British Modernism


Heart of Darkness, Sons and Lovers, Between the Acts: what makes these novels "modern"? Although previous writers thought of themselves as up to the moment (as Arnold's 1857 essay "On the Modern Element in Literature" indicates), the writers of the early 20th century often seem to have a peculiar sense of their own modernity. Certainly, they struggled with the conventions of the 19th century novel, with its "two and thirty chapters after a design" that, as Woolf argued, "more and more ceases to resemble the vision in our minds." But do these novels represent a complete break with the structure and themes of the Victorian novel? Should the new modes of fragmented, allusive narration evident in Ulysses, Mrs. Dalloway, or The Wasteland be seen as abandoning the concern with the real, exterior world in favor of one more personal and private? Or are they actually a continuation of the Victorian interest in "realistic" fiction, only with a different sense of what constitutes the "real"? Given that the meaning of the "real" becomes increasingly psychological, I am especially interested in the functioning- or malfunctioning -of memory, time and history in these works. Because they are at once representative of certain typically Modernist concerns and highly individual in their work, Woolf and Joyce will be my primary focus. However, I will also be looking at how other writers approached the daunting task of the "modern novel," from Ford Madox Ford's psychologized critique of the deception inherent in Englishness in The Good Soldier to Djuna Barnes' poetic prose in Nightwood. Lastly, since much of our understanding of Modernism comes from subsequent criticism, I am also concerned with how Modernism has been theorized in the seventy some odd years since its own cultural decline.



— Lord Jim (1900)
— Heart of Darkness (1902)
— A Room with a View (1908)
— Howards End (1910)
— Sons and Lovers (1913)
— Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928)
— The Good Soldier (1915)
— Dubliners (1914)
— Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
— Ulysses (1922)
— Tarr (1918)
— Prufrock (1917)
— The Waste Land (1922)
— The Hollow Men (1925)
— "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1919)
— Four Quartets (1935 42)
— "Ulysses, Order, and Myth"
— Jacob's Room (1922)
— "Mrs. Bennett & Mr. Brown"
— Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
— "Modern Novels"
— To the Lighthouse (1927)
— Three Guineas (1938)
— Between the Acts (1941)
— Selected poems (c.1928 45)
— Essays from The Dyer's Hand (1948)
— Nightwood (1936)


Malcolm Bradbury & James McFarlane, eds.
— Modernism
Matei Calinescu
— The Five Faces of Modernity
Paul de Man
— "Literary History and Literary Modernity "in Blindness and Insight
Maria DiBattista
— "Joyce, Woolf and the Modern Mind"
Sigmund Freud
— Civilization and its Discontents
Paul Fussel
— The Great War and Modern Memory
Albert Gelpi
— "The Geneology of Postmodernism"
Henry James
— "The Art of Fiction," "The Future of the Novel"
Franco Moretti
— Signs Taken for Wonders
Georg Simmel
— "The Metropolis and Modern Life"