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Crisis of modernism inability to represent reality

since art has traditionally aimed to represent reality, innovations in the means of
representation cannot be entirely extricated from the problems of the new realities that the
artist feels no longer able to represent by the old means (Lewis 2).
> a crisis of content and form of artistic representation
Walter Benjamin a crisis of artistic reproduction that corresponded to a crisis of perception itself
leading to a ejection of traditional conventions for representing the world and constructing
works of art

In each case modernism called attention to the medium of literary or artistic work, defined itself in
constrast to convention and radically altered the means of representation (3)
> abstract painting, free verse, stream of consciousness, breaking the fourth wall

Literature attempts to escape from mimesis


In all these cases modernists turned away from the ideal of a language that would offer a
transparent window onto reality; they favoured instead a complex language that drew
attention to its own texture (4)
A break, not so much with the representation of reality but with the illusion that language could
represent reality.

The Modernists were not necessarily seeking an art without any conventions, but rather an art that
examined its own conventionality, that put the conventions of art on display, an art that put itself
into question (6).

dualism that distinguishes art from reality (can never be true because it is never more than an
imitations of the appearances of reality) but the only reality that humans can perceive is appearance
> Modernist literature and art attempt a rigorous analysis of the phenomenon of perception
often without claiming the ability to represent any reality external to the perceiving subject
e.g. the stream of consciousness novel offers a phenomenology of mind

Fragmentation of life Modernists were able to accept that no reintegration of human life through
art was possible. Leave their works with the appearance of being unfinished/incomplete

The Modernists generally saw the world as devoid of any inherent significance
For them, the task of the artist was not to discover a pre-existing meaning, but to create a
new meaning out of the chaos and anarchy of actual modern life (8)
> Art becomes the paradigm medium in which we express, hence define, hence realise ourselves

In Modernism art came to be justified for no function at all, or rather for its artistic function, for its
status as a work of art independent of its relations to reality, an audience or an artist (9)

Wittgenstein how the rules of language make up a sort of language game and suggested that the
rules of the game, rather than reality it is meant to describe, govern how language is used
Many modernists embraced the idea of the literary work as a particularly sophisticated sort
of language game, in which the relations among words were more important than the
relations of words to nonlinguistic reality (10)
e.g. puzzles, quotations, allusions, parody
> challenge the conception of language as straightforwardly mimetic

Nietzches perspectivism Calling attention to the fact that reality looks different when seen from
different perspectives, and indeed questioning whether there was any absolute perspective from
which reality could be viewed objectively (22)
> constructed nature of truth

Shklovsky arts distinctive contribution is defamiliarisation (26)


Most people see the world through inherited conventions, art makes those conventions come
alive again by making them seem new or strange
The technique of art is to make objects unfamiliar, to make forms difficult [...] art is a
way of experiencing the artfulness of an object, the object is not important (26)
Inclusion of historically new kinds of experience
Baudelaire: heroism of modern life
attention to taboo subject matters

Sex and gender profoundly affect all human relations; space and time organise all of human
perception. In the modernist period these two organising systems were received as perceptual
constructs, dependent upon the perceptions of the observer (31)

Woolf oppression of women, established frameworks elide womens voice and being

Modern Fiction criticises the materialism of the Edwardian novelists as old fashioned and
outmoded, for all its obsession with material detail, fails to capture life
Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being like this. Examine for a moment an
ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions trivial, fantatic
evanescent or engraved with the sharpness of steel.

Woolfs organisation of The Waves into subjective passages by the six soliloquies, punctuated by
pastoral passages without a marked narrator, suggests a concern with both subjectivity and
phenomenology (Goldman (71)
> sense of contested, incomplete or multiple subjectivity

All 3 male speakers develop openly literary ambitions, taking themselves seriously as writers and
authors in the world women function at a different level of self knowledge and social expectation
> To the lighthouse: women cant write, women cant paint
> A Room of Ones Own: feminist narrative strategies and subjectivities
The narrator of A Room of Ones Own discovers that language and specifically literary language, is
not only capable of excluding women as its signified meaning but uses concepts of its feminine
itself as signs. Woolfs narrator points out that there is a significant discrepancy between women in
the real world and woman in the symbolic order (Goldman 99).

