Conservatism in The Owl

The tone of The Owl is an interesting contrast to the modern, radical tone that categorizes the majority of the magazines found in the MJP. The Owl, edited by Robert Graves, only had three issues, two published in 1919 and one published as The Winter Owl in 1923. The Owl had difficulty taking off for multiple reasons, but one of  the main reasons was because of its refusal to take a modernist approach which gave it an anarchronistic label.

      Both the cover and the foreword of the first magazine only help to give it a conservative feel. The cover and many of the illustrations within the magazine remind one of illustrations that would function well in a children's book. They are generally bright and innocent illustrations and contrast the sharp, new art often seen in more modern magazines. The foreword ( establishes that the magazine has no intent of making a political stance or attaching to any movement. Indeed, the magazine issues are mostly filled with poetry that avoids the hot topics of war and modernism and clings to topics of love and nature. Unfortunately, Graves concept was too escapist and conservative and eclectic to last long in the midst of the modern magazine movement. 

Le Petit Journal des Refusees

Le Petit Journal des Refusées only published one issue in 1896. Published in an age of anxiety and discontent, Le Petit Journal presents a prototype of the modernist visual and literary art of the World War I era, which would start less than twenty years after the magazine's publicaton. The description of Le Petit Journal in the Modernist Journals archive describes the magazine as giving "hints of Dada and Surrealism before these modes of modernism actually developed" -- a similar sentiment ties Le Petit Journal and post-WWI movements, such as Dadaism, together. The publication, it seems, would appeal to a very niche group - as evidenced by the fact the magazine never published more than one issue.

Page sixteen of Le Petit Journal des Refusées displays an advertisement advertising the engraving services of Union Photo Eng. Co. in San Francisco. It is on a leftside page, across from The Ghost of A Flea. This doesn't seem to hold any significance in and of itself, however these are the last two pages of this particular copy of the magazine. Nowhere else in the magazine is there an advertisement, and the address of the company advertised is the same as the publication's. While this is clearly a modern publication, the existence and placement of this advertisement displays an obvious self-awareness which matches up with a post-modern ethos. The entire magazine seems to be self-aware, and clearly pokes at contemporary publications by including the name of the magazine by which each piece was refused. The ad, in that case, seems to poke fun at advertisements of the time.

Can meaning be found in the rubbish?

I'm aware that it doesn't take much to clearly identify The Waste Land as a modernist piece of literature, but just the same, having read it once or twice before this time I was still struck by how well he uses "a heap of broken images" to express the emotions of the modernist era. I was specifically intrigued by the 2nd section in The Burial of the Dead. It is not at all surprising that this poem is used so often as a prime example of modern thought. Eliot's lines "What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow/ Out of this stony rubbish?" define well the struggle of modernists to find meaning in a world of chaos.

In the rest of that section Eliot uses images ("dead tree," "dry stone") to further depict humanity's grappling for meaning in the modern, war-torn world. And then he offers a place of security from the dry waste land beneath "the shadow of this red rock". For a moment it feels like there is a place of peace in the chaos.  However, the comfort found there is fleeting as the reader finds what awaits them beneath the rock is only more "fear" and confusion. The confusion coming from Eliot's use of a different language for four lines that leaves the reader once again disorientated and grasping for meaning.

Disordered Seasons and modernism

        Between various classes and research projects, I’ve probably read The Waste Land close to fifty times. That said, there is still so much in this poem that I do not understand. T.S. Eliot weaves a myriad of historical and literary references, pop culture shout-outs, and foreign languages into this masterful poem, and I find much of it to be incredibly cryptic. One of my favorite aspects of this poem, though, is the fact that I find something new virtually every time I read it. For example, in the very fist stanza, there is an interesting use of the seasons. Three of the four seasons are mentioned, but not in logical order or with any of the descriptions that one would typically associate with them. Spring (“April is the cruelest month” [1]) is mentioned first, but instead of being followed by summer, Eliot jumps to winter (“Winter kept us warm” [5]). After these two abnormally described seasons, Eliot jumps ahead to summer (“Summer surprised us” [8]), and back to winter at the end of the stanza (“I read much of the night, and go south in the winter” [18]). By starting off the poem in this manner, Eliot immediately calls attention to the disordered, disjointed nature of the world, a common trope of modernism. In The Waste Land, even the seasons—a phenomenon governed by the laws of nature—are off-kilter. Considering the importance of the seasons in human culture since the beginnings of civilization, the fact that Eliot begins his poem in this way really speaks to the state of the world in the early 20th Century. Like his fellow modernists, Eliot saw the world as a confusing, fragmented place. 

