“The unbounded power of eloquence”: John Banville, Joseph Conrad, and Metamodernism

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Modernism’s singular allure for contemporary novelists and critics alike raises a number of questions, problems, and interpretative opportunities. What do these shared attachments reveal about the legacies of modernism today? What feelings does modernism inspire, and what values do those feelings imply? Why do contemporary novels invoke modernist writing with such urgency, and what conceptions of modernism emerge from these engagements? Should we take seriously the idea that contemporary fiction might affect the praxis of modernist criticism? Though too extensive, complex, and diverse a phenomenon to comprehensively address in this essay, through a reading of John Banville’s fiction I hope to shed light on the critical stakes of modernism’s powerful appeal for scholars and writers today. I argue that Banville represents a particularly suggestive example of the contemporary tendency to mobilize modernism’s unbounded emotive potential, both in his affectively disorientating allusions to (in)famous modernist works, and through his invocation and extension of modernist anxieties about the affective power of eloquence.[1]
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2018

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