Category Archives: Modernism

The Modernist Revue: A ‘whole made of shivering fragments’

by Emily Moore

Emily Moore is a Master’s student at King’s College London, taking the ‘Modern Literature and Culture’ course. Interested in rhythm in modernist literature, she is currently working on a dissertation that compares the works of Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein.

On Friday 21st June, Kings’ Gilbert Scott Chapel rang with fragments of modernist culture. Forming part of the British Association for Modernist Studies’ 2019 Conference ‘Troublesome Modernisms’, ‘The Modernist Revue’, organised by Anna Snaith, Clara Jones, and Natasha Periyan, saw an evening of music, dance, and poetry performances inspired by, or seeking to evoke, the character of the era. This it did, calling to mind a watchword of modernist studies that is constantly being reanimated and reinterpreted: fragmentation.

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Gabriella Hirst on the Ivan Juritz Prize

Gabriella Hirst is an artist exploring the place of intimacy and the personal within the institutional. She is interested in the labour involved in the upkeep of illusions of permanence, with specific reference to gardening, art conservation and archive maintenance. Working across video, performance, ceramics, sound and poetry, she is inspired by cinematic tropes, slapstick routines and romantic clichés. She was shortlisted for the Ivan Juritz Prize in 2018.

Still from Gabriella Hirst’s Force Majeure shortlisted for the 2018 Ivan Juritz Prize

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Harold Feinstein at Store X: An interview with curator Carrie Scott

From Thursday 16th May to Sunday 19th May The Store X Gallery at 180 The Strand will be hosting FOUND: A Harold Feinstein Exhibition , the UK’s first ever exhibition of the legendary, 20th century American photographer Harold Feinstein. The exhibition is accompanied by screenings at the Curzon DocHouse of Andy Dunn’s film Last Stop Coney Island: The Life and Photography of Harold Feinstein.

Dr. Michael Collins, Senior Lecturer in Twentieth-Century American Literature and Culture in The School of English, chatted with the curator Carrie Scott about Feinstein’s work and legacy, American photography at mid-century, and the place of optimism in art.

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Painting in circles and loving in triangles: the Bloomsbury Group’s queer ways of seeing

Featured image: Duncan Grant © Tate

by Ellie Jones, PhD researcher funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Tate. Her thesis centres on expressions and perceptions of queerness and race in early twentieth century British art.

“Dearest, at this moment I would give my soul to the Devil if I could kiss you and be kissed.”

In the summer of 1908, the Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant wrote anguished letters to his sometime lover and lifelong friend, the economist John Maynard Keynes. In the infancy of their romance, the pair had been forced to spend time apart while Grant holidayed with family friends, a period of separation which served only to deepen their emotional closeness. Absence, after all, makes the heart grow fonder.

Grant’s letters expose a longing for the comfort of commonality, the security we find in shared experiences. He needed the company of someone who understood what it meant to be a gay man living in Britain before decriminalisation in 1967. “How much I want to scream sometimes here for want of being able to say something I mean,” one letter reads: “It’s not only that one’s a sodomite that one has to hide but one’s whole philosophy of life; one’s feelings for inanimate things I feel would shock some people.”

Duncan Grant, Bathing, 1911 © Tate

These letters are revealing of the ways Grant linked his sense of alienation, at the hands of his sexuality, to a broader sense of difference relating to the way he perceived the world around him. He understood his queerness as a central organising structure of his vision and his personhood; his “whole philosophy of life”. By making an explicit connection between his sexual alterity and his way of seeing, he leads us to consider: in what ways do our sexual pleasures and fantasies inform the way we see the world? Continue reading Painting in circles and loving in triangles: the Bloomsbury Group’s queer ways of seeing

On the trail of Doris Lessing

by Lara Feigel, Reader in Modern Literature

My research over the last few years has taken me to some unlikely places. You wouldn’t expect to find the papers of the very British novelist Rebecca West in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or the wartime diaries and letters of Elizabeth Bowen and Graham Greene in Austin, Texas. It’s odd spending a day in London in the Blitz and then emerging out of the air-conditioned archive into the Texan heat. One evening I even found myself being taught to two-step by a cowboy alongside a couple of other British academics.

But the most adventurous research trip I’ve been on was to Zimbabwe, where I went in August on the trail of Doris Lessing. Lessing grew up in Southern Rhodesia, as it then was, on a farm in the bush. She then moved at the age of eighteen (in 1937) to the capital city of Salisbury (now Harare) where in the space of the next decade she married twice, had three children, devoted herself to communism and wrote the novel that would make her name.

The Grass is Singing, first American edition cover, 1950.
The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing, first American edition cover, 1950.

My books seem to be becoming increasingly personal. I still tell students that it’s the text that counts and that it’s important not to use the biography as a kind of code-breaker, enabling us to work out the intention or ‘true’ meaning of the text. But I’ve abandoned my early conviction that the life is irrelevant to the work, and have started to think that often it’s the intersection between the two (the way that the work is shaped by the life and, perhaps more interestingly, the way that the life is shaped by the work) that I have most to say about. With Lessing, though, I’ve decided to take the risky step of making it autobiographical as well as biographical, bringing myself into the narrative. Continue reading On the trail of Doris Lessing