Found and Lost: The Politics of Modernist Recovery
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Found and Lost:
The Politics of Modernist Recovery
Gender in Modernism: New Geographies, Complex Intersections Scott Bonnie Kime, ed. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007. Pp. xviii + 872. $95.00 (cloth); $40.00 (paper).

When Bonnie Kime Scott's ground-breaking anthology, The Gender of Modernism: A Critical Anthology, was first published in 1990, I was a graduate student at Berkeley writing a dissertation on primarily noncanonical British women modernists. At the time, those of us who were working in Anglo-American modernist and feminist studies were delighted to encounter this wide-ranging anthology, which sought to illustrate not only how modernism was unconsciously gendered masculine, but how previously marginalized and neglected women writers were actually central proponents and practitioners of modernism. None of my seminars in graduate school exposed me to writers such as Mina Loy, Dorothy Richardson, or Katherine Mansfield, but Scott's anthology legitimized my interest in noncanonical writing and invited me to pursue the kind of recovery work that had been spearheaded by critics such as Elaine Showalter (A Literature of Their Own, 1977), Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (The Madwoman in the Attic, 1979), and Shari Benstock (Women of the Left Bank, 1986). Today, the project of recovering lost women writers is no longer in vogue as it once was, but Scott's new anthology sees itself as part of this earlier tradition at the same time as it seeks to break new ground by highlighting its engagement with recent concerns in modernist studies: transnationalist feminism, global travel, emigration, queer theory, scientific discourse, technology, visual and material culture. While the impact of The Gender of Modernism is incontestable, the conceptual limits of that collection—privileging gender at the expense of other categories of identity, such as race, ethnicity, class, nation, and sexuality; focusing primarily on white women and exclusively on white men—are directly addressed by Scott in her ambitious and well presented introduction to Gender in Modernism, which is conceived as both a sequel and a corrective to the first now-classic [End Page 803] volume. The trade-off between the laudable conceptual re-evaluations of the new anthology and the first book is the loss of a focus on recovery work, a phenomenon that Gender in Modernism makes tacit gestures toward but ultimately moves beyond. One result of this shift in emphasis is a more muted and neutralized understanding of the first anthology's feminist argument that the "politics and aesthetics of gender may lie at the heart of a comprehensive understanding of early twentieth-century literature."1

The significance of the tiny pronoun difference in each volume's title—Gender of Modernism, versus GenderinModernism—cannot be overstated; in the first anthology, a now dated "gendered reading of modernism" was privileged, whereas in the new anthology references to gender are couched within a larger, interdisciplinary conversation about selfhood that is inseparable from the "complex intersections" signaled by the new collection's subtitle.2 The first book incorporated five primary male writers; the new anthology has nearly thirty, many working cooperatively with women. Just as gender is no longer isolated from other constituents of identity, both the categories of nationality and periodization are expanded in Gender in Modernism. Where the first volume limited itself to British and American texts published roughly between 1910 and 1940, the second anthology incorporates work from India, Africa, and Ireland, in an attempt to give voice to the "missing era," 1880–1910, when women were entering the public sphere as suffragists and socialists. The volume's commitment to "new geographies," interdisciplinarity, and its incorporation of cutting-edge theoretical work on the overlooked transnational and racial dimensions of modernist texts situates the book at the forefront of a new wave of scholarship in modernist studies that seeks to show how the study of modernity—defined at one point as the examination of "patterns of material consumption, technological inventions, and medical interventions" (13)—can do more for the re-evaluation of literature than the traditional focus on periodization and stylistic designation. Gender in Modernism places greater emphasis on the cultural and historical underpinnings of literature and rigorously seeks to displace Eurocentric notions of what modernism...