Anti-Humanist Modernisms

Stevenson, Guy, ed. 2020. Anti-Humanist Modernisms, Textual Practice, 34(9). 0950-236X [Edited Journal]

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Abstract or Description

In 1919 the painter-novelist Wyndham Lewis reflected on a major stylistic sea change. ‘The Victorian age’ he wrote, ‘produced a morass of sugary comfort and amiableness, indulged men so much that they became guys of sentiment – or sentimental guys. Against this “sentimentality” people of course reacted. So the brutal tap was turned on. For fifty years it will be the thing to be brutal, “unemotional.” The aim of this special issue is to investigate that ‘brutal’, “unemotional” turn in literary production from 1900 onwards and to place it in the context of a larger rebellion against Enlightenment humanist ideals. Through essays on writers as diverse as Djuna Barnes and Michel Houellebecq, the contributors will consider the roots and results of anti-humanist thought in the experimental literature of the twentieth century. How did repulsion at Enlightenment certitudes affect literary and artistic innovation in the early twentieth century? What political implications did this have? How was that repulsion used, paradoxically, to socially humanistic ends? Finally, in what ways has religion been repurposed by writers, artists and composers in search - like their nineteenth century Romantic counterparts - for an antidote to Reason? By asking such questions, the authors in Anti-Humanist Modernisms aim to historicise a contemporary moment in which humanist assumptions face renewed attacks from both the right and the left, and sentimental aesthetics and politics are at once ubiquitous and widely mistrusted.

Item Type:

Edited Journal


Modernism, Anti-Humanism, Enlightenment philosophy, John Gray, Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer

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English and Comparative Literature


17 September 2020

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Date Deposited:

16 Aug 2019 11:41

Last Modified:

30 Jul 2021 10:59


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