Anneloek Scholten (Radboud University)


Anneloek Scholten (1995) is a PhD candidate at Radboud University. Her dissertation focuses on Dutch regional fiction in transnational context, and considers how nineteenth-century Dutch regionalism responds to modernity and to the reconfigurations of time and space that accompanied industrialisation. Prior to her PhD, she completed an MA (research) in Comparative Literary Studies at Utrecht University, where she researched topics related to the relationship between Modernism, commerce, and popular culture. For her MA thesis on modernist print drama, entitled ‘The Periodical as a Playhouse: Modernist Drama in the Little Magazines’, she was awarded the 2020 Herman Servotte Prize.

Meta-Modernism as Postcritique: LOTE (2020) and Modernist Trans-Fictions

Sheila von Reinhold’s LOTE (2020) is a novel about protagonist Mathilda’s obsession (‘Transfixions’) with the Bright Young Things of the 1920s, and particularly the (fictional) forgotten Black modernist poet Hermia Druitt, who ran in the same circles as these Bohemian figures. In her attempts at recovering details of Hermia’s life and work, Mathilda encounters references to the Slade; Virginia Woolf; Nancy Cunard; Wyndham Lewis; and other Modernist figures and institutions. The critical neglect of Hermia’s work, which has become irretrievable, is linked to other ‘forgotten’ Modernist poems, like Cunard’s Parallax and Hope Mirrlees’s Paris. However, it also becomes increasingly clear that Hermia’s historical existence as a Black, possibly trans, woman has been deliberately obliterated and obscured. LOTE reflects on the difficulties of recovering Black and queer lives and art through historical documentation, and is artistically committed to the ‘impossible possibility’[1] of reconstructing these lives or drawing them out of archival absences. The novel revolves around both the search for truth and its impossibility, and oscillates between hope and melancholy, irony and sincerity. LOTE itself might, thus, be read as a meta-modernist text, that engages explicitly with Modernist cultures and artistic constellations, and recent recoveries of neglected Modernist writers.

This paper investigates the cultural uses of Modernism for a contemporary Black queer author, writing about Black queer lives. Modernism is increasingly under scrutiny for its complicity in imperialist and discriminatory discourses: the white- and Western-centric dimensions of Modernism as a cultural movement are essential to LOTE’s narrative. At the same time, the novel centralises affective and aesthetic engagement with historical (queer) Modernism and Modernists. It is both critical of (part of) Modernism’s cultural project and deeply invested in its subversive potential, which also figures prominently in the novel’s explorations and reconstructions of (historical) (trans)gender identities. I therefore argue for a reading of LOTE as a form of ‘literary postcritique’, and gesture to the potential of meta-modernism in general as a site for post-critical engagement.

[1] Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, ‘Notes on Metamodernism’, in: Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, vol. 2, 2010, p. 5.