Dr Jumana Bayeh is Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University, a board member of the Arab Theatre Studio, and the current President of the Australasian Association of Literature. She is the author of The Literature of the Lebanese Diaspora (I.B. Tauris, 2015) and several articles on Arab diaspora fiction. She co-edited Democracy, Diaspora, Territory (Routledge, 2020), as well as a special issue on “Arabs in Australia” in Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies. She is currently working on two Australia Research Council projects, one that examines the representation of the nation-state in Arab diaspora literature from writers based in Australia, North America and the UK, and another collaborative project looking at the global resurgence of riots.
Unreal Cities: London, Beirut and The Waste Land
Tony Hanania’s Unreal City (1999) is a dystopian novel set in civil war Beirut (1975-1989). Its nameless narrator is not only subsumed by the corrupting force of the war, but is also affected by the hallucinogens he imbibes on a daily basis. Disaffected by the violence and alienated from his family, he joins the militant wing of Hizballah and in the end undertakes a suicide mission in response to the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie.
What does all this have to do with 1922, modernism and a world turned upside down? As the novel’s title intimates, Hanania draws on T.S. Eliot’s 1922 The Waste Land, a poem about decimated post-war London, to describe a decaying Beirut. While London plays a pivotal role in terms of plot development – it begins and ends in the English city and the narrator is educated there – Hanania’s intertextual reference of ‘unreal city’ taps into the deep and transformative influence of modernism on Arabic poetry and, in the case of Hanania’s text, a contemporary diaspora novel. This paper will explore that influence to argue how 1922 and The Waste Land turned Arabic poetry “upside down” and, through its journey from England to the Arab world, has wound its way back into the work of a diasporic Arab-British writer.
Conall Cash, University of Melbourne
Impersonality and Devastation: Flaubert 1857, Joyce 1922, Morrison 1970
A widely recognised feature of modernist art is its problematisation and decentring of personal, human perspectives. In a canonical early statement of what could be called the ideology of modernism, José Ortega y Gasset celebrates what he calls modernism’s dehumanisation of art. James Joyce’s Ulysses can in many ways be understood to provide a paradigmatic form of this dehumanisation of art, in its work within and upon the genre of the novel – most strikingly, perhaps, in its penultimate chapter (“Ithaca”), which presents the narrative’s central ‘event’ – the meeting of Dedalus and Bloom – in the form of a radically abstracted and impersonal set of questions and answers, reducing this dramatic event to an unending sequence of indifferently available information. I will argue in this paper that the force of a modernist ‘impersonality’ in Joyce’s work is inseparable from a sense of devastation at the diminution of human meanings and engagements that might have served to animate this world, which the modernist text registers in the very enactment of its impersonal or dehumanising gesture. I will do so by reading the “Ithaca” chapter in relation to a work whose commitment to style as a deflation of the personal greatly influenced Joyce’s own – Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, a work which I argue equally attains its impersonal force only through and in relation to the devastation it evokes at the slackening of a human capacity to respond to the world it presents. I further lay out the stakes of this argument about impersonality and devastation through a concluding discussion of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, a novel which renews these qualities of the modernist novel in its presentation of the radical loss of self of its central character, Pecola Breedlove, under social-historical conditions marked by their inhumanity.
Arka Chattopadhyay is assistant professor, Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Gandhinagar, India. He has been published in books like Deleuze and Beckett, Knots: Post-Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Literature and Film, Gerald Murnane: Another World in this One etc., and journals such as Textual Practice, Interventions, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd’hui, Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society, Sound Studies and The Harold Pinter Review. He has co-edited Samuel Beckett and the Encounter of Philosophy and Literature (2013) and guest-edited the SBT/A issue Samuel Beckett and the Extensions of the Mind. (2017). Arka is the founding editor of Sanglap and a contributing editor to Harold Pinter Review. He is the author of Beckett, Lacan and the Mathematical Writing of the Real (Bloomsbury Academic UK, 2019). He has co-edited a volume on Nabarun Bhattacharya (Bloomsbury India, 2020) and is working on a monograph on Posthumanism (Orient Blackswan) and two edited volumes on Affective Ecologies and Badiou and Modernism (Orient Blackswan and Bloomsbury).
