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Nostalgia and Modernism
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Languages.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0115-4995
2013 (English)In: Time and Temporality in European Modernism and the Avant-Gardes (1900-1950), Leuven: University of Leuven , 2013Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Modernism and NostalgiaThis paper sets out to investigate how the consequences of modernity affected European modernist literature’s attitudes towards nostalgia and how this attitude facilitated the development of a particular modernist literary nostalgic aesthetic.If we define nostalgia as a refusal to accept the conditions of life, the flowing of time (the time arrow), and the inevitability of extinction, we owe much to modernity which fuelled nostalgia with an unprecedented awareness of time. The new concepts of time started a teleological rampage, a strong belief in the ideas of progress. The past was outdated; the future goal of progress was a constant improvement in human social affairs and life style.It was a time of contrasts, of conflicts between the old and the new. Maybe this time even could be described as “schizophrenic” as Karin Johannisson argues, an interior break as a result of living in two different worlds at the same time, alienation to the new urban world and modernization (133). Growing out of this “schizophrenia” was a strong longing for the past times, and “the slower rhythms of the past, for continuity, social cohesion and tradition” (Boym 16). If being modern was to be part of a universe in which, as Karl Marx said, “all that is solid melts into air” (qtd. in Berman 15), then being nostalgic is a symptom of poor adaptability to the modern way, and as such is a despicable “disease” in the eyes of progress.Modern nostalgia, then, bears a significant relation to modernity, as identified by recent scholars. Kimberly K. Smith argues that nostalgia actually is the “product of – and indelibly shaped by – nineteenth- and twentieth-century conflicts over the political significance of the past” and as such is related to progress as a “progressive paratheory” (505-06). Sylviane Agacinski writes that “[t]he idea of modernity refers less to a situation in time than it is itself a certain way of thinking about time, free from both eternity and so-called historical necessity” (20), thus configuring the temporally liberated notion of nostalgia. Also Svetlana Boym’s modern concept of nostalgia originates in its reaction to modernity: “I realized that nostalgia goes beyond individual psychology. At first glance, nostalgia is a longing for a place, but actually it is a yearning for a different time – the time of our childhood, the slower rhythms of our dreams. In a broader sense, nostalgia is rebellion against the modern idea of time, the time of history and progress” (xv).This paper will deal with the relations between modernity and nostalgia in modernist literature, predominantly English modernism. Why did the English modernists have such an inclination for nostalgia? How did this inclination manifest itself in the form and style of their writing?Works CitedAgacinski, Sylviane. Time Passing: Modernity and Nostalgia. Trans. Jody Gladding. European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism. New York: Colombia University Press, 2000.Berman, Marshall. All That is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity. London: Verso, 1983.Boym, Svetlana. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books, 2001.Johannisson, Karin. Nostalgia: en känslas historia. Smedjebacken: Bonnier Essä, 2001.Smith, Kimberly K. “Mere Nostalgia: Notes on a Progressive Paratheory.” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 3.4 (2000): 505-27.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Leuven: University of Leuven , 2013.
National Category
General Literature Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-36753OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-36753DiVA: diva2:743962
Conference
Time and Temporality in European Modernism and the Avant-Gardes (1900-1950) Conference in KU Leuven, September 16-18, 2013
Available from: 2014-09-05 Created: 2014-09-05 Last updated: 2014-12-02Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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