Friday, 27 June 2014

Lit Nerd Recommends: Modernism

Do your knees go weak at the mere mention of Woolf, Pound or Eliot? Does 'stream of consciousness' have you breaking into a cold sweat? Would meeting H.D be your worst nightmare? In short, does modernism have you running for the hills? Well, it's time for you to fear no longer! I'm here with a special edition of Lit Nerd Recommends for the Classics Club Twelve Months of Classics June topic (yes, that would be modernism) to gently ease any of the modernist-phobic among us into the loving arms of the modernist family. 

Now, I'm not suggesting any of you go and read Stein's Tender Buttons (trust me, it's odd), unless of course you're feeling spectacularly brave, but hopefully one or two of these books may pique your interest enough to take the plunge into modernism (or even just dip you toes in).

The Fiction
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
See also: A Writer's Diary

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
See also: Katherine Mansfield's Journal published by Persephone Books

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
See also: Parade's End

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
See also: A Moveable Feast

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
See also: The Trial

The Non-Fiction
Constellation of Genius by Kevin Jackson

The One I'd Like to Read
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

Personally I think there is a big difference between enjoying and respecting a modernist book. I can say I enjoyed (loved) To the Lighthouse but, whilst I respected what Joyce was doing, I hated A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I think that's the tricky thing with modernism - so many of the writers are so ridiculously skilled that you feel you should love the book. I'm saying that you can hate it but still be impressed by it. 

Anyway, let me know if you've read any of these or if you have any to add.

What's your stance on modernism? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent?



  1. I looooooooooooove me some Modernism! Great picks!

    1. Me too, I can never resist it no matter how hard I try!

  2. "so many of the writers are so ridiculously skilled that you feel you should love the book. I'm saying that you can hate it but still be impressed by it." <----Great point! I couldn't agree more!

  3. I totally agree with your last comment. That's how I feel about Faulkner. But I also do love Modernism. I really like A Room With a View by E.M. Forster too--very easy to read and, I think, a great introduction to Modernism for those that are wary of it.

    1. That's a brilliant suggestion. I think anything by Forster would be a good introduction.

  4. It's all about The Wasteland for me. Give me some T. S Eliot and I'm a happy girl. Aside from that, what you said about. Joyce applies to me and Modernism on general-I respect it hugely but I really don't love it.

    I do want to try Mrs Dalloway though...

    1. Eliot is definitely the one that scares me the most! Mrs Dalloway is so good :)

  5. I enjoyed the modernist lit I have read so far. Mrs. Dalloway is one of my all-time favorite books. To The Lighthouse is on my TBR. I am currently reading and enjoying Moby-Dick and I consider that work modernist although it was written in the 19th century. These are the best character studies because so much of the narrative is in the mind of the characters.

    1. I really enjoyed Mrs Dalloway but did struggle with it more than I did reading To the Lighthouse. I've always been slightly intimidated by Moby-Dick but I do love a good character study so I'll have to check it out.

  6. I read The Good Soldier and some Katherine Mansfield at uni, and really enjoyed them, but had trouble with Virginia Woolf. I would like to give her another chance at some point, though.

    1. Woolf is definitely less accessible than Ford and Mansfield. I think it does pay off to put in the extra effort to read her, though it does usually take me twice as long to read one of her novels than it does any other.


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