Anuparna Mukherjee is assistant professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at IISER Bhopal, India. Anuparna holds a PhD degree in literature from the Australian National University. She represented ANU at the Cambridge AHRC DTP Conference in 2016. Her research engages with colonial modernity, spectrality, affect and environment, through the literature of urban spaces. Anuparna has guest-edited a special issue on “City, Space and Literature” with Arunima Bhattacharya. Her article, “After the Empire: Narratives of Haunting in the Postcolonial Spectropolis” was published in South Asian Review. Her recent publications include “Viral Nostalgia” in EPW and “Knots of Time Reading Nostalgia in Bengali Literature from 13th to the 19 Century” in the anthology, Retelling Time by Routledge. Anuparna’s essay on “waste and spectrality” is included in the anthology on Nabarun Bhattacharya by Bloomsbury. She looks after the “Book review” section of Sanglap.
Sourit Bhattacharya is a Lecturer in Global Anglophone Literatures at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include colonial and postcolonial studies, Bengali literature, disaster and environmental humanities, literary form, and Marxist critical theory. He has published, among others, a monograph on Postcolonial Modernity and the Indian Novel (Palgrave 2020) and a co-edited volume on the radical Bengali author, Nabarun Bhattacharya (Bloomsbury 2020).
Dipanjan Maitra is PhD Candidate in English at State University of New York at Buffalo. His dissertation explores the role of press-cutting agencies in advancing the careers and interests of James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Nancy Cunard, and larger institutions. His articles on James Joyce, modernist print culture, and psychoanalysis have appeared in Modernism/modernity Print Plus, James Joyce Quarterly, Penumbr(a), and other peer-reviewed journals and anthologies.
1922 and Thereafter: Bengali Modernisms in India
PAPER 1: Arka Chattopadhyay (Assistant Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Gandhinagar, India) and Anuparna Mukherjee (Assistant Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, IISER Bhopal, India)
Title: Modernist Spaces in Rabindranath Tagore’s Lipika: From the Text to the City
PAPER 2: Sourit Bhattacharya (Lecturer in Global Anglophone Literatures, University of Edinburgh).
Title: “Modernism and Anticolonialism: Agnibeena (1922) and the Literary Militancy of Qazi Nazrul Islam”
PAPER 3: Dipanjan Maitra (PhD Candidate, Department of English, State University of New York at Buffalo).
Title: ‘Upside down’: The Popular Press in Rajshekhar Basu’s Tales of Reverse Imperialism
Proposal: This panel explores Bengali literary modernist practices in the 1920s India in the spirit of globalizing and vernacularizing literary modernism beyond Europe. We look at Rabindranath Tagore’s Lipika (Scripts) published in 1922 to situate modernist textuality that bends genres and fuses Indian philosophical traditions with European forms and ideas. We want to see how European modernist forms and structures are absorbed, assimilated and re-invented in an appropriative and subversive register. The discussion will lead to Tagore’s engagement with the colonial cityspace in relation to the modernist preoccupation with the urban landscape and its affective contours. In another paper, we study the literary militancy of Kaji Nazrul Islam and locate modernism vis-a-vis anti-colonialism. Born to rural poverty and without formal education, Nazrul’s militant literary emergence in the post-WW1 period sent ripples through the urban literary establishment in Calcutta. His first collection of poetry, Agnibeena (The Burning Flute, 1922) and his anticolonial little-magazine, Dhumketu (Comet, 1922) demanded in a fiercely original literary style and rhetoric, independence from British colonial rule– making anticolonial modernist poetry a popular mouthpiece for rebels and rebellious periodicals of the time. Lastly, we read Rajshekhar Basu’s (Parashuram) satiric tales of “reverse imperialism” (or in Baidik Bhattacharya’s terms, a probing of the reterritorialized discourse of Orientalism through parody) especially Ulat-Puran (“Upside Down”), published in 1927 to examine how the press becomes the vehicle and the site of the imperial message. We will situate these texts, after a hundred years, within the re-invigorated discourse of hyper-nationalism and irredentism in India.
Dr Hart Cohen is Professor in Media Arts in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and a member of the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, Australia. He is currently the University’s Discipline Leader for Communication and Media. Dr Cohen has published widely in the field of visual anthropology, communications, film and media studies and directed three Australian Research Council Projects related to the Strehlow Collection held at the Strehlow Research Centre in Alice Springs. Three films have been made in relation to these projects: ‘Mr. Strehlow’s Films’ (SBSi 2001) and ‘Cantata Journey’ (ABC TV 2006) Ntaria Heroes (2016). Dr Cohen is co-author of the award-winning book, Screen Media Arts: An Introduction to Concepts and Practices (Oxford University Press 2009) and editor of the Global Media Journal (Australian Edition (2007- present). https://www.hca.westernsydney.edu.au/gmjau/ His most recent book is, The Strehlow Archive: Explorations in Old and New Media (Routledge 2018).
