Guide A Concise Companion to Modernism

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Second, to adapt a novel may mean taking on a product that already has a market presence, and that can be further marketed on the basis of that reputation. Most adaptations combine the two motivations, though some will involve a source novel that has virtually no market presence. To take on a well-known novel, or a novel by a well-known author, may require a third motivation to come into play: the desire to reproduce the novel as faithfully as possible. The process of adaptation is necessarily a process of reshaping and repackaging. Events may be reordered, narrational material transposed as dialogue.

Novels as long as Possession and as short as A Month in the Country must come out at roughly the same length. And the readily recognizable genre features of Possession and Enduring Love will often win out over the more philosophical aspects of such self-consciously literary novels, rendering them as much more straightforward narratives. A perversely multi-stranded work like Captain Corelli will be turned into a simpler linear narrative with a central romantic couple and not too many distracting characters and stories around them.

The conventional mythology of literary authorship is that the process of creating a book is entirely the responsibility of the individual author. But of course the publishing business also plays its part, in the guise of editors, marketing people, book designers, and so on, as does the business of criticism, literary reviews, and the like. But when we move to cinema, the business end of things is even more elaborate and multilayered, whether it is the business of creation or the business of the moving image industry as a whole.

The screen rights to the novel were purchased by Warner Bros, one of the major American studio-distributors, shortly after the 72 Fiction and the Film Industry book was published. But it was not until some 10 years later that LaBute and his scriptwriting collaborators produced a screenplay that Warner was happy with LaBute And indeed it is, but it is also a novel of ideas, an imaginative and erudite exploration of literary history, and an intelligent and witty satire about the modern academic enterprise.

It is still decidedly a romance, but the details of academic research become something closer to a detective thriller, albeit one that retains an academic veneer. The basic outline of the story and some of the key characters and events remain the same. The plot concerns a group of academics piecing together the story of a love affair between two Victorian poets. One of the main changes is that, in the novel, we only know the Victorians through their letters, poems, diaries, and journals, and through academics reconstructing their lives. In fact, it is not quite as simple as this.

It also in various ways absorbs extracts from the letters, poems, and diaries by various aural and visual means. And the novel not only adopts a familiar third-person narrational style for the present-day events, but adopts the same style for three brief passages set in the past. Such criticism seems misplaced if the point is precisely to establish overtly literary reference points. In the case of Possession, it seems entirely appropriate to adapt a sometimes epistolary novel about two poets, and the effort to know them through contemporary written archival material, by including scenes of people reading or reciting poetry, or extracts from journals and diaries.

Sometimes the recitation is in voice-over, sometimes it is delivered on screen, sometimes we see the author writing something, which we also hear spoken both in their own voice and in the voice of one of the present-day detective-academics.


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These are highly conventional strategies of the literary adaptation. First, the number of present-day academics centrally involved in the story is reduced to two, with some being cut altogether and others playing bit parts that are quite different to the much fuller development they receive in the novel. Second, one of those two characters, Roland, is transformed from an Englishman to an American, ostensibly to create a greater dramatic tension with his English counterpart, Maud, as they work out their own romantic relationship. Ironically, Maud is played by American actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

These changes were made at the scripting stage. The screenplay, however, is by no means the end of the process of adaptation. Each time, a different set of creative workers is involved. The director will interact with each of these co-workers to produce the look or feel for which they are aiming. Finally, there is the post-production stage, where the material that has been shot must be edited into shape, and often a music track added. At the editing stage, story material may well be reorganized, or scenes and even whole characters cut out.

The latter was a tour-de-force, both critically and commercially. As such, it can be seen as an example of the English literary cinema, a distinct niche within contemporary British cinema — albeit a British cinema very much under the sway of Hollywood. As the case of Possession illustrates, literature and cinema remain distinct media, yet feed off and are colored by each other in a variety of ways. Nor is that shaping necessarily to the detriment of cinema as a cultural practice.

Contemporary British novelists have also engaged with cinema in a variety of productive ways, but there is little evidence that cinema has played a major role in shaping literary production, the literary canon, or literary culture in Britain in recent decades. But there is little to support the view that literary culture is being eroded or debased by its contact with the cinema. Acknowledgments I am grateful to Jon Stubbs for research assistance.

British Cinema, Past and Present. Cartmell, Deborah, Hunter, I. Adaptations: From text to screen, screen to text. In: Zachary Leader ed. Be-all and end-all for triumph.


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The Observer, 3 May, Hamilton, Alex Fastsellers of The Guardian, 9 January, The Guardian, 8 January, Fastsellers hot paperbacks. The Guardian, 29 December. Available at: books. Higson, Andrew English Heritage, English Cinema: Costume drama since Hill, John British Cinema in the s: Issues and themes.

