A Concise Companion to Modernism (Concise Companions to by David Bradshaw

By David Bradshaw

This concise spouse bargains an leading edge method of knowing the Modernist literary brain in Britain, targeting the highbrow and cultural contexts, which formed it. deals an leading edge method of figuring out the Modernist literary brain in Britain. is helping readers to know the highbrow and cultural contexts of literary Modernism. Organised round modern principles resembling Freudianism and eugenics instead of literary genres. Relates literary Modernism to the overarching problems with the interval, reminiscent of feminism, imperialism and conflict.

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The early reverses of the Boer War whipped up these fears – Britain looked to be housing an army of invalids. 6 percent of the total. Of those accepted, some 5,849 “broke down within three months of enlistment” and another 14,259 were discharged as invalids within two years (“National Health and Military Service,” 202, in Wohl 1984: 332). Degeneration was in the air. Max Nordau’s Degeneration, translated into English in 1895, heightened anxieties (see Pick 1989: 25–6 for its contemporary reception).

What was crucial about Weismann’s theory was the idea that “germ plasm” was completely isolated from the body of the organism that carries it, and which it simply passes through; an organism could, under this law, only pass on to the next generation what it received from its parents. Excluding the somatic cells from any role in heredity, Weismann’s theory of germ plasm effectively wrote the role of the environment out of evolutionary narrative. Hereditarian theories lend themselves to the right, and to social unfreedom, positing that people are intrinsically unequal in their inherent characteristics, and undermining the importance of environmental or social change in bringing about individual development.

Huysmans’s A Rebours (1884), which Dorian Gray found “the strangest book that he had ever read,” is grounded in 21 Angelique Richardson physiology; the hero’s history is biologically determined; a reworking of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” with the elements of Gothic terror which mingle with material disease (“It was, he said, a constitutional and a family evil” (Poe 1839: 143)) replaced by physiology: “The degeneration of this ancient house had clearly followed a regular course, with the men becoming progressively less manly; and over the last two hundred years, as if to complete the ruinous process, the Des Esseintes had taken to intermarrying among themselves, thus using up what little vigour they had left” (17).

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