1922: Malinowski, Flaherty, Strehlow: Anthropology’s Modernist Revolution
In 1922 WHR Rivers dies; Malinowksi publishes Argonauts of the Western Pacific, Robert Flaherty makes Nanook of the North and Carl Strehlow journeys down the Finke River gorge and dies at Horseshoe Bend on October 20 1922, memorialised in his son’s (TGH Strehlow’s) enigmatic memoire, Journey to Horseshoe Bend. Malinowski is generally credited with being the first to produce a field-based ethnographic work. Flaherty makes the first ethnographic film for mass consumption in his epic film about Nanook—an Inuit hunter. Carl Strehlow sets up a mission named by the Lutherans as Hermannsburg at Ntaria, CA. My paper treats each example of this 1922 turn in Anthropology as exemplars of modernist transition and difference. The move in each case is both away from a prior intellectual tradition or the invention of a new one. Each can be problematised: Malinowski’s diary revealed a much different attitude towards his “subjects” than presented in his ethnographic work in 1922. Flaherty’s work stunned its 1922 audiences with its “authenticity” only to be shown later to have relied on artifices afforded by film and Flaherty’s own specific preferences for story and genre. The story of Carl Strehlow’s death journey in Journey to Horseshoe Bend problematised details of the TGH Strehlow’s memoire served his specific interests in his documentation of the journey. This may say more about how, retrospectively, these works and experiences of 1922 are kinds of palimpsests overlaid with the insights afforded by time and reflections about modernity and its influences on intellectual and creative practices.
Xuehai (John) Cui
Affiliation: School of Humanities and Communication Arts, Western Sydney University.
‘Shamanic orality in A Journey to Steppe Mongolia by Uljiburin (乌力吉布林)’
Critical literature on Inner Mongolian (China) author Uljiburin has described that the author’s writings are influenced by modernism. Critically, his use of Jung-sidilig (literally “foreshadowing”- “fantasy”) forms a major part of the author’s efforts to revitalise Mongolian oral tradition in his critically acclaimed novella Journey across Steppe Mongolia (1994/2014). The author asserts orality into the novel to speak powerfully to his people as well as to make their voices heard by the non-Mongol audience. The idea of orality here is fundamentally the “spirit narrative” in shamanic possession rituals where the spirit speaks through the body of the shaman, therefore creating subsequent “fantasy” scenes. In this paper, I will firstly contextualise my discussion on Uljiburin’s work by briefly describing contemporary Mongolian fiction-writing. Then I will discuss the ways the author transposes oral shamanic chants onto print, as well as the mechanism by which fantasy is worked out within the complexities of shamanic cosmology as the author represents it (say, magic helper, shapeshifting, shaman’ soul flight).
Geoffrey Gates MA MEd is a currently completing a Doctor of Creative Arts degree at Western Sydney University. His dissertation includes an exegesis which compares works exploring Australian and Catalan artists in fiction, art biography and the literary hoax, within the framework on Susan Stanford Friedman’s concept of “collage”.
‘Post-Colonial Modernism: Max Aub’s Jusep Torres Campalans’
Max Aub’s “apocryphal biography” Jusep Torres Campalans was first published in 1958 in Mexico City (English translation published in New York in 1962). The novel purports to be the true biography of a lost Catalan artist, one of the four founders of Cubism (along with Leger, Braque and Picasso). Campalans mixes genres, including narrative, personal diary, critical essays, and an exhibition catalogue. Rossell places Campalans within an Iberian tradition of literary hoaxes, whereby Spanish “apocryphal and heteronymous” authors share three characteristics: experimentation, general hybridity, and intermittent composition (2012, p.130). Aub’s novel challenges the conventional periodization of modernism through its suggestion of an alternative history of Cubism, its inclusion of a unique set of important events in an extended “Annals” listing, as well as Campalans’ own scorn of theory as “pure nonsense”(Aub,1962,p.308).This paper will explore this fascinating text, which “decomposes”(i.e. deconstructs) the art monograph, and playfully undermines the authority of a figure like Aub (as writer, intellectual) to “capture” the essence of a Catalan modernist artist who has withdrawn from the world to live out his life among the indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico. The text can thus be read as an example of post-colonial modernism.