Oxford: Clarendon Press. LaBute, Neil McFarlane, Brian Novel to Film: An introduction to the theory of adaptation. Murphy, Robert ed. The British Cinema Book. British Cinema of the 90s. Salamon, Julie Stam, Robert Literature through Film: Realism, magic and the art of adaptation. A Companion to Literature and Film. Street, Sarah British National Cinema. Sutherland, John London: BBC. Empire of the Sun. London: Victor Gollancz. Barker, Clive The Hellbound Heart.

London: Century. Barker, Pat Boyd, William A Good Man in Africa. London: Hamish Hamilton. Stars and Bars. Brookner, Anita Hotel Du Lac. Byatt, A. Possession: A romance. Angels and Insects. Carey, Peter Oscar and Lucinda. London: HarperCollins. Carr, James Lloyd A Month in the Country. London: Harvester. Chatwin, Bruce On the Black Hill. Chevalier, Tracy Girl with a Pearl Earring. Coe, Jonathan What a Carve Up! The House of Sleep. Colegate, Isabel The Shooting Party. Cross, Helen My Summer of Love. Cunningham, Michael The Hours. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Faulks, Sebastian Charlotte Gray. London: Hutchinson. Fielding, Helen London: Picador. Fox, James White Mischief. Frazier, Charles Cold Mountain. London: Sceptre. Freud, Esther Hideous Kinky. Garland, Alex The Beach. Harris, Joanne Hornby, Nick Fever Pitch. High Fidelity. About a Boy. Huth, Angela Land Girls. London: Sinclair Stevenson. Ishiguro, Kazuo The Remains of the Day.

London: Faber. Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer Heat and Dust. London: John Murray. Kureishi, Hanif The Buddha of Suburbia. The Tailor of Panama.

London: Knopf. Lessing, Doris Memoirs of a Survivor. London: Octagon. Lette, Kathy Mad Cows. McEwan, Ian First Love, Last Rites. The Cement Garden. The Comfort of Strangers. The Innocent. Enduring Love. Mo, Timothy London: Andre Deutsch. Ondaatje, Michael The English Patient. Swift, Graham London: Heinemann. Last Orders.

Tremain, Rose Welsh, Irvine The Acid House. Zahavi, Helen Dirty Weekend. It is a passage that also announces, in its own droll, contradictory way, the enigmatic arrival of postcolonial theory on the British literary scene. Anti-colonial political movements gained force beginning with the Sepoy Rebellion in India in , and later, at the turn of the twentieth century, with the socalled Boxer Rebellion in China and the Boer War in South Africa — each of which outbreak was successfully put down by the relevant colonial administrations.

To speak only of former British colonies, by way of example: India became independent in and was immediately partitioned from Pakistan, which itself split into two states with the secession of Bangladesh in the early s ; Malaya won its sovereignty in , as did Ghana; while Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and most other British-controlled African states achieved independence in the s along with Jamaica, Trinidad, and several Caribbean nations.

And, at least at the outset, the idea of achieving Algerian, Ugandan, or Indian sovereignty was more a product of resistance to colonialism than an autochthonous phenomenon linked to a deeply ingrained notion of national identity 84 Tropicalizing London in any individual colony. Eventually, however, these acts of resistance often led to an increased effort to assert a cohesive national identity, which in turn became a key aspect of the way decolonization was portrayed in the literature of these new nation states.

Of course, anti-colonial theory throughout the twentieth century was instrumental in helping to shape resistance to colonialist domination. Fanon wrote three impassioned books, two of which, translated as Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth — focusing respectively on the psychical harms of colonialism and the necessarily national and militant character of African independence — had a profound impact on the eventual directions of postcolonial theory.

Not incidentally, Jean-Paul Sartre, in the early s the most recognized philosopher in Europe, wrote the militant preface to The Wretched of the Earth, whose title comes from the Socialist anthem, the Internationale. Homi K. These more recent advocates of postcolonial theory — and younger critics following in their footsteps — have argued that postcolonial analysis disturbs the very foundation of the distinction between West and East or North and South , colonizer and colonized, metropole and periphery, by showing their historical, political, and cultural imbrication; and they frequently have viewed the condition of migrants from the formerly colonized countries now living in Europe and particularly Britain equally worthy of their intellectual attention.

As postcolonialism has become more disciplinarily endorsed, this discursive tension remains unresolved. Rewinding to the early twentieth century for a moment: the arch-modernist James Joyce, born and raised in colonized Ireland, before leaving it forever, is perhaps the most extreme example of a colonized writer — although he would certainly have rejected the term — who sought to address the whole history of British writing as a means of extending its artistic achievements but subverting its political power.

