Fwd: Re: Byatt on Potter

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Jul 11 07:31:24 EDT 2003

Robyn wrote:

>How do you define modern literature? That seems a pretty big category to me
>- anything written after about 1890 and before 1970?

"Modern" is more than a century old?  Gleep.

This is a particular, specialised use of the word, a critical term rather
than a definition likely to be recognisable to laymen and women, I think.

In poetry, Gerard Manley Hopkins got taken as part of the "Modern" school,
on account of not being published until after his death and of fitting the
T.S. Eliot remark in 1921 that "it appears likely that poetry in our
civilisation, as it exists at present, must be /difficult/" -- so one might
claim as "modern" poems written in the 1870s and 1880s.

Which is absurd, in 2003.

So I think that once again it may be that the non-definition of terms
causes confusion.  When I say "modern" I do not mean "of a school of
literature so defined at a time when it was contemporary, almost a hundred
years ago", I mean "of or fairly immediately before the present day".  I
doubt that Byatt would be happy to be categorised as belonging to a school
of literature that flourished well before she was born: that would be less
than flattering to her, surely?


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