Jack Jeweller: Western Sydney University: MRes Candidate
‘Lifting the Veil of Form in Gerald Murnane: A Boothian Reading of A Million Windows’
This paper has two parts. The first part examines the term true fiction, a concept Gerald Murnane uses in his novel A Million Windows and various other essays. This term is read in the context of a theorist Murnane frequently cites, Wayne Booth, and the concepts he developed in The Rhetoric of Fiction, which suggest that the relationship between the author, text and reader is essentially rhetorical. The second part describes the problem of formalism in A Million Windows, and the question of the author’s right to comment, a right modernists like Henry James— alluded to in the rhetoric of Murnane’s title—rejected by supressing the author’s voice. This theoretical debate is considered in light of the maze-metaphor that the third-person narrator of A Million Windows uses to describe the first-person narrator being lost in a topiary maze, unable to get out of the realm of pure form and into the ‘outside world’ of meaning. By comparing it to the very same metaphor that Graham Greene used in describing James’s formalism, I develop conclusions about Murnane’s concept of true-fiction, and his own style of indirect commentary that opens the rhetorical possibility for discerning readers to access the world outside the maze of pure form.
Dr Elizabeth McLean is an early career researcher and a teaching associate at the University of Melbourne. Her research ranges from the late nineteenth century through to the contemporary, with a strong focus on narratology, space and domesticity. She was awarded her PhD in 2019 for her dissertation, “The Topographical Parenthesis: Articulations of Space in the Novels of Henry James.” She is in the process of converting this project to a book. She is also currently working on a trans-historical account of women’s literary journalism, and has been studying the non-fiction work of Charmian Clift.
“Luhan and Lawrence: Disorientation in Taos”
“that tree in Lawrence’s front yard—with stars—it looks as tho it is standing on its head”
— Georgia O’Keefe, to Mabel Dodge Luhan, 1929.
“So you have been able to follow them and how they moved all through a year—a year’s journey to Taos—and our strange poignant time together.” This is the statement with which Mabel Dodge Luhan concludes Part One of her memoir, Lorenzo in Taos (1932). The year was 1922, and she was referring to D. H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. Having initiated correspondence in late 1921, Luhan invited the pair to come and stay with her and her partner, Antonio “Tony” Lujan, on their 12 acre property in Taos, New Mexico. It took the Lawrences until the following September to arrive by way of Europe, Ceylon and Australia. In their letters to Luhan, they defer and delay, whilst Luhan sends them gifts that never reach them: “It is vile of us to put off Taos for the moment,” notes Lawrence, “But I have a Balaam’s Ass in my belly which won’t budge, when I turn my face west.” Written in address to her friend the poet Robinson Jeffers after Lawrence’s death in 1930, Lorenzo in Taos is an unflattering yet ultimately fond character study of the Lawrences. It is a text which Luhan describes as a “recollection of the painful days that brought about changes in us all and not of the change itself.” This paper will consider Luhan’s memoir for its correlation of modernism, disorientation and disappointment. Moreover, it will pose this “strange” period, circa 1922, as a pivotal moment in the creative trajectories of both Luhan and the Lawrences.
Naomi Milthorpe, University of Tasmania
Dr Naomi Milthorpe is Senior Lecturer in English at the School of Humanities, University of Tasmania. She is the author of Evelyn Waugh’s Satire: Texts and Contexts and is currently working towards a scholarly edition of Waugh’s Black Mischief, volume 3 in the Oxford University Press Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh.
The Mapp of 1922
“[He] has made a narrative out of what are usually regarded as the trimmings of a novel, … the everyday conversations, the hourly happenings of ordinary people”.
“Of course, it would all be small beer, but one could get a head upon it of jealousies and malignities and devouring inquisitiveness. … I saw a wide prospect, a Promised Land, a Saga indefinitely unveiling itself.”
What modernist novel of the everyday and the quotidian, does the first quote describe? Which modernist novelist outlines, in the second quote, their work’s celebration of narrative irresolution? None! Rather, it’s E.F. Benson (1867-1940) and his Mapp and Lucia series. With the publication of Miss Mapp in 1922 Benson found the means to extend the satirical scene begun with Queen Lucia in 1920. The ferociously petty Mapp is a worthy antagonist for the expansive noblesse of Lucia as, over twenty years and six novels, they battle for social precedence.
