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Bodily Waste

David Trotter, 2 November 1995

The Spectacular Body: Science, Method and Meaning in the Work of Degas 
by Anthea Callen.
Yale, 244 pp., £35, February 1995, 0 300 05443 2
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... No other 19th-century artist made quite such a spectacle of the female body as Edgar Degas. Over three-quarters of his output of paintings, drawings, pastels, prints and sculptures consists of images of women, sometimes seen in the company of men or children, but more often alone or with other women. The nude figure is the subject of about a fifth of that total, from the copies and life studies he made as a young man in the 1850s through the early history paintings to the naturalistic studies of the 1870s and 1880s and beyond ...

Costume Codes

David Trotter, 12 January 1995

Rebel Women: Feminism, Modernism and the Edwardian Novel 
by Jane Eldridge Miller.
Virago, 241 pp., £15.99, October 1994, 1 85381 830 5
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... Towards the end of Radclyffe Hall’s The Unlit Lamp (1924), the heroine, Joan Ogden, who has grown miserably old in a small provincial town, overhears two young women discussing her. She recognises them as women of the same ‘type’ as her: unattached, independent, sexually ambiguous. They dress like her, and wear their hair cut in a similar style ...

Six hands at an open door

David Trotter, 21 March 1991

Intertextual Dynamics within the Literary Group: Joyce, Lewis, Pound and Eliot 
by Dennis Brown.
Macmillan, 230 pp., £35, November 1990, 9780333516461
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An Immodest Violet: The Life of Violet Hunt 
by Joan Hardwick.
Deutsch, 205 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 233 98639 1
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... Dennis Brown concludes his celebration of Anglo-American Modernism with an account of Ezra Pound’s death on 30 October 1972. ‘That year I ended an obituary of Pound in a Canadian student newspaper: Pound is now dead and no poet remains of his stature. But poetry is “NEWS that stays NEWS”. READ him: Read HIM.’ The capitalisation is very much of the period, and it may he that the message is as well ...

English Butter

David Trotter, 9 October 1986

Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920 
edited by Robert Colls and Philip Dodd.
Croom Helm, 378 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 7099 0849 0
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The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Collins, 335 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 00 217604 1
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Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? 
by Richard Symonds.
Macmillan, 366 pp., £29.50, July 1986, 0 333 40206 5
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... It angers me to pass a grocer’s shop,’ declares the impeccably fogeyish hero of Gissing’s The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (1903), ‘and see in the window a display of foreign butter. This is the kind of thing that makes one gloom over the prospects of England. The deterioration of English butter is one of the worst signs of the moral state of our people ...

Will to Literature

David Trotter: Modernism plc, 13 May 1999

Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture 
by Lawrence Rainey.
Yale, 227 pp., £16.95, January 1999, 0 300 07050 0
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Modernism, Technology and the Body: A Cultural Study 
by Tim Armstrong.
Cambridge, 309 pp., £14.95, March 1998, 0 521 59997 0
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Body Ascendant: Modernism and the Physical Imperative 
by Harold Segel.
Johns Hopkins, 282 pp., £30, September 1998, 0 8018 5821 6
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Solid Objects: Modernism and the Test of Production 
by Douglas Mao.
Princeton, 308 pp., £32.50, November 1998, 0 691 05926 8
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... Modernism must be reckoned one of the lengthiest and most strenuous campaigns ever undertaken in the name of literature. Acutely conscious at once of the burden of the past – the intimidating totality of what had already been written – and of the present’s lightness, its free and easy way with burdens, its failure to be intimidated, the Modernist did not propose to carry on as before ...

McTeague’s Tooth

David Trotter: Good Fetishism, 20 November 2003

A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature 
by Bill Brown.
Chicago, 245 pp., £22.50, April 2003, 0 226 07628 8
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... When Robinson Crusoe tries to convey what it felt like to be the sole survivor of a shipwreck, he finds himself at almost as much of a loss now, in the telling, as he was then, gloomily pacing the shoreline of an uncharted and to all appearances inhospitable island; until, that is, objects come to his rescue. He cannot describe the ‘thousand gestures and motions’ he made, in his moment of crisis, without any hope of a response ...

All of a Tremble

David Trotter: Kafka at the pictures, 4 March 2004

Kafka Goes to the Movies 
by Hanns Zischler, translated by Susan Gillespie.
Chicago, 143 pp., £21, January 2003, 0 226 98671 3
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... His name was Franz Kafka, and he quite often went to the movies. Some such statement constitutes both the basis of Kafka Goes to the Movies and its primary impediment: the rock it has to roll up the hill. According to Max Brod, his lifelong friend and first editor and biographer, Kafka loved the movies; at times, Brod reported, he would talk about little else ...

