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Comments on: Modernists think they’re so great http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/ "A man needn't go far to find a subject, if he's ready with his salt-box."--Uncle Pumblechook Wed, 14 May 2014 19:32:14 +0000 hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 By: Christopher Vilmar http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26348 Thu, 05 Mar 2009 17:42:37 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26348 Nothing at all wrong with lecturing on single figures! I just brought it up as one alternative. I’ve been reading a lot about the history of scholarship lately, and after reading enough statements like “so-and-so lectured in Genoa on Pindar and Thucydides” it hit me at just how much different those curricula are from mine.

In response to GLG’s comment about that course of study in classics, there is probably a lot to be said for spending time on single figures, learning how to read, before turning to surveys of everything under the sun.

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By: GLG http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26339 Thu, 05 Mar 2009 14:36:38 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26339 As a classics major as an undergrad, I had courses in the following single figures: Vergil, Horace, Livy, Tacitus, Lucretius, Homer, Sophocles, Plato, and Thucydides. The histories of Roman lit and Greek lit didn’t come until the end of the program.

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By: jbj http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26303 Thu, 05 Mar 2009 04:42:47 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26303 Hey, what’s wrong with single figures?, asked the person in the middle of teaching a course on Dickens.

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By: Christopher Vilmar http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26282 Thu, 05 Mar 2009 01:36:30 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26282 Well, to ride my own favorite novelistic hobbyhorse a bit: for some people, Tristram Shandy is only interesting as a distant progenitor of (post)modernism *or* as a holdover of Renaissance learned wit. Sterne is apparently only a follower or a precursor, and did nothing that deserves to be looked into on its own terms.

David Perkins’s book “Is Literary History Possible?” (Johns Hopkins, 1992) makes an interesting case for the impossibility of writing any literary history that isn’t basically a tissue of reductive generalizations and nonsense (as in the chapter you quote). But to take that to heart would mean revamping the entire curriculum, and then what would we teach the undergraduates? In the Renaissance scholars would lecture on single figures (Terence, or Virgil). If nothing else, talk about a way to make your teaching dovetail with your research!

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By: Rohan Maitzen http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26218 Tue, 03 Mar 2009 20:11:15 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26218 Sigh. It’s so true–though I’m glad to hear Dr. C’s news that the trend may be away from such tedious “we’re so much smarter than they were” lines of argument. A particular subspecies of this comes in histories of literary criticism, where Henry James is credited with finally breaking away from the idiocy of his Victorian predecessors and inventing real criticism of the novel. I call them Smug Moderns (after Bridget Jones’s ‘Smug Marrieds’). Quite a few of them (or their postmodern heirs) write British book blogs, I’ve found.

I nearly refused to pass a PhD thesis I was an examiner on because its discussion of Margaret Drabble’s ‘The Waterfall’ said so many stupid, dismissive things about ‘The Mill on the Floss’ (supported, to my shock, by quotations from Drabble herself being reductive and dismissive). Not one person on the student’s supervisory committee had apparently seen fit to complicate the cliches about Victorian moral earnestness and naive narrative transparency that were being perpetuated.

Now I get my revenge by being pettily reductive about modernism (wow, I must be a good writer because I’m soooo elliptical and allusive and hard to understand) and ooh-look-how-clever-and-metatextual-I-am postmodernism too. 🙂

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By: GLG http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26209 Tue, 03 Mar 2009 16:25:02 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26209 Similar silliness/inaccuracy/patronizing happens at the “fault line” between Neoclassicism and Romanticism all the time, as well.

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By: jbj http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26201 Tue, 03 Mar 2009 13:43:46 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26201 Hi, Dr. C! Yes, I agree that recent studies have often emphasized continuity rather than breaks. (Although some of that work tends to act as though the Victorian work is only interesting to the extent it anticipates modernism, which is a bit patronizing.)

But a prized former graduate student is, or is about to be, working on a late-Victorian / early modernist dissertation, so I’m aware that there’s been new thought on this front.

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By: Dr. Crazy http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26200 Tue, 03 Mar 2009 13:04:27 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26200 Ok, I feel like a modernism person should jump in here and say that there is a TON of interesting work going on in modernist studies now attempting to change the tendency to evaluate modernism as this break with and improvement upon the Victorian. Of course, most of that work is rooted in thinking about domesticity, comes from a feminist perspective, and doesn’t actually get a whole lot of attention, but really! Not all modernists are this silly! (And in addition, some of us even have read and understood Foucault, which does help in realizing that modernism doesn’t invent things like sex, which is often one of the things that people cite when talking about the break with the Victorian.)

(I should note: I almost decided to be a Victorianist, but didn’t because I decided that I loved the books too much and too purely to work on them.)

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By: Sybil Vane http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26199 Tue, 03 Mar 2009 12:46:41 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26199 Couldn’t agree more about this and the tacit modernist-scholar position that most noteworty things about the period consist in their rejections,revision, and improvement on things Victorian. Further that first sentence of GE is so rich and complicated – the adult Pip spending the entirety of the novel trying to know who he is and how he got that way, opening with a sentence that discloses both the situationality of identity and partiality of identity. May have to reread now …

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By: jbj http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/comment-page-1/#comment-26178 Tue, 03 Mar 2009 03:52:31 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/03/02/modernists-think-theyre-so-great/#comment-26178 Yes! I’ll admit that many people don’t read ’em with care, and still think they’ve read the books–but what can you do?

I did know about the aunt. 🙂

(To be perfectly above-board about all this, I sat my exams as a modernist, and then sort of wrote my way back into the 19thC during my dissertation.)

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