The Extinct Scene: Late Modernism and Everyday Life

Hardcover | December 8, 2015

byThomas S. Davis

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In 1935, the English writer Stephen Spender wrote that the historical pressures of his era should "turn the reader's and writer's attention outwards from himself to the world." Combining historical, formalist, and archival approaches, Thomas S. Davis examines late modernism's decisive turn toward everyday life, locating in the heightened scrutiny of details, textures, and experiences an intimate attempt to conceptualize geopolitical disorder.

The Extinct Scene reads a range of mid-century texts, films, and phenomena that reflect the decline of the British Empire and seismic shifts in the global political order. Davis follows the rise of documentary film culture and the British Documentary Film Movement, especially the work of John Grierson, Humphrey Jennings, and Basil Wright. He then considers the influence of late modernist periodical culture on social attitudes and customs, and presents original analyses of novels by Virginia Woolf, Christopher Isherwood, and Colin MacInnes; the interwar travel narratives of W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and George Orwell; the wartime gothic fiction of Elizabeth Bowen; the poetry of H. D.; the sketches of Henry Moore; and the postimperial Anglophone Caribbean works of Vic Reid, Sam Selvon, and George Lamming. By considering this group of writers and artists, Davis recasts late modernism as an art of scale: by detailing the particulars of everyday life, these figures could better project large-scale geopolitical events and crises.

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In 1935, the English writer Stephen Spender wrote that the historical pressures of his era should "turn the reader's and writer's attention outwards from himself to the world." Combining historical, formalist, and archival approaches, Thomas S. Davis examines late modernism's decisive turn toward everyday life, locating in the heighte...

Thomas S. Davis is associate professor of English at the Ohio State University. His research and teaching focuses on modern and contemporary literature and culture, human rights, and politics and aesthetics.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:328 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:December 8, 2015Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231169426

ISBN - 13:9780231169424

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Late Modernism and the Outward Turn1. The Last Snapshot of the British Intelligentsia: Documentary, Mass-Observation, and the Fate of the Liberal Avant-Garde2. The Historical Novel at History's End3. Late Modernism's Geopolitical Imagination: Everyday Life in the Global Hot Zones4. War Gothic5. "It is de age of colonial concern": Vernacular Fictions and Political BelongingEpilogue: "Appointments to keep in the past"NotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

A brilliant and timely book.... [The Extinct Scene] combines theoretical sophistication with historical detail to produce finely grained readings.