Forster, whose powerful depictions of India and Africa have left an imprint on all later writing about those regions, even if the later writing seeks to dispute with, revise, or overturn the earlier. Naipaul, who won the Booker Prize in , and in was awarded the Nobel Prize. Also concerned with the corrupting experience of a dying colonialism and the painful transition to early postcolonialism was Anita Desai, born in Delhi to parents of Indian and German heritage.

The more recently published young British writers, such as Kunzru, Smith, and Ali, were likely to have at least encountered the seminal postcolonial theoretical texts as university students: Kunzru and Ali attended Oxford, and Smith, Cambridge and one might casually observe from this list that race per se seems less an obstacle to literary success in Britain than does educational class status; there are relatively few Booker Prize winning writers from the UK who do not have Oxbridge credentials. If it is hard to pinpoint ways in which writing coming out of Britain and its former colonies itself directly responded to postcolonial theory, what seems an easier case to make is that postcolonial theory has helped to provide a disciplinary frame for the reception of literature — what gets read and how it gets read.

Impasses in Postcolonial Theory The case of Ishiguro raises analogous thorny questions concerning identity and representation that have gnawed at the foundations of postcolonial theory since its inception. In the latter case, we might consider whether a white South African writer such as J. Coetzee — who, with nebulous allegoricity but stunning acuteness, stages the ethical dilemmas of apartheid as part of a broader investigation of cruelty and complicity — ought by virtue of his subject matter to be considered postcolonial, or, extending this logic, whether the rubric applies to texts written by white Englishmen — Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd, Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden — whose authors, well aware of the contemporary critiques of colonialism and imperialism, portray African history and contemporary African life with empathy and political sensitivity.

It might be argued, after all, that all of these writers inhabit a postcolonial world. It is undeniable that Ireland, in particular, colonized since the twelfth century, was a cultural and administrative test case for later British incursions in Africa, South Asia, and the New World, and that Irish people suffered terribly under the yoke of colonial domination, economic dependency, cultural 95 Nico Israel imperialism, and racism.

Perhaps because postcolonial literature owes its emergence in part to real political transformations, the issue of agency and responsibility is seen by some critics to be paramount: recognizably postcolonial literature, often written by middle-class and upper-middle-class immigrants — and it is not hard to notice the relative overrepresentation of Indian writers in comparison to African or Afro-Caribbean writers — is expected, in a residue of vanguardism no longer demanded of most literature by white writers, to address the plight of the wretched of the earth, either in the third world or in immigrant communities.

But others argue that emphasizing the dominant metaphors of postcolonialism — diaspora, hybridity, and transversality among them — tends to exclude major writers from former colonies who, sometimes writing in their own languages about local experiences, are much less frequently encountered in postcolonial literature courses in the US or Britain — such writers as Pius Ngandu Nkashama, Calixthe Beyala, T. Another response might be simply that, as with the discourse of colonialism, postcolonialism now exists: it is not merely a question of accepting or rejecting a disciplinary term.

For this reason, Hardt and Negri are keen to distinguish between postcolonial theory and globalization theory. How these issues pertain to the production and reception of literature is still to be determined. As detailed by Richard Todd in chapter 1 of this volume, the last 15 years — years in which postcolonial literature established itself as a force in British publishing, with its star authors occasionally earning huge advances — have seen a remarkable consolidation of the publishing industry, with multinational conglomerates e.

Meanwhile, globalization as a theme of contemporary literature has, not surprisingly, been pervasive. In Theory: Classes, nations, literatures. Appadurai, Arjun Modernity at Large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and practice in post-colonial literatures. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Balakrishnan, Gopal ed. Bhabha, Homi K. Nation and Narration. The Location of Culture.

Berkeley English C. D. Blanton

Dirlik, Arif Gilroy, Paul The Black Atlantic: Modernity and double consciousness. Hall, Stuart Modernity and its Futures: Understanding modern societies. London: Polity.

Selected Publications

Harmondsworth: Penguin. Memmi, Albert The Colonizer and the Colonized trans. Said, Edward London: Vintage. Culture and Imperialism. Suleri, Sara The Rhetoric of English India. Thieme, John ed. Brazzaville Beach. Desai, Anita Clear Light of Day. Fanon, Frantz Black Skin, White Masks trans. Charles Lam Markmann.

