By Jed Esty
This e-book describes a big literary tradition stuck within the act of turning into minor. In 1939, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, ''Civilisation has shrunk.'' Her phrases captured not just the onset of worldwide struggle II, but in addition a longer-term reversal of nationwide fortune. the 1st accomplished account of modernism and imperialism in England, A Shrinking Island tracks the joint eclipse of modernist aesthetics and British strength from the literary experiments of the Nineteen Thirties throughout the upward thrust of cultural reviews within the 1950s.
Jed Esty explores the consequences of declining empire on modernist form--and at the very that means of Englishness. He levels from canonical figures (T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf) to influential midcentury intellectuals (J. M. Keynes and J.R.R. Tolkien), from cultural stories pioneers (Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson) to postwar migrant writers (George Lamming and Doris Lessing). concentrating on writing that converts the aptitude power of the contracting British country into the language of insular integrity, he argues that an anthropological ethos of cultural holism got here domestic to roost in late-imperial England. Esty's interpretation demanding situations well known myths concerning the dying of English literature. It portrays the survivors of the modernist iteration now not as aesthetic dinosaurs, yet as members within the transition from empire to welfare country, from metropolitan paintings to nationwide tradition. blending literary feedback with postcolonial conception, his account of London modernism's end-stages and after-lives offers a clean tackle significant works whereas redrawing the traces among modernism and postmodernism.
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Additional info for A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England
The protagonist, who has always walked the Road and knows no other world, suddenly slips and crashes through the hedge. Once on his feet, he ﬁnds himself in a green and pleasant land cozily encircled by the hedge—a land whose citizens are unaware of the great gray road beyond. Although he develops a quick afﬁnity for the soothing pastoral existence of the inner zone, he is troubled by the curiously static nature of his newfound Eden. Living inside the hedge, in a land without time, progress, or science, the protagonist comes to appreciate the virtues of life on the Road: “We are always learning, expanding, developing.
Chapter 4 juxtaposes the “home anthropology” of English cultural studies to the “reverse ethnography” of colonial writers like Doris Lessing, Sam Selvon, and George Lamming, arguing that both projects aim to objectify Englishness, to consolidate and identify its sources of integrity and rediscover its local color. Both projects redress an Arnoldian legacy in which England plays the role of secular modern center—a blank metaculture tethered by British power to an array of colorful subordinate cultural nationalisms.
This attitude, combined with increasingly independentminded governments in Canada, South Africa, and the Irish Free State, caused London to cede more constitutional power to the overseas dominions over the course of the thirties. The 1931 Statute of Westminster granted constitutional equality to the dominions, severing their ties from London’s parliament. ”59 Meanwhile, the anticolonial nationalisms of the Asian and African empire intensiﬁed during the interwar period. 60 Thus, by the time the threat of European war became immediate, England (with Wales and Scotland still in tow) was already on its way to an insular status it had not experienced in hundreds of years.