C.P. Snow and the Struggle of Modernity

C.P. Snow and the Struggle of Modernity

John de la Mothe
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf2sc
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  • Book Info
    C.P. Snow and the Struggle of Modernity
    Book Description:

    Snow is often regarded as a late-Victorian liberal who had little to say about the modernist period in which he lived and wrote. John de la Mothe, however, convincingly challenges this analysis with an insightful reassessment of Snow's place in twentieth-century thought. He argues that Snow's life and writings reflect a persistent struggle with the nature of modernity. This is most notable, de la Mothe reveals, in the Strangers and Brothers sequence of novels and the provocative thesis in The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. These works, along with the body of Snow's work and the multiplicity of his life, manifest Snow's belief that science and technology are at the centre of modern life.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6345-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Part One. Introduction
    • 1 LITERATURE, SCIENCE, AND THE MODERN MIND
      (pp. 3-16)

      THE DISCOURSE OF MODERNITY is comprised of a cacophony of voices, the interpretation of which can only be described as a struggle. Some of these voices may seem, at the present time, to be those of academic social critics who are involved in the fashionable professional debate over the distinction between modernism, “high modernism,” and postmodernism.¹ But the voices to which I refer are, more importantly, those that breeze down the streets of our modern urbanscapes and formatively (if unconsciously) reach our ears at the level of economy, fashion, and tradition. Each of these voices vies for authority and attention....

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  5. Part Two. Context and Distance
    • 2 STRANGERS AND BROTHERS AGAINST THE GRAIN
      (pp. 19-48)

      THE PERIOD into which C. P. Snow was born was a decidedly modernist one of change, vitality, and contradiction that exerted a powerful and lasting influence on the development of Snow’s individualist framework. His social migration from lower-middle-class provincial Leicester to the intelligentsia of Cambridge and the bureaucracy of London made him acutely aware of the tensions between public and private life and ensured, in the class-bound society of Britain, his permanent sense of alienation. This migration paralleled many of the transformations that were implied in the emergence of the Metropolis. His cognitive perspective powerfully reflected the convergence of responses...

    • 3 BLINDNESS, INSIGHT, AND THE TWO CULTURES
      (pp. 49-72)

      GIVEN THE DIALECTICAL CONTEXT of modernity, it is in many ways not surprising that C. P. Snow’sThe Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolutionhas become one of the significant signs of our age and the dominant image associated with Snow himself. A statement on the social, cognitive, and communicative dichotomy between the arts and sciences, Snow’s May 7, 1959, Rede Lecture at Cambridge University¹ spoke directly to an essential tension in the struggle of modernity between science and literature that acts as a veil through which change and totality is viewed and which powerfully influences the modern mind.² Snow’s...

  6. Part Three. Snow’s Triptych of Literature, Science, and Politics
    • 4 LITERATURE AND THE STATE OF SIEGE
      (pp. 75-104)

      NOVELS OF EVERY AGE have concerned themselves with the enigma of the self, and neither Snow’s novels nor the novels of modernity are exceptions. Indeed, as soon as a literary character, such as Snow’s “Lewis Eliot,” is created, questions regarding the author’ definition of “the self” inevitably arise. Within the struggle of modernity, what can “the self” mean? How can it be grasped in its aesthetic, cognitive, and political totality, and how can it be communicated to readers? These are among those fundamental questions on which the novel form is based and which it must address. However, the answers authors...

    • 5 THE UNNEUTRALITY OF SCIENCE
      (pp. 105-148)

      THAT THERE IS a direct relationship between Snow’s conception of reason, his philosophy of science, and the radical High Science he was to find at Cambridge is clear. Indeed, the case can be made at several levels that it was science, as one of modernity’s most powerful driving forces, that ultimately provided Snow with many of his basic values and insights, which were to inform his own search for totality and balance in modern life. Ironically it was also his Cambridge science experience that was to mark Snow as something of a perennial outsider; the angst it resulted in was...

    • 6 PERSONAL POWER AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS
      (pp. 149-184)

      In what is still an influential depiction of “the political novel,” Stendahl wrote that “politics in a work of literature is like a pistol-shot in a concert” (something loud and vulgar that cannot be ignored). However, insofar as this is true, then Snow’s work must be seen as something of a departure, for at no point in his writings—all of which deal with overtly modern and political themes—is the reader distracted by the stark intervention of partisan politics, nor is the reader forced to cater to the thoughts of an ideologue.¹ Politics is too sustained and too subtle...

  7. Part Four. Epilogue
    • 7 C. P. SNOW AND THE STRUGGLE OF MODERNITY
      (pp. 187-190)

      THERE SHOULD BE no doubt as to the importance of C. P. Snow’s work. At the very least his fiction deserves to be read by successive generations of readers, and his lectures ought to be required readings in university curricula. Together they are not only enjoyable and insightful, but they speak directly to the condition of modernity. In so saying, however, we must also recognize his limitations and the weight that modernity came to represent in his framework.

      Snow was born in the burnout of Victorian liberalism. His early context thus imbued him with a lifelong dream of social stability,...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 191-224)
  9. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 225-238)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 239-243)