More than a century after its beginnings, modernism still has the power to shock, alienate or challenge readers. Modernist art and literature remain thought of as complex and difficult. This introduction explains in a readable, lively style how modernism emerged, how it is defined, and how it developed in different forms and genres. Pericles Lewis offers students a survey of literature and art in England, Ireland and Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century. He also provides an overview of critical thought on modernism and its continuing influence on the arts today, reflecting the interests of current scholarship in the social and cultural contexts of modernism. The comparative perspective on Anglo-American and European modernism shows how European movements have influenced the development of English-language modernism. Illustrated with works of art and featuring suggestions for further study, this is the ideal introduction to understanding and enjoying modernist literature and art.
In Modernism, Nationalism, and the Novel, first published in 2000, Pericles Lewis shows how political debates over the sources and nature of 'national character' prompted radical experiments in narrative form amongst modernist writers. Though critics have accused the modern novel of shunning the external world, Lewis suggests that, far from abandoning nineteenth-century realists' concern with politics, the modernists used this emphasis on individual consciousness to address the distinctively political ways in which the modern nation-state shapes the psyche of its subjects. Tracing this theme through Joyce, Proust and Conrad, amongst others, Lewis claims that modern novelists gave life to a whole generation of narrators who forged new social realities in their own images. Their literary techniques - multiple narrators, transcriptions of consciousness, involuntary memory, and arcane symbolism - focused attention on the shaping of the individual by the nation and on the potential of the individual, in time of crisis, to redeem the nation.
The modernist period witnessed attempts to explain religious experience in non-religious terms. Such novelists as Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Franz Kafka found methods to describe through fiction the sorts of experiences that had traditionally been the domain of religious mystics and believers. In Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel, Pericles Lewis considers the development of modernism in the novel in relation to changing attitudes to religion. Through comparisons of major novelists with sociologists and psychologists from the same period, Lewis identifies the unique ways that literature addressed the changing spiritual situation of the early twentieth century. He challenges accounts that assume secularisation as the main narrative for understanding twentieth-century literature. Lewis explores the experiments that modernists undertook in order to invoke the sacred without directly naming it, resulting in a compelling study for readers of twentieth-century modernist literature.
Modernism arose in a period of accelerating globalization in the late nineteenth century. Modernist writers and artists, while often loyal to their country in times of war, aimed to rise above the national and ideological conflicts of the early twentieth century in service to a cosmopolitan ideal. This Companion explores the international aspects of literary modernism by mapping the history of the movement across Europe and within each country. The essays place the various literary traditions within a social and historical context and set out recent critical debates. Particular attention is given to the urban centers in which modernism developed – from Dublin to Zürich, Barcelona to Warsaw – and to the movements of modernists across national borders. A broad, accessible account of European modernism, this Companion explores what this cosmopolitan movement can teach us about life as a citizen of Europe and of the world.