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Mock Modernism

Mock Modernism: An Anthology of Parodies, Travesties, Frauds, 1910-1935

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Mock Modernism
    Book Description:

    In the earliest decades of the modernist movement many interpretations of it took the form of parodies.Mock Modernismis an anthology of these amusing pieces, the overwhelming majority of which have not been in print since the first decades of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6179-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    In late March of 1913 the International Exhibition of Modern Art arrived in Chicago from New York City, its New York–sized scandal provoking Chicago’s press corps to generate an even larger and more rambunctious reception. As the local press set to work on the “Armory Show,” laying the groundwork for what would indeed become a greater fracas than what had entertained New York for a few weeks, a curious convergence in early twentieth-century culture was becoming clear, a convergence in which P.T. Barnum could become the interpretive frame for the austere products of modernism, for the chilly pleasures of...

  5. Part I: Literary Targets

    • I. Poetry

      • [I. Introduction]
        (pp. 27-28)

        Surveying the landscape, literary types in the early twentieth century often commented, with some wariness, that poetry publishing was booming. Harold Monro, poet, anthologist, editor of thePoetry Review, and proprietor of the Poetry Bookshop, wrote in his 1920 anthologySome Contemporary Poetsthat “younger men and women of education enjoy the practice of making clever rhymes or noting down their own feelings in loose sentences, vaguely termed ‘free verse.’ The periodicals and newspapers make a large demand for these exercises in rhyme and rhythm: it is not difficult to be accepted” (9). Across the Atlantic, and looking back from...

      • FREE VERSE
        (pp. 29-57)

        Its most galvanizing instance being the publication ofSpoon River Anthology(see the parodies of Edgar Lee Masters collected later), free verse generated an enormous number of responses. This was due to the novelty of the form, certainly. But it was also due to the form’s association with publicity. Lawrence Gilman, reviewing Masters’sSpoon River Anthologyin theNorth American Review, noted:

        Since the famous discovery of Paris by Mr. Richard Harding Davis some years ago, there have been few more edifying happenings of a similar kind than the recent disclosure, by our always alert “general public” and our no...

        (pp. 58-63)

        Seen as being closely allied to the cultural ambitions of free verse, prose poems were a puzzling target for parodists, who had difficulty figuring out what the recurrent features of prose poems actuallywere– other than their being written in prose, of course. Primarily targeting Amy Lowell, they eventually focused their attentions on subject matter: banal surroundings and events, which are charged with significance through a puzzling portentousness that becomes highly charged with the introduction of proto-surrealistic, often sinister details (this was also a common strategy for parodying Eliot’s quatrain poems). Their target was the prose poet, of course: the...

      • IMAGISM
        (pp. 64-81)

        After the outburst directed at free verse in general, Imagism was the poetic manifestation to get the most attention in the press as a recognizablegenreof modernist literature. A.R. Orage, writing pseudonymously in hisNew Age, distrusted the “newness” of imagism:

        Imagism, on the other hand, at last takes on a meaning for me. I feel about it what M. Jourdain felt about prose: it is a very old trick disguised as a modern invention. Let me take one of Mr. Pound’s examples. Arriving in Paris one day he was struck on his first walk by the number of...

        (pp. 82-90)

        For a few years, until he was supplanted by Pound, Eliot, and the Sitwells, Edgar Lee Masters was the poster boy of fashionable poets, hisSpoon River Anthologycharacterized as “altogether the most read and talked-of volume of poetry that had ever been written in America” (Boynton 52). Popularity’s social manifestations had national inflections, and from across the Atlantic, Masters’s popularity was seen, at times, as typifying the worst aspects of American literary culture. Writing inThe New Statesman, an anonymous reviewer snorted:

        Mr. Masters’ book has been extravagantly boomed in America. It is ridiculous to suggest that it is...

        (pp. 91-100)

        In a time that had more than its share of artists who knew how to manipulate the levers of publicity, the Sitwells (Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell) stood out. Indeed, F.R. Leavis in 1932 claimed that “the Sitwells belong to the history of publicity rather than of poetry” (New Bearings73). J.C. Squire referred to them in “The Man Who Wrote Free Verse” with his description of the company at a literary luncheon: “The women, at a glance, seemed all to have white faces and red hair; the young men had white faces and either no hair or too much; tortoise-shell...

      • T.S. ELIOT
        (pp. 101-132)

        Unlike their entanglements with the Sitwells or with Pound, parodic engagements with Eliot did not target his manipulation of publicity, and he was not tied to movements and their motivating theories. Eliot’s vulnerabilities, instead, lay in his representing the “modern,” and a modern attitude to artmaking. Moreover, even before the publication ofThe Waste Land, his influence on the young was often noted. In 1920 a sceptical Louis Untermeyer characterized Eliot’s position in the following manner:

        For two or three years the poetry of T.S. Eliot has been championed warmly by a few protagonists and condemned even more heatedly by...

