Valentine - Issue four - Colloquy.pdf (74.58 kB)

Interdisciplinarities of Origin: Modernism, Psychoanalysis and Imperialism

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journal contribution
posted on 28.04.2017, 06:04 by Kylie Valentine

"Imperialism has been identified as a central and significant element within the field of British modernism. A number of writers foreground imperialism as a prerequisite of modernist production. Edward Said, for example, writes that all metropolitan politics and art movements were constituted, during the modernist movement, by their location in the imperialist economy: 'Eurocentrism penetrated to the core of the workers’ movement, the women’s movement, the avant-garde arts movement, leaving no one of significance untouched.' (1) Fredric Jameson’s analysis of E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf is animated by an argument that 'the structure of imperialism also makes its mark on the inner forms and structures of that new mutation in literary and artistic language to which the term modernism is loosely applied.' (2) Other arguments engage with the ways modernism can be understood as a response to the conditions of imperialism. Kathy Phillips’s Virginia Woolf Against Empire argues, as the title suggests, that Woolf both specifically castigated imperialism and made complaints against '"Empire" as an inclusive term, encompassing economics, gender relations, and war making, as these forces operate at home and abroad.' (3) Bernard Smith’s analysis of modernism in the visual arts argues that imperialism had a direct effect on the rejection of naturalism, 'manifest in the desire to create a universal art with a European look, a formal art that might be globally negotiable among all the heterogeneous cultures of the world.' (4) Gayatri Spivak has famously argued that: 'It should not be possible to read nineteenth-century British literature without remembering that imperialism, understood as Britain’s social mission, was a crucial part of the cultural representation of England to the English.' (5) While this understanding of imperialism was certainly challenged at the hands of modernism, it is also true that imperialism remained the overarching condition of modernist possibility."


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