John Greaney is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Institute for English and American Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt. He was previously a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and an Irish Research Council Scholar at University College Dublin. He is the author of The Distance of Irish Modernism: Memory, Narrative, Representation (Bloomsbury) and co-editor of Irish Modernisms: Gaps, Conjectures, Possibilities (Bloomsbury). His work has been published in Textual Practice, Irish Studies Review and Derrida Today, amongst other venues.
Modernism Living On: Periodisation and Polarisation
This essay tackles the critical underpinnings that structure the perceived operation of modernism in contemporary literary practice. Particularly, this article shows how a straw-man postmodernism (abortive, committed to narcissistic language games), which itself was largely based on a straw-man modernism (conservative, concerned with a belief in grand narratives), has been crucial to the diagnostic of a new modernism in the twenty-first century. This article thus subjects to scrutiny the literary critical practices of periodisation which have determined the emergence of a 21st century modernism. Drawing on Aby Warburg’s work on afterlives, this article show how modernism recurs and is remembered differently in history, and, because we do not when it ends, escapes positivist periodising efforts. In doing so, it indicates a theoretical frame of continuity and divergence that caters for the relations between the forms of modernism that have appeared over the last century, as well as the forms of modernism that will inevitably follow our current new modernism.