      • EZRA POUND
        (pp. 133-145)

        From the outset of Pound’s career, it was clear what the terms of his parodies would be. Responding to Pound’sA Lume Spentoin theCambridge Review, Rupert Brooke wrote:

        Mr. Ezra Pound’s work was “discovered” recently by certain London papers, and, a little timorously, acclaimed as valuable and inspiring. He is – do not his name and his verse betray it? – a young American; and he writes vers libre. His virtues and faults are both obvious. He is blatant, full of foolish archaisms, obscure through awkward language not subtle thought, and formless. (58)

        As the tone of Brooke’s review suggests,...

      • OTHERS
        (pp. 146-158)

        Ford Madox Ford (1873–1939) was founder ofThe English ReviewandThe Transatlantic Review, author ofThe Good Soldier, and numerous works of fiction and poetry. Ford himself was pilloried by John Felton inThe New Ageas being more than a little self-important:

        A ponderous egoism emerging from unhappy youthful surroundings,

        He rambles disconsolately through interminable pages,

        Loosing himself in a multiplicity of irrelevant details.

        He is redeemed from some earlier banalities

        But lies forever imbedded in the yielding mud of impressionism. (297)

        I want poets to be natural creatures; and they very seldom are natural creatures. And...

    • II. Fiction
      (pp. 159-212)

      Fiction’s parodic interventions differed noticeably from those of music, visual art, and poetry. Unlike the way they represented the other arts and genres in this book, parodists did not understand “modern fiction” to be imitable as a genre, the way “modern poetry” and “ modern painting” were. It was understood to be composed of and by individuals, and was not caricatured as springing from a movement or series of movements. This is not to say that modern writers did not theorize about modern fiction as a whole – Woolf’s “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” and Eliot’s “Ulysses, Order and Myth” are...

  6. Part II: Parodic Modes

    • I. Verse Commentary
      (pp. 215-222)

      As a vehicle for satire, verse (particularly rhyming couplets) has a long history. Its manifestations in modernism, though, acquired a particular flavour. Closely allied with the rise of magazines and newspapers, verse satires of modernism are most often found in the contributions of readers and daily columnists. Moreover, while earlier verse satire was no stranger to bathos, modernity’s verse satires turn to bathos with a vengeance, employing it not just at the level of their verses’ assertions, but also making it integral to their works’ form. In short, they turn to doggerel. Because of its form, doggerel does not mimic...

    • II. Manifestos
      (pp. 223-247)

      In the eyes of their public, modernist texts and artworks didn’t come into being on their own. Early on, as theSpectrahoax makes clear, modernism was understood to be motivated, understandable, and justified through a theoretical discourse. Theory-based launchings of modernist art abound, sometimes in classic manifestos like those of the Futurists, and sometimes as prefaces in anthologies, or in letters to the editor.

      Parodic interventions into these manifestos return to the same issues: the mechanisms of publicity, the place of theory and group identities in art, and pretentiousness and obfuscation as tools for gaining cultural power. Constantia Stone,...

    • III. Modernist Methodologies
      (pp. 248-329)

      While sceptics often wondered aloud whether modernist works were any good, they also mused about how they wereproduced. While they certainly could focus their attentions on individual works, journalists and critics often portrayed these works as the products of a family of methodologies, and set to work satirizing these processes. The attempt to portray modernist methodologies was often made by translating aesthetic strategies from the original medium to another, the absurdity in the new medium laying bare the absurdity of the source.

      But something more was askew than the aesthetic principles themselves – the idea that its principles weretransferable...

    • IV. Modernist Criticism
      (pp. 330-352)

      In the eyes of its public, modernist art was inseparable from its validating critics. An essay like Mabel Dodge’s “Speculations, or Post-Impressionism in Prose” was, for a time, almost as well known as Stein’s writing on which it was based. Critical discourse, in a sense, did not just interpret the art; it made the art possible by placing it in an intellectual context and, through the intimidating power of its difficulty, cowing its audience into acquiescence. Many complained that modernist criticism did its work more often through subterfuge and obfuscation than through clarity. Writing in theSaturday Review of Literature...

    • V. Modernist Performances
      (pp. 353-398)

      The early twentieth century saw complex restagings of modernist works of art, from Futurist fashion shows to Cubist baseball games to Gertrude Stein’s prose being used to describe activity at a lunch counter. This section, then, does not contain parodies of modern theatre, but parodic interventions into modern poetry, visual art, and music that were staged as performances. Among the purposes of these events was a desire to lay bare the mechanisms by which modernist works were constructed, and show their patent absurdity when they were removed from high art and its theoretical buttressing. Pragmatism, for these writers, was modernism’s...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 399-408)
  8. Works Cited
    (pp. 409-414)
  9. Permissions Credit Lines
    (pp. 415-416)
  10. Index
    (pp. 417-427)