Poetic Archive

As Voss and Werner worded in their essay, “Archives appear in the most unlikely places” (vii).  The Waste Land certainly defies the physical attributes of what we consider an archive, but archives are vastly evolving to encompass even those “conceptual space[s] whose boundaries are forever changing” (i). Eliot incorporates fragments of significant historical events and mythological and literary allusions into his poem, essentially constructing a unique archive that utilizes elements of the past to sustain the mentality of the present and allow modernity to take root in literary history.

Shakespeare, whom Eliot refers to quite frequently throughout his poem, himself created an archive of sorts. As the essay discloses, “Shakespeare uses Ovid as an archive—both as a source of inspiration and a repository of information” (vi). This statement redefines The Waste Land as an archive, as its magnitude of subtle historical and literary references suggests, and identifies the alluded-to works as the archives. The interconnections between one work of literature and another cause both to operate as archival databases, by which I mean one work, such as The Waste Land, contains referential information extending as far as the birth of Buddha to as current as the publication of his poem, while the other, such as Shakespeare’s The Tempest, stores the tragic emotion that Eliot captures and reinstates hundreds of years later.
The fragmentation in The Waste Land functions as a poetic archive, interweaving historical elements throughout the work to compliment and support the psychological trauma expressed in Eliot’s poem. But, the archive works both ways, and the other works, in turn, being connected through The Waste Land, become archives as well. The archive is an expanding genre, if it can be called that, and can now be a defining quality in media never before considered, such as poetry.

Response to Genres/Database and Afterword

One of the things which struck me about both final readings for class involves these authors' wishing to legitimize the literary field in scientific ways. In class discussion was raised the idea of a certain insecurity which tugs at the consciousness of the literary-minded, a need to situate artistic merit, especially of the non-pop-culture sort, amid the more imposing technological goliaths, which tend to garner appeal from monied sources.

This comes into focus particularly in the academic arena, in which English departments the nation over come under fire for usefulness (or alleged lack thereof) in the modern world, especially an American one, driven by markets and demand. Perhaps we can benefit from considering what is perhaps a little too sparse these days, at least from a mass media perspective: careful scientific method at work in all fields. Then the tension between the fine arts and fine sciences can reunite as they creatively tended to begin in inception, and the arts will not have to justify themselves into existence quite so anxiously. 

If one remembers that the great money-making filmss of Hollywood begin overwhelmingly in the creative minds of literary talents, the truth remains that while the talent may not garner its due attention in a timely manner (or at least from the perspective of the author/artist), its influence is indisputable. 

If students of magazine research systematically and thoughtfully approach their subject matter, great psychological and sociological finds are thus sure to emerge from these seemingly maddeningly inconsistent fields of data--even if the results become only unhazy from research progeny; it requires due faith. 

Woolf contra archive

 My reaction to Woolf and Humm was pretty similar to Emma's.  I think Three Guineas positions itself in a particular way against the methods and content of previous archivization.  Humm says that Woolf is troubling the symbolic function of war images in Three Guineas but I am interested in expanding that beyond the relationship between Woolf and patriarchal images to the larger and more abstract field of modernism and the archive.  Derrida's feels that the archive is controlled by archons who exercise and preserve a given social order by fixing and adjudicating knowledge through the archive.  I think it's possible to see Woolf as working against this type of knowledge.  She is critical of the way images mean according to their symbolic cultural role and that cultural role could be seen as the manifestation of the patriarchal archons that Derrida describes.  Like I said, I think Three Guineas is one example among many different modernist texts seeking to achieve the same thing.  It seems to me, and Humm seems to suggest this as well, that modernist authors and artists were hyperaware of the tradition in which they created and often took an ironic or mistrustful view of it.  We can list all the major modernist texts if we like.  

What Three Guineas seems to acheive more than the other texts we've read so far this semester is a more radical criticism of the identity politics as the archive outlines them.  I don't want to use this word archive too much, but it's the only way I have to express this idea.  Gender roles and significations were fixed in this or that way by dominant patriarchal ideology and so Woolf's project is to combat this by repurposing and reappropriating elements from that archive (which is interesting because that's how Lyotard defines modernism as well, a rearrangment of the same elements in different ways).  This isn't at all to say that she is creating her own archive that exists independently of the larger one.  Instead, her work is a reaction to and part of the larger body of knowledge but by resisting the previous archive and expressing a different viewpoint.  Thus there is no metaarchive, but individuals can alter it.  I wrote a paper that made this argument about African American poet Melvin B. Tolson last semester.  I think this is a larger dynamic within modernism.  The ideological paroxysms that Eliot and Sassoon or whoever describe are symptomatic of a disatisfaction with tradition or the way that knowledge is fixed and ordered.  

