J.G. Ballard’s second novel, The Drowned World (1962), addresses itself to modernism not, as is typical of what has come to be associated with works late modernism, by intensifying modernism’s autotelic dimension—its “surrender to the resistance of its medium” (in Greenberg’s terminology) or its “impoverishment” (in Beckett’s)—but by producing a Haeckelian recapitulation of modernism that is also a diagnosis, after the fact, of modernism’s constitutive impossibility. For at least as it appears in Ballard’s novel, modernism describes not only a particular moment in the history of European culture or a particular artistic canon but also, and more radically, a ground clearing, a forgetting of the past that is hostile to the production of lasting literary works—is hostile, finally, to modernism itself. A late modernist repetition of modernism, then, The Drowned World provides a unique perspective on the death and afterlife of the modernist project.


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pp. 161-178
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