By Jed Esty
This publication describes a big literary tradition stuck within the act of turning into minor. In 1939, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, ''Civilisation has shrunk.'' Her phrases captured not just the onset of global battle II, but in addition a longer-term reversal of nationwide fortune. the 1st finished 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 Thirties throughout the upward thrust of cultural reviews within the 1950s.
Jed Esty explores the consequences 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 aptitude strength of the contracting British kingdom 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 renowned myths concerning the dying 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 concept, his account of London modernism's end-stages and after-lives presents a clean tackle significant works whereas redrawing the strains among modernism and postmodernism.
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Additional info for A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England
He called for Britain to abandon Joseph Chamberlain’s expansionist policy in favor of a more genuinely internationalist federation. Hobson’s Imperialism has become a wellknown text in the history of British colonial and anticolonial cultural debate, in part because Hobson—chieﬂy an economist—describes imperialism’s bad spiritual and aesthetic consequences. He proposes that higher matters of culture and civilization would receive more attention in England if the imperial-acquisitive drive were to be rechanneled.
The notion of tribal bonds lying underneath modernist anomie seems to have driven Eliot to embrace cultural rather than aesthetic authority while causing Woolf, the wary individualist, to confront her own organicist and Anglocentric premises. My readings therefore suggest, not ideological unity between Woolf and Eliot, but converging paths inﬂected by a similar sense of British crisis and English opportunity. I take this limited model of convergence to exemplify the structural force of demetropolitanization in England of the thirties and forties, both in high and low cultural registers.
In chapter 2, I trace the odd career of a neotraditional subgenre, the pageant-play, in English modernist writing of the thirties (including the “minor” modernism of writers like J. C. Powys and Charles Williams). Eliot and Forster experimented with the production of pageant-plays, while Woolf’s ﬁnal novel, Between the Acts, takes a village pageant as its central subject. Few critics have taken account of this antiquarian, distinctly unmodernist genre, but its sudden prominence points up key dimensions of English modernism’s closing chapter.