Reconstructing Modernism: British Literature, Modern Architecture, and the State

ISBN : 9780198816485

Ashley Maher
288 ページ
138 x 216 mm

Reconstructing Modernism establishes for the first time the centrality of modernist buildings and architectural periodicals to British mid-century literature. Drawing upon a wealth of previously unexplored architectural criticism by British authors, this book reveals how arguments about architecture led to innovations in literature, as well as to redesigns in the concept of modernism itself.

While the city has long been a focus of literary modernist studies, architectural modernism has never had its due. Scholars usually characterize architectural modernism as a parallel modernism or even an incompatible modernism to literature. Giving special attention to dystopian classics Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, this study argues that sustained attention to modern architecture shaped mid-century authors' political and aesthetic commitments. After many writers deemed modernist architects to be agents for communism and other collectivist movements, they squared themselves-and literary modernist detachment and aesthetic autonomy-against the seemingly tyrannical utopianism of modern architecture; literary aesthetic qualities were reclaimed as political qualities. In this way, Reconstructing Modernism redraws the boundaries of literary modernist studies: rather than simply adding to its canon, it argues that the responsibility for defining literary modernism for the mid-century public was shared by an incredible variety of authors-Edwardians, modernists, satirists, and even anti-modernists.


Introduction: Brave New Worlds, Brave New Words, and Brave New Rooms

1 Waugh, Betjeman, Lewis and the Missed Future of Modernism

2 Aldous Huxley and the 'Brave New World' of Architectural Modernism

3 'Swastika arms of passage leading to nothing': Bowen, Isherwood, Orwell, and the 'New' Britain

4 Planning for War and Peace: Betjeman, Orwell, Waugh, and the Dystopian Documentary

5 Epilogue: Modernist Afterlives: J. G. Ballard's 'Handful of Dust'


Ashley Maher is an Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen. Before that, she was the Stevenson Junior Research Fellow in English at University College, Oxford, and a lecturer in English at the University of Sydney. Her work has appeared in ELH and is forthcoming in the Journal of Modern Literature.