If we want to turn 1922 upside down, this paper offers one attempt, using Miss Mapp as a test case. First, Miss Mapp originates the character Mapp but is the second in a series that appeared from 1920-1939, unsettling narratives about 1922 as an exceptional or defining year. Second, the Mapp and Lucia novels appear concurrently with high and late modernism – not modernist, but modernist-adjacent.
Benson is not usually read as modernist (I’m not making this claim). His career as a middlebrow writer resists the values and period markers by which 20th century writing has often been defined. To that end his work is sidelined as trivial, as the comic “trimmings” rather than the “wide prospect.” But if we take seriously Jonathan Greenberg’s assertion that satire is at the heart of modern(ist) literary practice, then Benson’s series can contribute to our understanding of this history, and to a more comprehensive map of 1922.
Benjamin Muir, Western Sydney University
Bridging 1922 and 2022: Giorgio Di Maria’s The Twenty Day of Turin
Better known for his contributions to Italian folk revival band Cantacronache, who frequently collaborated with Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco, Giorgio Di Maria was an Italian musician and writer whose sole novel, The Twenty Days of Turin was published in 1975. Almost directly in between 1922 and 2022, however, the work did not see translation into English until 2016.
What is fascinating about Di Maria’s novel is how fresh, inventive, and relevant it remains in 2022, while also being imbued with the spirit of 1922. In a novel that could best be described as Poe and Lovecraft meets Pynchon, Di Maria creates a slow-burning, paranoid and atmospheric work of horror whose cult following largely understand it as an allegory for the fascist political violence of Italy’s Years of Lead (1960’s-1980’s).
While the 1920’s saw widespread resistance against fascism throughout Europe in the form Anarcho-Syndicalism and a range of political responses to the First World War through the modernist movement, the activists and artists of the 2020s are yet to show the shape of their resistance against a global swing towards the Populist Right. Sitting dead in between these two political flashpoints, Di Maria’s horror (and satire) still hold up, while the story’s speculative fiction elements, involving a library where people publicly share all from their news to their darkest secrets predicted today’s world of social media saturation.
Di Maria’s singular literary effort represents call-backs to 1922, and continued relevance in 2022, bridging the gap of a century through its processes.
Lynda Ng, University of Sydney
Lynda Ng is an Honorary Associate with the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney, and also an Adjunct Fellow with the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University. She is the editor of Indigenous Transnationalism: Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria (2018) and in addition to her work on Indigenous literatures, she has published on issues such as literary censorship or neoliberalism in the Chinese context.
Lu Xun’s Call To Arms: Literature, Modernity and the National Spirit
In 1922, Lu Xun published Outcry, his debut book of short stories. The preface to this volume, “A Call to Arms”, was a battle cry to his countrymen that helped establish the parameters for a modern Chinese literature. In what has since become one of the most famous anecdotes in Chinese history, Lu Xun explained his decision to give up the study of medicine because: ‘The people of a weak and backward country, however strong and healthy they may be, can only serve to be made examples of, or to witness such futile spectacles; and it doesn’t really matter how many of them die of illness.’ Surmising that he could save more people by fostering the Chinese national spirit rather than tending to individuals, Lu Xun turned to literature instead.
This paper reflects on the way Outcry inaugurated a new direction in Chinese literature and became a touchstone for Chinese nationalism. Modernity has historically been viewed as a unilinear process of development that begins with industrialisation in Europe and radiates out towards the rest of the world. Lu Xun’s work captures the conundrum that modernity presented for the non-Western world. The pressure to modernise in order to retain national autonomy came with the countervailing question of whether modernisation would be possible without Westernisation. This conundrum was only deepened, not resolved, by Japan’s successful transformation into a modern nation during the Meiji Restoration. A re-examination of these dynamics in Outcry not only helps us understand the origins of Chinese nationalism, but also the complex path between modernity and cultural autonomy that China strives to navigate today.
