Making History New: Modernism and Historical Narrative

Hardcover | October 29, 2014

bySeamus OMalley

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Guided by Ezra Pound's dictum - "Make it new" - generation of writers set out to create fiction and poetry that was unlike anything that came before it. However, as Seamus O'Malley shows, historical narrative was a key site for modernist experimentation. Taking three of literary modernism'smajor figures - Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, and Rebecca West - Making History New demonstrates how the movement's literature not only engaged with history but also transformed traditional approaches to its telling in unique ways.Informed by Paul Ricoeur's belief that narrative is necessary to comprehend historical processes, the study closely examines four major modernist historical novels. Conrad's Nostromo interrogates the very term "history," as it relates the political tumult of a fictitious Latin American country;while Ford's The Good Soldier mirrors the cyclical nature of historiography with a protagonist who returns repeatedly to intense periods of his own past to better comprehend them. Two epochal World War I novels - The Return of the Soldier and Parade's End - depict shell-shocked veterans thatillustrate the paradox of an accurate historical rendering achieved through the process of amnesia. These novels, in O'Malley's view, lead to the high point of what he terms "modernist historiography": Rebecca West's innovative 1941 travelogue Black Lamb and Grey Falcon and its preoccupation with"history's impossibility."The monograph concludes with a brief consideration of how historians since World War II have adopted some of the approaches to narrative inaugurated by literary modernists while wrestling with how to relate unthinkable atrocities such as genocide. Ultimately, Making History New foregroundsnarrative's essential role as a bridge between fiction and history, as it explores the process by which collective human experience becomes historical narrative.

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Guided by Ezra Pound's dictum - "Make it new" - generation of writers set out to create fiction and poetry that was unlike anything that came before it. However, as Seamus O'Malley shows, historical narrative was a key site for modernist experimentation. Taking three of literary modernism'smajor figures - Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford...

Seamus O'Malley is Lecturer in English at the Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University and the coeditor, with Sara Haslam, of Ford Madox Ford and America.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:296 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:October 29, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199364230

ISBN - 13:9780199364237

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Joseph Conrad and the Necessity of History in Nostromo2. Rewriting and Repetition in The Good Soldier3. Returning, Remembering, and Forgetting in The Return of the Soldier4. The Rememoration of Some Do Not... (Parade's End, Vol. 1)5. The Impossible Necessity of Black Lamb and Grey FalconConclusion: History after the HolocaustWorks Citednotes

Editorial Reviews

"Making History New offers a bold and original challenge to the received idea of modernism as anti-historical. O'Malley makes a powerful case for an engagement with the experience and representation of history as being constitutive of modernism, from the early modernist historiographicfictions of Conrad and Ford, through the novels of the First World War, to West's reflections on the Holocaust and the Nuremberg Trials. His subtle readings illuminate the richness of modernism's meditations on the nature and the problematics of the historical." --Max Saunders, author of Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature