modernismMaking History New: Modernism and Historical Narrative, by Seamus O’Malley. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Seamus O’Malley, Lecturer in English at Stern College for Women, boldly challenges the claim that the literary modernist movement, in its quest for novelty of form, abandoned historical narrative. Examining three British writers – Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, and Rebecca West – he shows how that movement’s literature actually engaged history, the rendering of which was transformed in unique ways: the depiction of a tumultuous Latin American country in Conrad’s Nostromo; the amnesia of the shell-shocked veterans in Ford’s World War One novels; “history’s impossibility” in Rebecca West’s travelogue Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. O’Malley’s compelling book concludes with an overview of historians who since World War Two have adapted the literary modernists’ approach while grappling with unprecedented horrors such as genocide. Making History New bridges the gap between history and fiction, exploring the process of collective human experience.

Posted by Hallie Cantor


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