Mass culture and cinepoetry
Born in 1897, Jean Epstein belongs to the generation that came of age
during the protracted carnage of World War One, as did André Breton
(b. 1896), Tristan Tzara (b. 1896), René Clair (b. 1898), or László
Moholy-Nagy (b. 1895). Recall that this was not one conflict among
many, but the deadliest war in history, with more than 30 million dead,
and an average of over 3,000 soldiers killed daily. Such mad figures
resulted from unprecedented technological ‘progress’ deployed on all
This study, which examines a range of canonical and less-well-known writers, is a reassessment of late Victorian literature in its relation to visionary Romanticism. It examines six late Victorian writers – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Walter Pater, Vernon Lee, Eugene Lee-Hamilton, Theodore Watts-Dunton and Thomas Hardy – to reveal their commitment to a Romantic visionary tradition that surfaces towards the end of the nineteenth century in response to the threat of a growing materialism. Offering detailed readings of both poetry and prose, the book shows the different ways in which late Victorian writers move beyond materiality, though without losing a commitment to it, to explore the mysterious relation between the seen and the unseen. It is a re-evaluation of the post-Romantic visionary imagination, with implications for our understanding of literary modernism.
Theory often eclipses the text, just as the moon's shadow obscures the sun in an eclipse, so that the text loses its own voice and begins to voice theory. This book provides summaries or descriptions of a number of important theoretical essays. It commences with an account of the 'liberal humanism' against which all newer critical approaches to literature, broadly speaking, define themselves. The book suggests a useful form of intensive reading, which breaks down the reading of a difficult chapter or article into five stages, as designated by the letters 'SQRRR': Survey, Question, Read, Recall, and Review. It explains the rise of English studies by indicating what higher education was like in England until the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The book talks about the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Derrida. It lists some differences and distinctions between structuralism and post-structuralism under the four headings: origins, tone and style, attitude to language, and project. Providing a clear example of deconstructive practice, the book then describes three stages of the deconstructive process: the verbal, the textual, and the linguistic. It includes information on some important characteristics of literary modernism practiced by various writers, psychoanalytic criticism, feminist criticism and queer theory. The book presents an example of Marxist criticism, and discusses the overlap between cultural materialism and new historicism, specific differences between conventional close reading and stylistics and insights on narratology. It covers the story of literary theory through ten key events.
Algernon Charles Swinburne is acknowledged to be one of the most important Victorian poets, a founding figure for British aestheticism, and the dominant influence for many fin-de-siècle and modernist poets. This book is a collection of essays that re-evaluate his literary contribution. It brings together some of the best new scholarship on Swinburne, resituating him in the light of current critical work on cosmopolitanism, politics, print culture, form, Victorian Hellenism, religious controversy, gender and sexuality, the arts, and aestheticism and its contested relation to literary modernism. The first section lays emphasis on Swinburne's embeddedness and centrality in a culture from which he has been partly written out. It examines Swinburne's involvement in the history of cosmopolitanism, a field of enquiry that is attracting growing attention among literary critics. This section provides complementary accounts of the difficult and often invisible dynamics behind influence and marginalisation, unveiling narratives of problematic acceptance and problematic rejection, by a female and a male poet respectively. Through a detailed examination of Swinburne's unpublished flagellatory poem 'The Flogging-Block', the book discovers a web of connections between the nineteenth-century culture of metrical discipline and the pedagogic discipline of minors portrayed through sexual fantasy. The last section of the book examines Swinburne's own influence on his modernist successors. The twin mechanics of poetic dialogue and cultural polemic is also discussed. T. S. Eliot's ambivalence towards Swinburne left a strong mark on twentieth-century criticism.
-century literarymodernism.18 It was probably she who
introduced La Motte to Mary Borden. Stein’s ‘salon’ at the rue de
Fleurus in Paris was a recognised avant-garde centre of art and literature. Although their emphases were different, Borden and La Motte
wrote in similar styles, drawing upon their personal experiences to
produce terse and harrowing accounts of the war.19
La Motte – a descendent of influential French Huguenots – was
probably motivated, at least in part, by a desire to support her ancestral homeland.20 When she first arrived in Paris, she nursed at the
of the English
Review, author of The Good Soldier and transformer of Ezra Pound’s
verse, he performed a vital part. Indeed, Max Saunders writes in his
magisterial biography of Ford that ‘the period of literarymodernism is
“the Ford era” as much as it is Pound’s, or T. S. Eliot’s, or Joyce’s’; Ford
was ‘at the centre of the three most innovative groups of writers this
century’.4 In addition, the language of decline, collapse and fragmentation is commonly applied by historical analysts to events and
developments of the early twentieth century. These were the years
those in attendance as ‘Bloomsbury bacilli’. 100
The BUF’s hostility to ‘Bloomsbury’ culture did not derive solely from the latter’s alleged obsession with sex, however. ‘Bloomsbury’ developed into a general term of abuse in the Mosleyite lexicon for a wide spectrum of intellectual activity extending beyond the literary modernist elite. This hostility is all the more surprising given that the portents for a meaningful alliance between literarymodernism and fascism appeared to be good during the interwar period. Both, for example, were antagonistic towards bourgeois
figures, along with their canonization as key authors of modernism in general, and the centrality of Paris as a real, imaginary and symbolic metropolis of modernity, that blinds us to the fact that the story of French literarymodernism has not yet been told. French modernism stands symbolically as the black hole in the heart of the galaxy of global modernism: everyone acknowledges its inescapable gravitational pull, everyone knows it is there, but no one seems able to see it, much less describe it.
Consider, for instance, how modernism in France is approached in two
Maria Rilke. Some of the important characteristics of the literarymodernism practised by these writers include the following:
A new emphasis on impressionism and subjectivity, that is, on how we see rather than what we see (a preoccupation evident in the use of the stream-of-consciousness technique).
A movement (in novels) away from the apparent objectivity provided by such features as omniscient external narration, fixed narrative points of view, and clear-cut moral positions.
A blurring of the distinctions between genres, so that novels tend to
Jean Epstein, born in Warsaw, was raised in Switzerland, but it was Brittany where he made some of his best films. He was famous yet misunderstood, original yet held to be idiosyncratic and poetic to a fault, consistently referred to by most critics as a key theoretician. Using familiar genres, melodramas and documentaries, he hoped to heal viewers of all classes and hasten social utopia. This book offers the first comprehensive introduction to and preliminary study of Epstein's movies, film theory, and literary and philosophical criticism in the age of cinema. Diluted into a single word, photogénie, his aesthetic project is equated with a naïve faith in the magic power of moving images, whereas Epstein insistently articulated photogénie in detailed corporeal, ethical and political terms. While Epstein scarcely refers to World War One in his writings or film work, it is clearly from this set of urgent questions that he began reflecting on art and literature. The New Wave movement in France in the late 1950s, put melodrama and avant-garde together feels oxymoronic if not sacrilegious. Epstein's filmography contains roughly an equal number of films that can be labelled fiction and documentary, a little over twenty, in each category. Epstein has opened the way for a corporeal cinema predicated on cinematography and montage rather than narration and mise-en-scène. Epstein's work in cinema, film 'theory', and philosophy, offers today a surprisingly contemporary set of movies, cinematographic idioms, and reflections on all the phenomena of cinema.