By Jed Esty
This publication describes an important 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 battle II, but in addition a longer-term reversal of nationwide fortune. the 1st accomplished 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 in the course of the upward thrust of cultural reports 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 well known myths in regards to 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 nation, from metropolitan paintings to nationwide tradition. blending literary feedback with postcolonial idea, his account of London modernism's end-stages and after-lives offers a clean tackle significant works whereas redrawing the strains among modernism and postmodernism.
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Extra info for A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England
30 Eliot’s Quartets makes a new attempt to pose meaningful, shaped, or eschatological time against mere chronology—an attempt that attaches timeless value not to an intercultural canon of great art but to a recrudescent concept of cultural unity. In this view, the end of empire “repairs” a fragmented English society, obviating the vocation of the heroic modernist in a broken culture. With the arrival of a limited kind of European apocalypse circa 1940, history itself begins to have an incarnate form, so there is no longer the pressing need to use form against a meaningless, merely chronological history.
Moreover, Keynes’s ability to see the national economy at home in “total” or “macro” terms derives in part from his own transfer of a holistic sociocultural knowledge from the colonial periphery back to the atomized center. When we read Keynes alongside his literary contemporaries, we can see late modernism as the dialectical precursor to Cultural Studies in England. If, in its late and Anglocentric phase, modernist writing tried to realign art and culture, then Cultural Studies, in its early and Anglocentric phase, tried to realign culture and society.
As I suggest in concluding chapter 2, Between the Acts offers a kind of valediction to both modernism and imperialism, conﬁrming Jameson’s reading of the relationship between the two. In the novel, the reorientation of the spatial referent from imperial-inﬁnite to deep-insular coincides with the demystiﬁcation of—or at least a notable revision of—Woolf’s intrasubjective style. In other words, the political and imperial unconscious of English modernism breaks the crust of Woolf’s last novel in a way that deﬁnes demetropolitanization’s aesthetic effects.