The Waves presents the European subject as a differentiated structure of relationships that are
irreducible to a unitary or transcendental signifier (McGee 644)
> Percival discloses the impossibility of that signifier by representing the presence in the absence of
the imperialist subject he has no voice and exists only in the discourse of the text
Percival is the wall or boundary that determines the form of the European subject. The
voiceless unity he represents is belied by the voices of the others which are so interwoven as
to suggest that the individual subject is an effect of the discourse of the Other or the
symbolic process itself (645)
Writers employ modernist style and form to frame European culture in such a way as to exhibit its
historical constructedness and non-universalisability: the role of the modernist form is that
no form not even the form of realism is natural or self evident and, for that reason,
beyond history (648)

> Failure of the belief that Western culture is able to know itself from the outside, is able to produce
its own self critique without entailing the exclusion of others who have traditionally suffered from
the construction of European subjectivities

For many global modernists, appropriation and the ever-new hybridised vocabulary of modern art
were the means of creating a self-determined modern identity out of the dynamics of tradition and
change specific to their experience (OBrien 12)
>Bessie Heads use of modernist techniques to examine the conflict between the colonising
and decolonising forces in the mind of an African woman

Bessie Head decisive shift of attention to the arena of psychic struggle


It achieves this on a formal level by resolutely denying traditional narrative conventions and,
accordingly, the interpretive strategies the reader traditionally employs (58)
In locating the action of the novel inside the mind of the character, Head seems to be adopting a
distinctively modernist strategy: the outer world bombards the sentient subject with a barrage of
sensory impressions that must be configured by the subjects organising intellect; the subjects
ordering gaze, in other words, imposes an interpretation on a seemingly random universe (58)
> interrogates the notion of a centred, ordering subject (her mind as the site of struggle)

Representations of Elizabeths insanity as denial of the boundaries between what is conventionally


conceptualised as the real and the imaginary
The drama is entirely internal, and the outside world seems to be there only to provide the images
and characters that feature in Elizabeths dreams. They impose very little of their own necessity on
her: she shapes and interprets them according to her own inner necessities (60)
>Surrealism: resolve the tensions between dreams and reality

Modernisms rejection of realism: the concern with the knowable, with recognisable psychological
motivation, with the inventory of named objects, with causality and morality is abandoned
Vosss appearance of classic realism seems to portray the substantiality of the material world but
it is illusory (threatened by ambiguity)
refusal of the specifics, of concrete categorisation: the impression of Whites work as traditional
bulky realist fiction evaporates when you look at, or for, the detail (222)
> gestures at a realism which is then denied or inverted

> The reality of Australia exceeded the European explorers ability to map, cross or contain

White attempted to give the exploration of Australia a mythic quality (going into the desert to find
ones soul) and the effect of this myth is to deflect attention from the truth of the exploration
period land grab
Illustration of Vosss death makes him a martyr, becomes emblematic of the discovery and
history of white Australia mystic European killed by aboriginals (230)
but far outweighed by the number of aboriginals killed by white men
It inverts the historical reality of the mass killing of aboriginals to present the ritual killing of the
privileged white explorer. A scandalously misrepresentative event is taken as the basis of a social
myth. This is, of course the nature of official myths; the truth is inverted (230).
Western Modernism consists in strenuous acts of unknowing, focus on human experience outside
of the protocols of Western knowing > inherited cultural models of maturation (of coming to know
the other and self) misrepresented the drama of the modern subject

Coming to know enacts an Enlightenment premise of rational correspondence between the


individual and the world.
Through the perceived lawfulness of a time and space, a subject learns to map the outer world
accurately and, thereby, to achieve inner orientation as well. Personal identity gets confirmed by
way of this arduously achieved knowledge of exterior entities (3)
> realism assumes a preemptive alliance between the knowing subject and and the knowable object

Modernist fiction subverts this free-standing subjectivity: reveals the human subject as situational,
space/time dependent, capable of coming to know only if the props that enable knowing are already
in place (2)
> in disrupting the subjects ability to negotiate objects in space and time, the subject loses its
orientational grasp on others, loses its own coherent identity

In modernist work, the narrative props that underwrite the subject/space/time drama of coming to
know are refused when space becomes uncanny rather than lawful, when time loses its
negotiability, things become unfamiliar; the subject immersed in them becomes unfamiliar as well