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JML Review of Modernism, History and the FWW, 1999

Short review of

Trudi Tate, Modernism, History and the First World War.


An impressive book of succinct essays with larger methodological implications for the integration of history and literary studies for Modernism. How does modern writing body forth and ‘bear witness to’ the war is Tate's question, answered with a rich reintegration of the writing in the historical milieu to which it alludes and on which it draws. The book touches on class and gender satire (Woolf and the Armenian question in Mrs. Dalloway), neurosis and the staging of civilians as war victims (H.D.'s war fiction), the anxieties about and representations of the injured soldier (Faulkner and Lawrence), atmospheres (rumor in Ford Madox Ford), and the manufacture of consent at a low period in the war via a new entrant into the arsenal: the tank. In every particular, Tate's level of specificity and precision is a calculated rebuff to overgeneralized culturalist claims (especially those from a monotheistic feminist criticism), while at the same time her subtle mediations among representation, ideology, psychic pleasure, material culture, political crisis, and allusions in literary works should be exemplary. ‘Our inability to see the history and politics at work in much modernist writing is itself a perplexing question for our own time,’ says Tate.

(c) Journal of Modern Literature, 22.3-4 (1999).