Modernist Goods

Modernist Goods: Primitivism, the Market and the Gift

GLENN WILLMOTT
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442688643
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  • Book Info
    Modernist Goods
    Book Description:

    Modernist Goodsexamines such writers as Yeats, Conrad, Eliot, Woolf, Beckett, H.D., and Joyce to uncover what the author views as their displaced aboriginality and to investigate the relationship between literary modernism and aboriginal modernity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8864-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Beyond Primitivism
    (pp. 3-42)

    In 1927, when the wealthy philanthropist Charlotte Mason employed Zora Hurston to collect Southern black folklore for her, the pair signed a legal contract unusual in the history of modernist cultural exchange. Both disabling and productive for the black writer, and both degrading and rewarding for the white contractor, the legal agreement captures what deep down was at stake in the larger economy of modernist goods that will be surveyed in the following pages. Mason’s officiously stated, notarized contract with Hurston is unusual because – unlike her arrangements with Langston Hughes and others in the New Negro movement – it clearly distinguishes...

  5. 1 After Strange Goods: The Economic Unconscious of Imperialist Modernity
    (pp. 43-130)

    The image of a vampiric Charles Parnell against the background of finde-siècle nationalism and neo-Celticism leads one immediately also to think of Yeats. In conjuring Yeats, a question left unbroached in the Introduction now returns insistently to demand explanation: if an economic unconscious subtends modernism, as I have claimed, then how does one account for the fully conscious and quite direct representation of aboriginal heritages such as we find in the Celtic revival, in other antimodernist investments in pre-capitalist ‘folk’ traditions, and in all those other, obvious kinds of ethnographic primitivism to be found in modernist culture? Is it not...

  6. 2 Multiplying the Public: Abject Modernism and Its Institutions
    (pp. 131-160)

    Lawrence Rainey has justly warned that arguments about the politics of literary production ‘derived solely from the reading of literary texts,’ without attention to the ‘institutions that mediate between works and readerships, or between readerships and particular social structures,’ are based on an act of faith that can easily go awry.¹ In hisInstitutions of Modernism, he takes great pains to reconstruct the publishing practices of some key modernist writers normally considered to have rebelled against the commercialized literary institutions of bourgeois modernity. These writers are Pound, Joyce, Eliot, and H.D. What emerges from Rainey’s documentary study of these writers...

  7. 3 The Parodic Shaman: Imperialist Modernity and the Blackened Gift
    (pp. 161-208)

    T.S. Eliot famously suggested that to understand the modern world, it was necessary to understand aboriginal heritages. Apparently juxtaposing materialist to spiritual knowledge, he contended that scientific views of the mind and physical organism such as those offered by Freud and Fabre must be complemented by an understanding of ‘the medicine man and his works.’ The artist or poet is uniquely able to achieve this understanding because ‘he is the most conscious of men; he is therefore the most and the least civilized and civilizable’ and ‘the most ready and the most able of men to learn from the savage.’¹...

  8. 4 The Impure House: Re-imagining Aboriginal Modernity
    (pp. 209-260)

    Spellbound by modernist rituals of the speaking corpse, by the sympathetic magic of death, and by narcissistic origins of the fertility of self in a mesmerizing absence, one might easily forget that Frazer’s Adonis, at least, had help. Where is the divine sister and lover, Aphrodite, Astarte, Isis, in the abject structure of parodic shamanry? Is she a Victorian mirage, a myth of feminine therapy to be dispelled along with the other soft, bourgeois sentiments – or, at worst, of feminine decadence? Such works as Beckett’s trilogy andThe Waste Landseem to join the modern mob observed by H.D., which...

  9. Conclusion: Modernism and Utopia
    (pp. 261-278)

    It is now fruitful to address some ambiguities that may have surfaced along the way, and to draw some general conclusions regarding modernism, political economy, and literary critique. (1) I have echoed warnings not to idealize the gift or House, yet I have insisted on their utopian political value in modernism, one that remains relevant today. How can something non-ideal, or in any way incomplete or inadequate, be asked to hold up a utopian banner? (2) For an application of political economy to literature, I have depended upon diverse and what may seem conflicting theories, drawing upon contemporary Marxist theory,...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 279-310)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 311-324)
  12. Index
    (pp. 325-330)