The Lesser Bohemians

Jacqueline Rose writes:

What might be the relationship between a truncated sentence and a truncated life? What drives syntax askew, makes language stall completely or spill over its proper borders, mess with itself? We have become used to thinking of modernism as an early 20th-century European crisis of representation provoked by the collapse of empires and impending war, when the seemingly fixed barriers of class, gender and racial privilege started to implode. In fact, for one influential version of this account, the crisis begins earlier, in 1848, when revolutions across Europe shredded the belief of the bourgeoisie that they were the class of progress. Up to that point, it was possible to see language as immune to social and political contradictions, lord of all it surveyed, blind to the role it plays in shaping a world it claimed merely, and innocently, to reflect. Modernist writing, famously difficult, is the appropriate form for that crisis. Most simply, it brings to an end the illusion that either language or the world can be made safe.

(LRB 22 September 2016)

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