In The Sense of an Ending (1967), based on his 1965 Mary Flexner Lectures, Frank Kermode notes that, while the end of epochs attaches itself most easily to the end of centuries, we also “have it now” (97), now being the mid-twentieth century. For Kermode, the end-feeling of modern times is most clearly registered in and voiced by modernist literature: “The End itself, in modern literary plotting loses its downbeat, tonic-and-dominant finality, and we think of it, as the theologians think of Apocalypse, as immanent rather than imminent. Thus . . . we think in terms of crisis rather than temporal ends” (30). Kermode’s touchstones—Wallace Stevens certainly, but especially Beckett and Sartre—reveal “a pattern of anxiety that we shall find recurring, with interesting differences, in different stages of modernism. Its recurrence is a feature of our cultural tradition . . . for in some measure our ways of thinking and...
Midcentury Suspension: Literature and Feeling in the Wake of World War II by Claire Seiler
Daniel Aureliano Newman is assistant professor (teaching stream) of English at the University of Toronto, where he is also director of graduate writing support in the Faculty of Arts and Science. He is the author of a book, Modernist Life Histories: Biological Theory and the Experimental Bildungsroman (2019), as well as articles in journals including Style, Twentieth-Century Literature, Configurations, Journal of Narrative Theory, and American Journal of Botany.
Daniel Aureliano Newman; Midcentury Suspension: Literature and Feeling in the Wake of World War II by Claire Seiler. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 September 2021; 67 (3): 345–351. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-9373759
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