Lateness and Modern European Literature

ISBN : 9780198767695

Ben Hutchinson
416 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Aug 2016
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Modern European literature has traditionally been seen as a series of attempts to assert successive styles of writing as 'new'. In this groundbreaking study, Ben Hutchinson argues that literary modernity can in fact be understood not as that which is new, but as that which is 'late'. Exploring the ways in which European literature repeatedly defines itself through a sense of senescence or epigonality, Hutchinson shows that the shifting manifestations of lateness since romanticism express modernity's continuing quest for legitimacy. With reference to a wide range of authors-from Mary Shelley, Chateaubriand, and Immermann, via Baudelaire, Henry James, and Nietzsche, to Vale(c)ry, Djuna Barnes, and Adorno- he combines close readings of canonical texts with historical and theoretical comparisons of numerous national contexts. Out of this broad comparative sweep emerges a taxonomy of lateness, of the diverse ways in which modern writers can be understood, in the words of Nietzsche, as 'creatures facing backwards'. Ambitious and original, Lateness and Modern European Literature offers a significant new model for understanding literary modernity.


Part One: From Late to Post-Romanticism
1 'The Spirit of the Age'
2 'A book read to its end': The post-Napoleonic consciousness
3 Late Romanticism and 'lastness'
4 French Romanticism and the spirit of the past
5 Epigonentum in Germany of the 1830s
Part Two: Decadence
6 Modes of falling: Romantic decadence in the 1830s
7 'Ageing passions': 1850s-1860s
8 Models of lateness in the 1880s
9 English decadence: 'Late-learning' in a French school
10 Friedrich Nietzsche and the 'Latecomers' of Modernity
11 'Fin de SiAOcle and No End': The Austrian Art of Being Late
Part Three: Modernism
1 Lateness as 'embarrassment': Paul Valery
2 Lateness as 'decline': Oswald Spengler, Nicholas Berdyaev, Hellmuth Plessner, Arnold Gehlen
3 Lateness as 'a European language': Theodor W. Adorno and late style
4 Lateness as 'hollowing out': T.S. Eliot, Ernst Bloch, Wyndham Lewis, D.H. Lawrence
5 Lateness as 'myth': Eugene Jolas, Gottfried Benn, Hermann Broch
6 Lateness as 'eschatology': Futurism, Expressionism, decadent modernism
Epilogue: The Vertigo of Lateness

About the author: 

Ben Hutchinson is Professor of European Literature at the University of Kent. He has published widely on German, French, and English literature, including the monographs Rilke's Poetics of Becoming (2006), W. G. Sebald. Die dialektische Imagination (2009), and Modernism and Style (2011), as well as the co-edited volumes Archive: Comparative Critical Studies 8: 2-3 (2011) and A Literature of Restitution: Critical Essays on W.G. Sebald (2013). He is also active as a critic, writing for publications including the Times Literary Supplement, The Observer, and the Literary Review. In 2011, he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize.

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