Prufrock' (p.127), that Kafka's 'The New Advocate' is his 'Profrock' (p.131) and that Duchamp's "Large Glass" is his "Either/Or". It is also his 'Prufrock'. (p.133).

He thinks Golding and Spark are England's best post-war novelists.

Typo: "doublenesss" (p.156)


  1. "He thinks Golding and Spark are England's best post-war novelists."

    Stone me. How dull life would be if that were really the case...

  2. I've never read Spark and haven't touched Golding for a decade. I thought there was quite a lot of modernism still going on, but maybe it's only post-modernism.