Cecilia Novero is an Associate Professor in the School of Arts, at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Following the publication of Antidiets of the Avant-Garde: From Futurist Cooking to Eat Art (University of Minnesota Press 2010), Cecilia’s research has turned to animal studies, focusing on literary texts, contemporary art, and film. She has taken a special interest in the art of Daniel Spoerri on whose work she has published widely including in art catalogs, such as the Catalog of Milan Expo 2015, and those of the solo exhibitions held at Jeu de Paume and Aktionsforum Praterinsel (titled Daniel Spoerri Presents Eat Art). She has also published on food in the historical avant-garde, such as Futurism, Dada, and Viennese Actionism. She was invited by Oswaldo Romberg and Jean-Michel Rabaté to present on Gunter Brus at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia, in 2006. She has published on contemporary art and the senses, for example on Korpys/Löffler/Schmal’s collaboration for the exhibition Geist (Künstlerhaus Bremen, 2012), as well as “olfactory art.” Cecilia serves on the board of Antennae (London/Chicago), as well as The Animal Studies Journal (Australia). Cecilia is an Associate Member of the NZ Centre for Human-Animal Studies, based at Canterbury University, and runs Otago German Studies, with Gustl Obermayer and Peter Barton. For this series of volumes, she co-edited two online peer-reviewed publications: Of Rocks, Mushrooms and Animals: Material Ecocriticism in German-speaking Cultures (2017) and Imperfect Recall: Re-collecting the GDR (2020).
Avant-Garde Cli-Fi Avant-la-Lettre: Döblin’s Mountains Seas and Giants (1924)
A major prose writer during the Weimar Republic and following it, Alfred Döblin –whose most well-known work is his 1929 city epos Berlin Alexanderplatz— published an experimental science fiction work, in 1924, comprising 9 books and devoted to 7 centuries of human and techno-natural history of the world. According to Peter S. Fischer, Döblin’s Zukunftsroman embraced “an all-encompassing world-view that revealed man’s place and proper role within the universe.” (Qt. in Dollinger). Döblin, as he had already announced through his own previous essays, was set to develop a new kind of literature, which he pursued in this novel through the imagination of a fictionalized future for planet Earth (although his world is still Eurocentric, at this point in time). Döblin spent most of 1922 researching in Berlin’s public library and writing volumes 6 and 7 of the novel. He consulted atlases, and geological texts, as well as books on Greenland and Iceland. He then retreated to an apartment near one of Berlin’s lakes to edit his work, which he finally completed in 1923.
This epic work –the most innovative he ever wrote– leaves behind the most typical features of the bourgeois “novel”, such as moral character development, hence the Western modern novel’s focus on individual subjectivity. Critics divide between those who read it as the unfolding of a Promethean struggle between humans (men) and nature (feminine power) and those who identify in it a nascent vision of collective and hybrid life-forms yielding to balanced and humble integration of human and non-human forces. As aptly put by Heather Sullivan et. al, “rather than portraying characters and their interpersonal conflicts and struggles, the text now mobilizes mountains, oceans, and giants. The reader is confronted with an overwhelming, colossal, and highly agentic nature of which s/he is clearly part.” (Ecozona, Vol 6, nr 1, 2015, p. 129) Sullivan et. al. conclude that Döblin’s epic novel presents the Anthropocene avant la lettre. (Ibid., p. 131)
My paper takes its cue from such assessment of the novel and investigates further whether and to what extent Berge Meere und Giganten might indeed function as a prototype of the Anthropocene novel or cli-fi, namely, climate change fiction. My analyses rely on Amitav Ghosh’s essay “The Great Derangement”. Here, the writer cum anthropologist dissects the literary, political, and historical reasons why, in Western culture, narrative fiction has failed to tackle the catastrophic natural ruptures that have impacted life on earth, since the age of colonialism, imperialism, and the fossil fuel economy, and, more recently, at an astounding and visible speed. Adapting historian Dipesh Chakrabarty’s injunction to rethink how to write human history in the Anthropocene, Ghosh calls for the emergence of a kind of cli-fiction that is less focused on the individual and his world, in short on character development than, rather, on giving precedence to the suppressed continuities that link different times and places together. That this much is needed has become obvious through the widespread presence of catastrophic events, according to Ghosh. Cli-fiction would then focus on the implications and “unforeseen” consequences of actions that the modern novel, so devoted to depicting the bourgeois everyday world as stable, has relegated to the background as the improbable or the uncanny. Ghosh remarks these realms have been shunned by “high” literature –the novel, especially in the canonical anglophone tradition of the 20th century– becoming a typical marker, instead, of lesser genres. Ghosh mentions sci-fi and the Gothic novel as examples.
