By Jed Esty
This booklet describes a tremendous literary tradition stuck within the act of changing into minor. In 1939, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, ''Civilisation has shrunk.'' Her phrases captured not just the onset of global struggle II, but in addition a longer-term reversal of nationwide fortune. the 1st entire 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 throughout the upward thrust of cultural experiences 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 stories pioneers (Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson) to postwar migrant writers (George Lamming and Doris Lessing). targeting writing that converts the capability strength 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 well known myths in regards to the demise of English literature. It portrays the survivors of the modernist iteration now not as aesthetic dinosaurs, yet as individuals within the transition from empire to welfare kingdom, from metropolitan paintings to nationwide tradition. blending literary feedback with postcolonial conception, his account of London modernism's end-stages and after-lives offers a clean tackle significant works whereas redrawing the traces among modernism and postmodernism.
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Extra resources for A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England
Despite their sustained friendship, they represented opposing wings of the literary establishment. Eliot, for all his doctrinal changes in the interwar years, still cleaved to the Hulmean, classical, and antihumanist modernism that emerged in the ferment of the London avant-garde during World War I. Woolf, by contrast, represented the liberal-humanist values of Bloomsbury, with cultural and literary authority vested largely in the freethinking and eccentric soul. The anthropological concept of a whole culture, galvanized by British contraction, seems to have appealed to Woolf and Eliot from almost opposite directions, closing the distance between their respectively afﬁliative and ﬁliative notions of national belonging.
Meanwhile, within the ﬁrst dozen years of the new century, the epoch of European expansion and discovery reached its terrestrial end with the arrival of the Norwegian (not British) ﬂag at the South Pole. In 1917, Lenin pointed out that the Great Powers had “completed the seizure of the unoccupied territories on our planet. ”22 At the same time, the massive upheavals of World War I and the Russian revolution coincided with the crisis of Irish Home Rule, throwing into serious question British power in the dominions.
The stylistic experiments, linguistic dislocations, and urban alienation of modernist texts register this central conﬂict between older, imagined communities and the unimaginable or unknowable spaces of metropolitan Europe. Modernist forms—mythic, ironic, experimental, or fabular—make layered maps from incommensurable local and supralocal zones in countries that are checkered by uneven development and continually reorganized by capitalism. They embed their ideals of tribal, pastoral, or traditional community within the representation of modernity, 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 25 creating not just a sad allegory of the other side of the hedge but a critical and dialectical juxtaposition of tradition and modernity.