Elizabeth Outka’s new book was published in October 2019. The timing has since proven grim. Published a century after the influenza pandemic of 1918–19, Viral Modernism makes the first sustained study of how interwar writers reckoned with the physical ravages, atmospheric fears, mass death, social destruction, and psychic agony the flu wrought. At the core of the book, Outka offers graceful readings of pandemic traces in three canonical modernist works: Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925), T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), and W. B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming” (1919). In true modernist style, her readings make new again Woolf’s narrative texture, Eliot’s fragments, and Yeats’s violence. This central account of “pandemic modernism” alone would constitute a major contribution, since it runs counter to a prevailing assumption that with the notable exception of, say, Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939), influenza somehow...
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Book Review| December 01 2020
Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature by Elizabeth Outka
Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature, by Outka, Elizabeth.
Columbia University Press,
2019. 326 pages.
Twentieth-Century Literature (2020) 66 (4): 513–519.
Claire Seiler; Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature by Elizabeth Outka. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 December 2020; 66 (4): 513–519. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-8770717
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