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ELT 48 : 3 2005 "Here time turns into space": this line from Wagner's Parsifal is the linchpin of the exhibit—the history of modernism and our relation to it are felt and understood spatially as we move through the cases of artifacts or the pages of plates. Yet our relation to modernism is also understood in terms of its transformation of value systems that underlie the creation and interpretation of art. For Albright, modernism may be read as a series of interconnected moments in time and space, moments of "crisis in value." These values were truth-telling, obedience to rule, and imitation of the classics. The "isms" of modernism—symbolism, futurism , expressionism—undermined these values, and this subversion became a value in itself. Albright's essay cogently brings together many of the threads ofMake it New. He illuminates the interconnections of our many ways of seeing modernism: the nature of its shifting values and definitions, its self-production and self-consciousness. Underlying much of this is the awareness of those involved with the Ransom Center that they themselves are crucial in the production and dissemination of modernism. As an important repository of modernism's artifacts, the Ransom Center plays a vital role in how modernism is defined and how its material history is interpreted. Our understanding, our archaeology, of this period is shaped by this archive. Hopefully, further work to be done in modernism will be shaped by it as well, as the archive provides an opportunity for the discovery and rediscovery of this period and its many facets. JANINE UTELL Widener University Modernist Aesthetes as Commodities Sean Latham. "Am I a Snob?": Modernism and the Novel. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003. xii + 240 pp. Cloth $45.00 Paper $19.95 SEAN LATHAM'S STUDY locates itself at the intersection of intellectualism , aesthetic taste, and literary value as he invites us to explore the contradictory figure of the snob who "deploy [s] the idealized language of eternal beauty in describing an aesthetic artifact even while inserting that same artifact into circulation as a commodity like any other." Offering a welcome complication to Andreas Huyssen's dichotomy between mass culture and highbrow art, Latham provides a fascinating look at the ambivalence embodied in writing and stance by Thackeray, Wilde, Woolf, Joyce, and Sayers. He adds to modernist criteria a needed consideration of what he calls "snobbery's guilty pleasures 348 BOOK REVIEWS and elitist anxieties," namely "the fear of a mass audience and a simultaneous dissatisfaction with the isolation of a coterie readership." His clever strategy is to read the characters in modernist texts as "meta-textual ciphers for the authors' uncertain relationships to the economic marketplace." Refusing to view literature solely in terms of aesthetic innovation, Latham's study signifies an important contribution to current approaches to nineteenth- and twentieth-century studies that engage the economics of production. Initially titled "Am I a Snob?": Modernism in the Marketplace, the book provides nuanced readings of authors who struggled to negotiate between their personal need to signal a highbrow literary aesthetic and the financial necessity of engaging an increasingly consumer culture, or what Latham calls "a mass-mediated and highly-segmented cultural marketplace." The figure of the snob, historicized beautifully in the opening chapters, emerges over the course of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries as the persona who balances these ostensibly competing directives in order to obtain both cultural capital and economic gain—or, to put it plainly, to secure both an aesthetic reputation and the consequent financial rewards . The power behind Latham's insight into this cultural formulation is his refusal to elide marketplace concerns from his reading of literary works. In essence, he reveals through masterful analyses of five authors and their key texts that an effective aesthete does not evade his or her own commodification. Scholars of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries will enjoy the opening chapter on Thackeray's serialized column, "The Snob Papers ," and the second chapter on Wilde in which Latham explores the transitioning figure of prestige who embodied forms as various as the gentleman, the celebrity or decadent dandy, and the flaneur. The word snob, we learn, transformed from an...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 348-352
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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