Into the Future

David Trotter: The Novel, 22 March 2007

The Novel: Vol. I: History, Geography and Culture 
edited by Franco Moretti.
Princeton, 916 pp., £65, June 2006, 0 691 04947 5
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The Novel: Vol. II: Forms and Themes 
edited by Franco Moretti.
Princeton, 950 pp., £65, June 2006, 0 691 04948 3
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... What counts as a novel? Any ‘fictitious prose work’ over fifty thousand words was E.M. Forster’s answer, in Aspects of the Novel. It’s a broad enough definition, in all conscience, though it has begun to do some useful work by excluding a wide variety of short fiction in prose, and some long poems, such as Eugene Onegin or Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate, which are not quite prepared to admit to being long poems ...

Saved by the Ant’s Fore-Foot

David Trotter: Pound’s Martyrology, 7 July 2005

The Pisan Cantos 
by Ezra Pound, edited by Richard Sieburth.
New Directions, 159 pp., $13.95, October 2003, 9780811215589
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Poems and Translations 
by Ezra Pound, edited by Richard Sieburth.
Library of America, 1363 pp., $45, October 2003, 1 931082 41 3
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... In the years since their publication in 1948, Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos have given rise to interpretative bad faith on a scale unusual even by the lofty standards of literary criticism. The reason for this is not some special failing on the part of Pound’s adherents, but rather the burden of expectation laid from the outset on a sequence of 11 poems written in the US Army’s Disciplinary Training Center in Pisa in the summer and autumn of 1945 ...

A Cine-Fist to the Solar Plexus

David Trotter: Eisenstein, 2 August 2018

Beyond the Stars, Vol.1: The Boy from Riga 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by William Powell.
Seagull, 558 pp., £16.99, June 2018, 978 0 85742 488 4
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On the Detective Story 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 229 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 490 7
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On Disney 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 208 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 491 4
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The Short-Fiction Scenario 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 115 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 489 1
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Movement, Action, Image, Montage: Sergei Eisenstein and the Cinema in Crisis 
by Luka Arsenjuk.
Minnesota, 249 pp., £19.99, February 2018, 978 1 5179 0320 6
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... But​ where does the Potemkin go?’ That, according to Sergei Eisenstein, was what the people who had just seen his most famous film really wanted to know. At the climax of the film, the battleship’s mutinous crew, having got rid of all its officers and intervened decisively in the first stirrings of revolt in the Black Sea town of Odessa, head out of harbour to confront the rest of the imperial fleet, which has assembled to block their escape ...

I say, damn it, where are the beds?

David Trotter: Orwell’s Nose and Prose, 16 February 2017

Orwell’s Nose: A Pathological Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Reaktion, 256 pp., £15, August 2016, 978 1 78023 648 3
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Or Orwell: Writing and Democratic Socialism 
by Alex Woloch.
Harvard, 378 pp., £35.95, January 2016, 978 0 674 28248 3
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... Of course​ he shot the fucking elephant.’ The sharpness of Sonia Orwell’s defence of the authenticity of the event on which her late husband based one of his most famous essays tells its own story. Without the experiences enjoyed or endured by Eric Blair, Etonian, colonial enforcer, schoolteacher, down-and-out, grocer, infantryman, there would have been no George Orwell, writer ...

Diary

David Trotter: Bearness, 7 November 2019

... If​ there is a god of small things, it could be said to have taken up residence, for a while at least, in a remote valley in the northern highlands of Vietnam. A lush forest canopy spreads evenly up the slopes of the surrounding hills. On the valley floor sits a group of five single-storey concrete sheds with corrugated iron roofs, each opening onto a broad grassy enclosure ...

Stir and Bustle

David Trotter: Corridors, 19 December 2019

Corridors: Passages of Modernity 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Reaktion, 240 pp., £25, March 2019, 978 1 78914 053 8
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... In​ the original film noir, John Huston’s Maltese Falcon (1941), private investigator Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) visits criminal mastermind Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) in his San Francisco hotel room to discuss the delivery of a mysterious ornament. The elevator attendant points him in the direction of Room 12c. After some cagey preliminaries, Spade delivers a ferocious ultimatum ...

Apoplectic Gristle

David Trotter: Wyndham Lewis, 25 January 2001

Some Sort of Genius: A Life of Wyndham Lewis 
by Paul O'Keeffe.
Cape, 697 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 224 03102 3
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Wyndham Lewis: Painter and Writer 
by Paul Edwards.
Yale, 583 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 300 08209 6
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... books complement one another uncannily, as though the authors, like the two campus novelists in David Lodge’s Small World, had agreed to divide up the world between them. By secret treaty, as it were, O’Keeffe got to do facts, and Edwards opinions. The opinions, it should at once be said, are the fruit of immense dedication. Edwards has written widely ...

Charlot v. Hulot

David Trotter: Tativille, 2 July 2020

Play Time: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism 
by Malcolm Turvey.
Columbia, 304 pp., £25, December 2019, 978 0 231 19303 0
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The Definitive Jacques Tati 
edited by Alison Castle.
Taschen, 1136 pp., £185, June, 978 3 8365 7711 3
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... much zest into a feeble allegory. In his excellent critical biography of Tati, published in 1999, David Bellos points out that less than three years before he began shooting the film (in May 1947) the Gestapo still had an office on the main square of Sainte-Sévère. And now American movies and military policemen are the problem?Many of the best scenes in ...

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