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Harold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernism

Harold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernism

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 240
  • Book Info
    Harold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernism
    Book Description:

    The Frankfurt School's discourse on modernism has seldom been linked to contemporary drama, though the questions of aesthetics and politics explored by T.W. Adorno and others seem especially germane to the plays of Harold Pinter, which span high and low cultural forms and move freely from hermetic modernism to political engagement. Examining plays from 1958 to 1996, Varun Begley'sHarold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernismargues that Pinter's work simultaneously embodies the modernist principle of negation and the more fluid aesthetics of the postmodern.

    Pinter is arguably one of the most popular and perplexing of modern dramatists writing in English. His plays prefigured, then chronicled, the crumbling divide between modernism and its historical 'others:' popular entertainment, politically committed art, and technological mass culture. Begley sheds new light on Pinter's work by applying the methods and problems of cultural studies discourse. Viewing his plays as a series of responses to fundamental aesthetic and political questions within modernism, Begley argues that, collectively, they narrate a prehistory of the postmodern.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7562-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-36)

    This book looks back on the twilight of modernism. It rests on the idea that the hard edges of modernist debate, considered historically, may lend some shape to today’s more fluid cultural politics. The stark, but constantly shifting adversarial stances in modernist discourse mapped a range of aesthetic and political positions that in many ways we still occupy. Many of modernism’s key problems persist in the postmodern moment, if in increasingly unstable forms. The book is intended as a contribution to the prehistory of the postmodern - if I can put it this way - from the perspective of modern...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Politics of Negation
    (pp. 37-75)

    In hindsight, the politics of Pinter’s early plays has emerged as a central critical concern, and the goal of this chapter is a political assessment of three formative masterworks:The Birthday Party(1958),The Caretaker(I960), andThe Homecoming(1965). The task is complicated, however, because these plays don’t immediately suit the category, if what we mean by political art is the sympathetic depiction of working class life, dramas about factory takeovers, or biting critiques of totalitarianism. The last is actually a fair description of the short plays Pinter began writing in the 1980s, and in provocative ways they have...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Modernist as populist
    (pp. 76-132)

    Surely an admirer of Joyce and Beckett, adapter of Proust and Kafka, and collaborator of blacklisted film director Joseph Losey is likely to be inward, antisocial, and wary of the cultural mainstream. In some ways the early Pinter fulfils this expectation, but his increasingly noisy public persona from the 1980s onward signals a more complex attitude towards the public sphere. Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight it is possible to see that Pinter’s formidable literary reputation has long coexisted with middlebrow celebrity, and to argue that the tension between these canonical and popular identities constitutes one of his most important...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Towards the Postmodern
    (pp. 133-186)

    After the high modernist period of 1958-65 it is tempting to divide Pinter’s plays into categories, though the pattern of development is fluid and recursive rather than linear. There emerges an ensemble of motifs and repeated concerns that circulate and recombine in various ways as his career moves forward. Nonetheless, it would not be far off to say that the two most important clusters of later works are the memory plays of the 1970s and the political plays of the 1980s and early 1990s. Though there are obvious differences between the two cycles, they might be understood as components of...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 187-194)
  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 195-202)
  10. Index
    (pp. 203-207)