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From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 47, Number 3, Spring 2010
pp. 485-486 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0030

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I was disappointed to read Miranda Hickman's misleading review of Modernist Heresies: British Literary History, 1883-1924, in JJQ, 46 (Winter 2009), 389-93. Considering the coalition of various interests potentially hostile to its contents, perhaps I could find solace in Bernard Shaw's observation (and one of the theses of my book) that heresy receives its reward in the future after initially being denounced for its challenge to established thought. With the potential of reviews to coffin the thoughts of academic books, however, I would like to respond briefly to the major critiques Hickman raises.

The first concerns her offhand and unilateral dismissal of my textual analyses. Rather than spending "little time considering the transposition of religious heresy into aesthetic or secular terms," major, recurrent theses in the book document the overlap between evolutionary heresies and reception theory as well as between syncretic heresies and philosophical synthesis. Without delving into any of my literary analyses, Hickman brusquely brushes them aside. If readers of the JJQ examine my literary analyses, I believe they will find convincing, nuanced, and original the arguments concerning the use of The Golden Bough in Tess of the d'Urbervilles, the sublime and the trope of "as if" in The Rainbow, the role of curiosity and paganism in unifying The Renaissance, and the detailed engagements of "Anna Livia Plurabelle" and Nineteen Eighty-Four with Basic English. The readers of Hickman's review would have no inkling of their existence. Not one of these arguments is presented in her often self-contradictory review. Saint Joan apparently is too "obvious" a thematic case for my argument, but such a comment reveals a bias at work that will not allow a strong example to illustrate that heresy was central to the early makeup of modernism. I certainly consider the "preoccupation with heresy" the topos and concept of the period and not just a "trope," as Hickman reports.

There are two overt parts to Modernist Heresies: the first a discursive history of the Cambridge Heretics Society and the second a study of literature in the period. My literary analyses blend critical approaches, and, yes, they "do not follow directly from the points raised" in my discursive history of the Heretics Society, which I thank Hickman for commending. The "overarching design" she cannot find is painstakingly delineated in the preface and introduction where I lay out the parallel trajectories of the two parts. In short, this involves the development of synthetic artifice out of syncretism and the link heresy provides in the interdiction of blasphemy and obscenity. Again Hickman's review does not mention these major aspects of the book. The complexity of heresy and synthesis in the period precludes the issues from being discussed in standard fashion with an "idea" and five ensuing case studies. It would have been easy just to document the curious history of the Heretics Society, but that would have been a disservice to the centrality of heresy in the period at hand.

Contrary to Hickman's assertions, Virginia Woolf is not the "only woman writer addressed," since Jane Harrison and Dora Russell occupy large sections of the chapters on the Heretics Society, which strove for gender diversity and equality. Moreover, while it is true that most of the authors who fit my study were male, my analyses of textual materials foreground a critique of patriarchy in the struggles of Joan of Arc, Tess Durbeyfield, Ursula Brangwen, and ALP. Finally, I understand Hickman's critique of the sketched portrayal of high modernism, but one major objective of the book is to draw continuities between the Victorian and modernist periods, an important historical argument necessitating cuts to the periphery. While reviewers have the prerogative to present a book as they choose, I believe the readers of the JJQ deserve reviews characterized by a higher degree of honesty, generosity, and thoroughness than the one Modernist Heresies received.

Copyright © 2010 University of Tulsa
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Damon Franke. "Letters." James Joyce Quarterly 47.3 (2011): 485-486. Project MUSE. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Franke, D.(2011). Letters. James Joyce Quarterly 47(3), 485-486. The University of Tulsa...

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