Cultural critic Fredric Jameson, renowned for his incisive studies of the passage of modernism to postmodernism, returns to the movement that dramatically broke with all tradition in search of progress for the first time since his acclaimed A Singular Modernity.
The Modernist Papers is a tour de force of analysis and criticism, in which Jameson brings his dynamic and acute thought to bear on the modernist literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Jameson discusses modernist poetics, including intensive discussions of the work of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Wallace Stevens, Joyce, Proust, and Thomas Mann. He explores the peculiarities of the American literary field, taking in William Carlos Williams and the American epic, and examines the language theories of Gertrude Stein. Refusing to see modernism as simply a Western phenomenon, he also pays close attention to its Japanese expression, while the complexities of a late modernist representation of twentieth-century politics are articulated in a concluding section on Peter Weiss’s novel The Aesthetics of Resistance.
Challenging our previous understandings of the literature of this period, this monumental work will come to be regarded as the classic study of modernism.
“Jameson’s chef d’oeuvre, Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, provides one of the more persuasive cognitive maps we have of the evolution of culture in the West in the period from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. His achievement is all the more notable in that he is by conviction a Marxist, hostile to Anglo-American empiricism, the anti-theoretical theory that reigns supreme today.”
“The publications of Jameson’s articles and books are intellectual events, and he has that unique power to change the terms of the discussion. Theory, for Jameson, is not a way to distance himself from the text. Rather, it is theory that makes close textual interpretation possible, it is a mode of intellectual engagement that allows us to think about the dialectical relationship between the social, political and economic system and the text. This book demonstrates how Jameson’s own forty-year engagement with theory has been shaped all the while by the modernist literature he has been reading.”
“One of the great strengths of the essays is their refusal to frame modernism only in Western terms.”
“No literary scholar today can match Jameson’s versatility, encyclopaedic erudition, imaginative brio or prodigious intellectual energy. In an age when literary criticism, like so much else, has suffered something of a downturn, with forlornly few outstanding figures in the field, Jameson looms like a holdover from a grander cultural epoch altogether, a refugee from the era of Shklovsky and Auerbach, Jakobson and Barthes, who is nonetheless absolutely contemporary.”