Modernist Heresies

British Literary History, 1883–1924

Damon Franke


Feb 2008
Literature and Criticism/English, Irish
258 pp. 6x9

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Table of Contents


“Modernist Heresies is a true success. . . . Franke provides us with . . . a context to read modernist texts anew and, most usefully, reminds readers of ways in which turn-of-the-century history, religion, and literature were part of an interconnect5ed network of discourses linked by an immersion in the heretical.” —James Joyce Literary Supplement

“Modernist Heresies is an original, well-researched book that uncovers neglected elements in the origins of modernism and writes the history of an important group of intellectuals.” —Marjorie Howes, associate professor of English and co-director of Irish Studies, Boston College

“Damon Franke’s scholarship is sound, even impressive. He is genuinely learned and shows a wide knowledge of the literature and cultural debates of his chosen span of time. I’m glad I read Modernist Heresies.” —Morris Beja, professor emeritus of English, The Ohio State University

In Modernist Heresies, Damon Franke presents the discourse of heresy as central to the intellectual history of the origins of British modernism. The book examines heretical discourses from literature and culture of the fin de si�cle and the Edwardian period in order to establish continuities between Victorian blasphemy and modernist obscenity by tracing the dialectic of heresy and orthodoxy, and the pragmatic shifting of both heterodox and authoritative discourses.

Franke documents the untold history of the Cambridge Heretics Society and places the concerns of this discussion society in dialogue with contemporaneous literature by such authors as Pater, Hardy, Shaw, Joyce, Woolf, Lawrence, and Orwell. Since several highly influential figures of the modernist literati were members of the Heretics or in dialogue with the group, heresy and its relation to synthesis now become crucial to an understanding of modernist aesthetics and ethics.

From the 1880s through the 1920s, heresy commonly appears in literature as a discursive trope, and the literary mode of heresy shifts over the course of this time from one of syncretism to one based on the construction of modernist artificial or “synthetic” wholes. In Franke’s work, the discourse of heresy comes forth as a forgotten dimension of the origins of modernism, one deeply entrenched in Victorian blasphemy and the crisis in faith, and one pointing to the censorship of modernist literature and some of the first doctrines of literary criticism.

Damon Franke is assistant professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi.