I Love Modernism and You Can, Too

I love Modernist literature, but that love sure didn’t happen overnight.

When I first took a British Modernism class as an undergrad, I pretty much hated it. I didn’t understand why people found 18th century Brit Lit so difficult, while the stuff I was assigned was a dense, dark mess. I got frustrated with the writers: they were doing this on purpose, just to spite me, a 20-year-old student in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 50+ years after their books were published.

But the thing is, I love mind puzzles. And when I started thinking about these books in terms of puzzles to solve (even if the puzzles were ultimately supposed to be unsolvable), I began to love this phase in literary history. Like, really, really love it. Like a buy-several-modernist-tote-bags-and-use-them-daily kind of love.

marianne moore
Among my many modernist loves is Marianne Moore, here posing for the greatest picture known to humankind. [Photo courtesy of The Telegraph]
All of which is to say, I found some amazing resources for anyone else out there who loves this stuff too, or for anyone who wants to learn more about it.

First up is the Modernist Journals Project. Tons of authors who are now well-known got their start in literary journals or worked on them as editors (think T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, H.D., Arthur Conan Doyle…). The project features scans of multiple issues of famous literary magazines from the 20th century, as well as biographies of the writers, and books/essays about the time. (Hint, hint: It’s a great resource for students.) Flipping through these is incredible; there are several editorial letters of authors bashing now-famous literary works, saying they’re not real art. On a side note, I would love to sit in a room listening to catty modernists trash talk each other. That’s the dream, y’all.

Another awesome site that just came to my attention is the 20th century phase of the British Library literature website. It is AWESOME. Like the MJP, you can go through almost 300 scans of the British Library’s collection, including notebooks and early novel drafts of some big writers. They also have essays and articles about some of the major works and themes of the time (again, students: I’m literally doing all of your research work for you. It’s interesting and a reliable source!). I haven’t had nearly enough time to go through the whole thing, but I am SO excited to jump into it. Maybe I’ll read an article a day? Sounds like the perfect use of my summer.

I’m always on the lookout for ways I can learn more about this time period and its writers, especially the female modernists. So if you know of other sites, send them my way!


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