On January 24, 1922, in a series of correspondence about the edits to The Waste Land, just over a week before James Joyce’s Ulysses would be published, Ezra Pound wrote from Paris to T. S. Eliot that “It is after all a grrrreat littttterary period.” 2022 has been a year of commemoration in modernist studies, looking back at the key works of high modernism’s annus mirabilis from their centenaries.
In 1957, Johnathan Williams took a photograph of Mina Loy staring straight into the camera, chin lifted, wearing a dusky blue tunic to contrast against the earthy wall behind her (fig. 1). She looks every inch the artist, trimmed in pink beads and a high collar. The gaze of the poet is strikingly emphasized, as Loy looks down the lens in a potential position of power. However, this portrait didn’t quite live up to Loy’s expectations.
“What is a ruin but Time easing itself of endurance? Corruption is the Age of Time. It is the body and the blood of ecstasy, religion and love.” Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
“The carnival was petering out in a gloomy banality. Change was imminent in every direction. Why not make a clean sweep of the old life and, escaping to some strange new existence, create a fresh illusion of pleasure?” Compton Mackenzie, Carnival
Detective fiction of the 1920s and 1930s, the genre’s “Golden Age,” is concerned with a desire to mitigate the moral injustices of the war, symbolized by the solution of the crime and the resolution of the narrative.
Modernism has proliferated.
This short essay examines how, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, a range of British publications inflected by the diagnostic logic of psychoanalysis helped to facilitate a cultural processing of the widespread use of the military death penalty. Freudian thought, transmitted by the work of the famous shell-shock doctor W. H. R. Rivers, influenced the representations of the military death penalty in an impressive array of popular texts from various genres, including A. P. Herbert’s novel The Secret Battle (1919), the Labour MP Ernest Thurtle’s testimony pamphlet Shootings at Dawn (1920), and A. D. Gristwood’s novella The Coward (1927).
In a striking moment in Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address in January 2021, the new head of state asked the nation to join him “in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.” This was, he told the millions watching worldwide, his “first act as President.” It was a moment unprecedented in Inaugural Addresses. Biden, in both personally gracious and canny political terms, recognized the need for a moment of collective mourning and remembrance, a small act of commemoration as a necessary part of moving forward as a nation.
A first centenary, like 2018’s of the Armistice, is a kind of hinge in time. It marks the point at which a commemorative scale of years and decades begins to swing outward toward a longer scale of centuries and even millennia. Such a moment is like the edge of a continental shelf where, with our feet still in the shallows of calendrical time, we peer over that rim into the undersea canyon of deep time.
On November 4, 1919, a week before the first anniversary of the Great War’s conclusion, a letter to the editor of the Times worried that there seemed to be “no signs of any official or public celebrations” scheduled to mark the first Armistice Day.