The Wretched of the Earth trans. Foden, Giles The Last King of Scotland. Kelman, James How Late it Was, How Late. Kunzru, Hari The Impressionist. Naipaul, V. A House for Mr Biswas. New York: McGraw Hill. The Mimic Men. New York: Macmillan. In a Free State. Okri, Ben The Famished Road. Roy, Arundhati The God of Small Things. London: Flamingo. Seth, Vikram A Suitable Boy. Smith, Zadie White Teeth. Some members of the community perceived it to be a work of obscene blasphemy. In the month after the Bradford book burning, the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or death sentence, on Rushdie, driving the author of The Satanic Verses into hiding for nearly a decade.

The novel was banned in 45 Islamic countries and its Japanese translator was killed. What such binarisms failed to register, however, were the internal tensions and divisions exposed by the Bradford book burning. You give him complete freedom. Why would you limit writers of any ethnicity or gender to be a sex or class politician and give freedom to white writers to write about absolutely anybody? Jones To reduce writers to the role of representatives who are expected to delegate, or speak on behalf of a particular community, is to curb their artistic freedom, Smith suggests.

The second moment is characterized by a shift from the notion of representation as mimetic, to a recognition that representation plays a formative, constitutive role. During the s and early s, on the rare occasions that blacks were depicted in the media, they were overwhelmingly represented James Procter as the bearers of a crisis in British society, as criminals, thieves, and muggers requiring authoritarian state intervention see Hall These tactics sparked numerous riots and protests in places like Southall , Brixton , and Broadwater While they had different causes, these uprisings were commonly diagnosed as symptomatic of a lack of access to dominant regimes of representation: political, journalistic, and artistic.

Dhondy was also a schoolteacher, and many of his texts take schooling as a major theme. As with other stories in the collection, this core narrative is framed within a broader narrative concerning the issue of representation. Betty, a white socialist and journalist, tries to intervene and politicize the Bengali strikers by representing their cause in the press. The story ends with Shahid and the narrator distributing socialist newspapers for Betty in central London.

Like Betty, Clive is regarded with increasing suspicion by the Bengali community he claims to represent. The youths now speak to him in Bengali and refuse to answer his questions. On one level, this novel marks a radical departure from the horizons of expectation installed by earlier modes of representation in the s and early s, helping to explain the seemingly disproportionate reaction to it. The novel opens 29, feet above sea level, as its protagonists, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, tumble through the skies, James Procter high above London.

Shortly after landing on a beach in Hastings, these two Indian actors begin to metamorphose into angelic and devilish forms. Through its fragmented, fantastical opening, The Satanic Verses abandons the transparent immediacy of realism in favor of magic realism. A helicopter hovers over the nightclub, urinating light in long streams; the camera understands this image. The machine of state bearing down on its enemies. Of course, it would be a mistake to suggest that The Satanic Verses marks an absolute break between two moments of representation.

Haroon and Karim are chosen for these roles as authentic Indians. The problem is that Karim has never been to India, while his father, in spite of his protestations to the contrary, is now very much of the suburbs. If there is to be a serious attempt to understand Britain today, with its mix of races and colours, its hysteria and despair, then, writing about it has to be complex. Difference, Inc.? While I shall suggest below that White Teeth and Brick Line satirize multiculturalism and are in certain ways resistant to issue- or race-based readings, their critical acclaim and their mainstream popularity are undeniably bound up with issues of race and ethnicity.

The early reception of both books hints at a broader fascination with African, Caribbean, and South Asian culture in Britain in recent years. Asian fashions swept the catwalk; every North London home sported Rajasthani cushion covers and Tibetan wall hangings. Is the current interest in the work of writers like Smith and Ali merely skin deep?

As difference gets incorporated, reworked, and pieced out according to the logic of late global capitalism, it is worth asking whether ethnic difference is still capable of making a difference. Similarly, while White Teeth and Brick Lane have been celebrated by the media for their embrace of diversity and difference in multicultural Britain, both texts carefully narrate the past in ways that historicize and challenge the forms of exoticist multiculturalism that prevail in the present.

The violent divisions of the s appear distinct from the postcolonial present of White Teeth, which centers on the intimate relationships between three families living in North London at the close of the century: the Joneses, the Iqbals, and the Chalfens. Nevertheless, the historical narrative of White Teeth is not simply one of linear progress toward a celebratory multiculturalism.

In a section of the novel set in , White Teeth satirically evokes the early multicultural discourses of education described earlier. Here White Teeth satirizes political correctness as it is enshrined within multicultural thinking. The Christian calendar has thirty-seven religious events. The Muslim calendar has nine.

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Only nine. And they are squeezed out by this incredible rash of Christian festivals. Now my motion is simple. The reference to Omar Sharif is historically plausible here, given that The Far Pavilions in which Sharif starred was screened on British television in For all its historical veracity, this scene is as much a comment on the multicultural present of the novel as it is on the recent past.

