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ELT 43 : 1 2000 losophy... links Woolf, Williams and Ransom to Heidegger, Adorno, and Baudrillard . Among the most moving in Lewis's criticism, this passage [on "irresponsible materialism"] reminds us again that from Woolf to Benjamin, from Ransom to the surrealists, one of the hallmarks of modernism was its solicitude for the auratic effect of the art object. . . . One might quibble with the terms of comparison Mao chooses but within those terms his argument is solid. This is an important and illuminating book, as much for its method—the yoking together of seemingly disparate things, the bold claim followed by the qualifying caveat, its insistent self-awareness of the ironic ramifications of its own argument—as for the argument itself. Reading it reminded me of the kind of scholarship I studied in graduate school before the profession swerved to critical theory and cultural criticism, that elegant if at times dense and difficult prose, with its learned allusions and impressive command of the philosophical tradition, evident in Mao's brief history of the tree as example of the ordinary object in Western philosophy from Hegel to Saussure to Elaine Scarry. Reading Mao also brought to mind a parody of Stevens I wrote years ago to serve as a mnemonic device for my doctoral exams, a kind of sound-bite of Stevens's aesthetics that captures, I believe, modernism 's anxiety about production: I play upon my blue guitar Leaving things the way they are, Which is, of course, the way I see— Don't ask any change of me. Pamela L. Caughie __________________ Loyola University Chicago American Writers in England Alex Zwerdling. Improvised Europeans: American Literary Expatriates and the Siege of London. New York: Basic Books, 1998. xvi + 383 pp. $35.00 ZWERDLING sets himself to explain why at the beginning of this, the "American century," some of America's most talented writers felt disenchanted with their mother country, and sought lives and careers in England. At a time when American power was in the ascendant, and even patronizing European attitudes toward her artists were changing, immense talents like Henry Adams, Henry James, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot expatriated themselves, spending considerable parts of their lives not merely abroad, but in the land whose hierarchical 104 BOOK REVIEWS social systems had long been mocked by the aggressive egalitarianism of the American Republic. Why did these writers leave? What did they dislike about the America of their day? How did these dislikes manifest themselves in their writings? Britain's world status already seemed on the wane a hundred years ago, at the moment when the U.S. was becoming increasingly powerful and self-confident. Anglophile Americans responded with sympathy: "The harshness of the facts," writes Zwerdling, "demanded compensatory myths, and of these the most potent was racial." If Henry Adams's brother Brooks demoted Britain to a periphery ("a fortified outpost of the Anglo-Saxon race"), he was still part of the current discourse of race that saw the peoples of Britain and the U.S. as "English-speaking, Anglo-American, Anglo-Saxon, Nordic, Germanic, Teutonic, Aryan, and Caucasian." But this attitude became difficult to maintain when Eastern and Southern Europeans began emigrating to the United States in substantial numbers. In 1882, such people had accounted for one-eighth of all immigrants; by 1905, more than three-quarters came from southern Europe and Russia. Visibly and audibly alien, they alarmed patrician Americans of English descent. Henry Adams, the great-grandson and grandson of presidents, compared himself to Indians and buffalo, and wrote of being "forced out of the track." To him and others, London seemed to offer a soothing theatre of operations where uncouth persons offended neither the eye nor the ear, and where a dense cosmopolitan culture yet thrived, produced by and for people of Adams's type and class. British need for reassurance in the face of America's increasing power and her own diminishing role met the desire of American Brahmins for prestige and solace. The result was a temporary alliance. Zwerdling writes that this changing cultural relationship between Britain and the U.S. is central to the careers of four "Improvised Europeans ." (The reference is to a...


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