The kinship between modernism and close reading has long between taken for granted. But for that reason, it has also gone unexamined. As the archives, timeframes, and cultural contexts of global modernist studies proliferate, the field's rapport with close reading no longer appears self-evident or guaranteed—even though for countless students studying literary modernism still invariably means studying close reading. This authoritative collection of essays illuminates close reading's conceptual, institutional, and pedagogical genealogies as a means of examining its enduring potential. David James brings together a cast of world-renowned scholars to offer an account of some of the things we might otherwise know, and need to know, about the history of modernist theories of reading, before then providing a sense of how the futures for critical reading look different in light of the multiple ways in which modernism has been close read.
Modernism and Close Reading responds to a contemporary climate of unprecedented reconstitution for the field: it takes stock of close reading's methodological possibilities in the wake of modernist studies' geographical, literary-historical, and interdisciplinary expansions; and it shows how the political, ethical, and aesthetic consequences of attending to matters of form complicate ideological preconceptions about the practice of formalism itself. By reassessing the intellectual commitments and institutional conditions that have shaped modernism in criticism as well as in the classroom, we are able to ask new questions about close reading that resonate across literary and cultural studies. Invigorating that critical venture, this volume enriches our vocabulary for addressing close reading's perpetual development and diversification.
David James is Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of English Literature. His research and teaching areas span twentieth- and twenty-first-century writing, with a particular focus on the history and theory of the novel.
Most recently, he has been working on the politics and poetics of affect in contemporary fiction and life-writing. Combining his interests in the history of emotions, disability studies, refugee writing, and narrative medicine, he is currently at work on Sentimental Activism (forthcoming with Columbia University Press), research for which will be funded by the Leverhulme Trust.