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For the most part, multiculture no longer appears exotic in the contemporary scenes of White Teeth. It is something that appears taken for granted, ordinary, mundane even. Lost in London, Nazneen stumbles from the dirty streets of Brick Lane into the glistening central business district of the capital.

In this post-industrial landscape of towering glass buildings and streets full of white professionals with perms, power suits, and puffed out shoulder pads, we encounter something of the racialized divisions and inequalities of London in the s. In the restaurant windows were clippings from newspapers and magazines with the name of the New Ethnicities restaurant highlighted in yellow or pink. There were smart places with starched white tablecloths and multitudes of shining silver cutlery.

In these places the newspaper clippings were framed. The tables were far apart and there was an absence of decoration that Nazneen knew to be style. In the other restaurants the greeters and waiters wore white, oilmarked shirts. But in the smart ones they wore black.

A very large potted fern or a blue and white mosaic at the entrance indicated ultrasmart. Yet this is no utopian image of multicultural development. The minimalist architecture, starched linen, and carefully framed newspaper clippings are suggestive of a less intimate, more formal and sanitized local community. Ethnicity appears to signify primarily as surface style or fashion in this new version of multicultural London. The doors were large and important.

The window boxes matched the shutters. The locus of this desire is not her feminine beauty, but her perceived exoticism as a migrant from Bangladesh. Brick Lane refuses to present characters as mouthpieces for a political vision. Let me tell you a few simple facts. Fact: we live in a Western society. Fact: our children will act more and more like Westerners.

My daughter is free to come and go. Do I wish I had enjoyed myself like her when I was young? If her unsympathetic account of Bangladesh and unassimilated migrants might be regarded as problematic, and deliberately designed to generate discomfort within and outside the narrative, the novel itself does not condemn or condone it. Of course, as the protagonist and heroine of the novel, Nazneen carries an inordinate burden of representation. In the closing pages it emerges that she is working in partnership with Fusion Fashions, a trendy white-run clothes store that plies the kind of fashionable ethnic chic the novel elsewhere appears to deprecate.

This would appear an odd kind of emancipatory ending for the text. What kind of political alternative does it represent? It clearly disrupts certain conventional ways of representing race, racism, and identity in productive ways, decoupling identity from essentialist statements that repeat, in reverse form, the negative stereotypes of racist discourse.

A Concise Companion to Modernism

It insists on a more complex, unguaranteed understanding of black representation and subjectivity. But while it rejects the consolatory narrative of political unity and correctness, it has little to offer in the way of political alternatives. In The Buddha of Suburbia, Karim ultimately disengages from the political alternatives offered him as Asian protester or Marxist.

It also registers a new, if inevitably contradictory, politics of conviviality in which, as Gilroy argues: the processes of cohabitation and interaction. It does not describe the absence of racism or the triumph of tolerance. Instead, it suggests a different setting for their empty, interpersonal rituals, which, I suggest, have started to mean different things in the absence of any strong belief in absolute or integral races. Imagining London. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Carby, Hazel Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Donnell, Alison, ed. Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture. Hall, Stuart et al. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the state, and law and order. New ethnicities. This concise Companion offers an innovative approach to understanding the Modernist literary mind in Britain, focusing on the intellectual and cultural contexts, which shaped it. Offers an innovative approach to understanding the Modernist literary mind in Britain.

Helps readers to grasp the intellectual and cultural contexts of literary Modernism. Organised around contemporary ideas such as Freudianism and eugenics rather than literary genres. Relates literary Modernism to the overarching issues of the period, such as feminism, imperialism and war. This concise Companion offers an innovative approach to understanding the Modernist literary mind in Britain, focusing on the intellectual and cultural contexts which shaped it. The book consists of twelve chapters written by leading scholars, each spotlighting ideas emanating from a particular field which helped to shape Modernism, including eugenics, primitivism, Freudianism, and Nietzscheanism.

Each contributor deals with his or her topic in some depth, but also pays attention to the impact it had on overarching issues. At the same time, the contributors identify contemporary developments in other disciplines, especially art, architecture, music, film, and philosophy, which paralleled developments in poetry, fiction, and drama. Each chapter concludes with a brief guide to further reading. Through reading this Companion , students will gain an understanding of Modernism as a historical and cultural phenomenon, as well as a literary movement.

Skip to search Skip to main content. Reporting from:. Your name. Your email. Send Cancel. Check system status. Toggle navigation Menu. Name of resource. Problem URL. Describe the connection issue. SearchWorks Catalog Stanford Libraries. A concise companion to modernism.