By Simon Joyce
This ebook argues that the background of literary modernism is inextricably attached with naturalism. Simon Joyce lines a fancy reaction between aesthetes to the paintings of Émile Zola on the flip of the century, recuperating naturalism's assumed compatibility with impressionism as a valuable explanation for their ambivalence. Highlighting a little-studied pressure of reflexive naturalism within which Zola's mode of analytical statement is grew to become upon the authors themselves, Joyce means that the confluence of naturalism and impressionism shaped the precondition for so-called stream-of-consciousness writing. This kind served to steer not just the paintings of canonical modernists akin to Joyce and Woolf but additionally that of lesser-known writers resembling George Moore, Sarah Grand, and George Egerton.
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Extra info for Modernism and Naturalism in British and Irish Fiction, 1880-1930
The action was only the pretext for the more important work, as Conrad sees it, of trying to grasp its significance, which is why ultimately “our” understanding outweighs “his” lack of knowledge – and yet, it is hard to see any actual solidarity being forged here. Conrad’s parable is reminiscent of the compulsive component that Jennifer Fleissner has highlighted within naturalism, its capacity to try and fail, and then try differently and fail all over again. This might sound like Samuel Beckett, but what it refuses to abandon as worthless is Conrad’s goal of understanding our relationship to others, especially when they live radically different lives and yet must be connected to us in some larger model of social totality.
There had been,” he recalled, a distinctly new growth in the short story, and along with the short story (“poisonous honey stolen from France”) came a new license in dealing 42 How Zola crossed (and didn’t cross) the English Channel imaginatively with life, almost permitting the Englishman to contend with the writers of other nations on their own ground; permitting him, that is to say, to represent life as it really is. Foreign influences, certainly, had begun to have more and more effect upon the making of such literature as is produced in England nowadays; we had a certain acceptance of Ibsen, a popular personal welcome of Zola, and literary homage paid to Verlaine.
Strange signs in the literary zodiac: Symons and Zola 41 Characterizing naturalism in this way as thinking differently about style – as opposed to being simply against it or determined to subordinate it to content – helps us to avoid the impasse I highlighted in the Introduction, in which it comes to stand in unequivocal opposition to modernism. The story of its imbrication within the history of modernism is, as I hope to show, a different and more interesting one to tell, and one that makes greater sense of what was a much more conflicted response to Zola on the part of the artistic vanguard than standard accounts have allowed.