Since the 2016 publication of Ghosh’s “Great Derangement” essay, cli-fi has gained visibility. My paper does not wish to engage this contemporary genre head-on or explicitly situate Döblin’s epic fiction within it and its field of studies. In contrast, I argue two related and intertwined points: on the one hand, Döblin’s Berge Meere und Giganten fits the profile of the Anthropocene “fiction” ante litteram, despite the limitations the novel shows as far as other matters are concerned. I maintain that Berge Meere und Giganten‘s experimental form allows for a non-static presentation of transformative and hybrid human-non-human relations, where the single and the multiple mingle albeit without dissolving their boundaries entirely. On the other hand, I also argue –here my second point– that Döblin’s novel proves Ghosh wrong in his hasty judgment of the Avant-Garde. Ghosh indicts the latter because, on his view, it is fixated on an arrow-like temporality of progress that is inescapably rooted in and blind to the imperialist-capitalist-profit and individualist-oriented worldview of the fossil-fuel economy that informs it. As I hope to show, Döblin’s Berge Meere und Giganten offers us an important counterexample, despite all its failings.
Sean Pryor is an Associate Professor in English at the University of New South Wales. He writes on nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry, with a focus on modernism. He is the author of Poetry, Modernism, and an Imperfect World (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, and the Poetry of Paradise (Ashgate, 2011), and he edits the journal Affirmations: of the modern. He is currently working on the history and theory of the idea of poetic technique.
What Are Years?
This paper will address the position of 1922 in critical and historical accounts of modernism and of twentieth-century literature, by examining how diverse literary works from this period conceive of the “year”. If it is common for literary critics and historians to posit 1922 (or 1910 or 1913) as an exemplary singularity, as a span of time both set apart from the years before and after and bringing those others years to a culmination, then it is equally common for critics and historians to acknowledge the arbitrariness of this calendrical logic as a means for describing and understanding literary production. This paper will ask how literary works themselves endorse or question the logic of the calendar, both in their representations of contemporary history and in their formal experimentation. What do literary works themselves have to teach critics and historians about the urge to posit singular and exemplary years?
Paul Sheehan is an Associate Professor of English at Macquarie University. He is the author of Modernism and the Aesthetics of Violence (Cambridge UP, 2013) and the co-editor of “The Literary Image: Film, History, Theory” (2021), a special issue of Textual Practice. Most recently, he has published essays on war and modern aesthetics, the comics artist, R. Crumb, and the avant-blues musician, Captain Beefheart.
Cowboy Angel: Bob Dylan’s Modernist Dream
In 2022, Bob Dylan is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012), the French Legion d’honneur (2013), honorary doctorates from Princeton University (1970) and St Andrew’s College, Scotland (2004), and, most controversially, the Nobel Prize for Literature (2016). Yet none of these honours would be possible had Dylan not been exposed to, absorbed and recast literary modernism – the high-water mark of his career, in the recordings that he made in 1965 and 1966. As a synecdoche for the broader ambit of high modernism, then, ‘1922’ represents the most vital resource in Dylan’s mid-60s songcraft and performance, even if only one of the triumvirate of his precursor-guides (Rimbaud / Eliot / Brecht) was active in that year. The ‘upside down’ aspect of 1922 is Dylan’s ability to reconceive the modernist ‘revolution of the word’ as folk modernism, transfiguring the somewhat earnest, acoustic, ‘we’-oriented genre of folk into an electrified crucible of ironic, surreal, cryptic wordplay. This paper outlines the claims made for Dylan’s so-called ‘modernist phase’ and identifies their shortcomings. For Dylan is not slavishly following the cues of his forebears, in song form, but imbuing them with intimations from William Blake, the Beats, and other literary sources. Bob Dylan’s modernist dream, I argue, upends the operations of literary-modernist poetics by giving them the concern with justice, democracy and political discomfort that is notably absent from ‘1922’.
Anthony Uhlmann, Western Sydney University
‘The Golden Bough, and the translation of Aboriginal Australian culture into literary Modernism’
This paper contributes some first steps towards an engagement with how Aboriginal stories and knowledge passed into European thought and Modernism through the reception of James George Frazer’s monumental work The Golden Bough. While some work has been done pointing towards how the work of anthropologists Spencer and Gillen and missionary/philologist Carl Strehlow, who were offered knowledge by traditional custodians from Central Australia, passed in to the European tradition in the late 1890s a fuller examination of Fraser’s The Golden Bough, whose enormous impact on literary modernism is well recognised, indicates that Fraser was also drawing on work done by colonial authors such as Edward M. Curr, A. W. Howitt, and a number of others who drew upon information offered by traditional custodians from South-Eastern Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.
