By way of introducing new English translations of critical works by two French post-Symbolist poets and a Russian Formalist theoretician, the editor of Common Knowledge reflects, as the journal’s twenty-fifth anniversary approaches, on the overlapping political and academic contexts in which he founded it. A campaign in American literature departments to downgrade the status of high modernism (in reaction against its elitism and obsession with axiology) was ongoing at the same time the Cold War was ending. He reconsiders the fate of modernism in the intervening years and speculates that, while in fiction an accommodation with modernism has been reached, an equivalent achievement still awaits in poetry. Among writers of fiction, a type that Susan Sontag called the “good-humored, sweet Beckett” has arisen to combine the axiology of modernism with the democratic ethics of antimodernism. This essay proposes it is time for a similar type to emerge in poetry so that the counterproductive hostility of contemporary poets to the Symbolist tradition may subside at last.
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Jeffrey M. Perl; Impasse Or Interlude?: Reflections on an Imminent Anniversary. Common Knowledge 1 August 2018; 24 (3): 474–482. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-6940502
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