Description and Images

As I have been reading Tarr, I have been struck by the vivid nature of the images. An example of this is the description of the climate that Tarr experiences on his way to see Bertha in Part I, Chapter 4. Lewis writes,

The new summer heat drew heavy pleasant ghosts out of the ground, like plants disappeared in winter; spectres of energy, bulking the hot air with vigorous dreams. Or they had entered into the trees, in imitation of pagan gods, and nodded their delicate distant intoxication to him. Visions were released in the sap, with scented explosion, the Spring one bustling and tremendous reminiscence. (37).

This description of the heat represents, at least to my mind, the world around Tarr and his willingness to embrace that world. Despite Tarr's desire to condemn the mundanity of the bourgeois world around him, it seems that he is at least somewhat appreciative of that world. The "heavy pleasant ghosts" seems reminiscent of the descriptions of Bertha. Bertha is described as having a "consciously pathetic ghost of a smile, a clumsy sweetness, the energetic sentimental claim of a rather rough but frank self" (41). These ghosts are not condemned as being horrible or even particularly ghastly; indeed, they are described as "spectres of energy" which suggests, not only that the ghosts are made of energy, but full of energy - an energy that produces "vigorous dreams."  This seems to suggest to me a hidden appreciation on the part of Tarr for the stable productiveness of the bourgeois bohemians and Bertha.   

Tarr, Audience, Bohemians, Jests, and More


For me, reading Tarr was reminiscent of several books to which I’ve been exposed. Most recently, the novel reminds me of Stephen Jonas’s Selected Poems (composed primarily in the 1940s), Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, William Burroughs Naked Lunch (to a lesser extent), and some of the art scenes from what I’ve read about the Surrealists and Cubists, such as Dali, Picasso, and (somewhat less self-importantly so) Breton.
While many of Tarr’s friends seem to be these types, Lewis does seem to be parodying the very character of Tarr himself through, for example, his opening pontifications about what is art and these incongruous descriptions of, say, Hobson in the “Overture.”The fact that the first chapter is dubbed overture at all can also be considered; usually a musical term, this Tarr seems to use to implicate various artistic media, not just literature per se.
Though Kundera’s book clearly postdates the others, he helps to explore the full-fledged, unvarnished life of such types and archetypes (which seems in some ways all the more remarkable, as he wrote it behind the “Iron Curtain”), which I suppose may not be the focus of our class, particularly with regard to versioning. Still, I find it difficult to resist seeking the logical conclusion of the reality of such a character as Tarr, which is toyed with and tossed about, perhaps as a jaguar would a rabbit before a kill—and is not altogether as inconclusive as some thinkers of that day would have us believe.
The fact that Lewis identified the absurdity and classism of the “Bohemian Bourgeois” (as Emma pointed out in her post) so long ago is notable especially as they do indeed connote “A Jest Too Deep For Laughter.”One wonders how Pound would have received such a guest in the Little Review, or was he, as was Joyce, merely par for the course? Lewis’s experimentalism and “tradition of the new” masterfully and playfully capture this atmosphere, but the book’s ultimate purpose does challenge one’s suspension of disbelief. As I am reading about “sentimental novels” and death of the fairy tale of the late 1600s in another course, I cannot help but consider how audiences are as much desired as the object of derision for these Modernist writers. The individual has been isolated to such a degree, that, though the writer depends on some conglomeration of them, he seems to detest him (or her, as it were), too.
The novels of Jean Rhys about this time, particularly Quartet (published in 1927—so, a few years after Tarr, though the setting does seem to be the late 1910s) help to show the more serious and grievous aspect of Parisian artist’s “Jest” culture, at least as it impacts women entangled with some of these hifalutin intellectuals—with none other than Ford Madox Ford. I suppose what I am driving out is the fact that, as Moretti points out and we discussed last week with Dr. Latham, audience in these times with the magazine and the question of context seem to be taking on a more active, aggressive role, but in texts like these, the narrator’s relationship seems nebulous at best. I am just not sure what to do with it.