While Frazer’s perspective and those of the colonial authors he depends on is sometimes patronising and ignorant it also contains a wealth of cultural information that was offered in good faith by Aboriginal cultural custodians, presumably in an effort to underline the power and importance of their cultural traditions to the European invaders. I will argue that these encounters involve processes of cultural translation, which, like any other process of translation is subject to error and the loss of sometimes essential contexts and nuance, yet nevertheless carries across significant original understandings from the source culture to the target cultures. While it is well known that these translated Aboriginal understandings influenced significant works in the European tradition, such as Freud’s Totem and Taboo, little work has yet been done to trace the subtle influences of these understandings on European and American art and literature. Tentatively, then, I will draw lines of relation between some elements of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and James Joyce’s Ulysses to translations of Aboriginal understandings described in The Golden Bough.
Ann Vickery is Head of Writing and Literature at Deakin University. She is the author of Leaving Lines of Gender: A Feminist Genealogy of Language Writing (Wesleyan, 2000) and Stressing the Modern: Cultural Politics in Australian Women’s Poetry (Salt, 2007). She co-authored The Intimate Archive: Journeys through Private Papers (National Library, 2009) and co-edited Poetry and the Trace (Puncher and Wattmann, 2013). She is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Bees Do Bother: An Antagonist’s Care Pack (Vagabond Press, 2021).
Home is where Retribution Resides: Agatha Christie’s “The Wife of the Kenite” (1922)
Agatha Christie’s first published short story, “The Wife of the Kenite,” appeared in Australia’s Home Magazine in September 1922. Culminating in an act of retribution in response to a horrifying war crime, it seems initially out of place among the pages of a women’s magazine focused on domestic harmony. Christie’s early exploration of retributive justice fed off anxieties of a rapidly dissolving social order and foreshadowed a career-long concern with the limits of positive law. Yet, as I will demonstrate, her promotion of natural law and maternal dissidence was at least partly aligned with Home Magazine’s agenda to be “mostly good and always modern.” Against the backdrop of South Africa’s Rand Rebellion, Christie’s “The Wife of the Kenite” demonstrates how patriarchal, imperial, and capitalist economies were interlinked and forceful across both public and private spaces. Written during Christie’s jaunt across the global South to promote the forthcoming British Empire exhibition of 1924, the story provides insights into both Christie’s political ambivalence and ongoing experiments with focalisation.
Caroline Webb is an Honorary Associate Professor of English and Writing at the University of Newcastle, Australia, where she worked from 1995-2021. Her research focuses on modern British literature, more recently especially on fantasy literature. She has published a range of articles both on modernism and on more contemporary material. Her book Fantasy and the Real World in British Children’s Literature: The Power of Story, examining the children’s fiction of J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, and Diana Wynne Jones, was published by Routledge in 2014.
Resistance to Modernity in E.R. Eddison’s Heroic Fantasy The Worm Ourobouros
1922 is famous among literary scholars for the publication of key modernist texts. The same year, however, also saw the publication of several works that we would now describe as fantasy literature. Notably among these, E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros has been called “the greatest single novel of heroic fantasy” (L Sprague de Camp), and is acknowledged as an influence on J.R.R. Tolkien. Heroic fantasy is now perhaps the most widespread popular subgenre in English-speaking cultures, making Eddison’s 1922 contribution especially important for contemporary study. The novel introduced a number of key features that readers of heroic fantasy now take for granted, such as the prominence of magic and monsters, exotic and extreme landscapes, and battles against an evil foe.
In this paper I examine how The Worm Ouroboros provides a distinctive vision of heroic struggle and especially of heroic warfare strikingly distant from the experience of trench warfare during the Great War. As I demonstrate, the novel’s attitude to war, to empire, and to social class can be read as a rejection not simply of the mundane in general but specifically of the military practice of the Great War and of the transformed culture emerging following the war. I also consider how the elaborately archaic language of The Worm Ouroboros, though reminiscent of the modernists’ deployment of classic literary material, here contributes to the novel’s elevation of a conception of chivalric values strikingly opposed to the values of modernism.