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Anglo-American anti-modernism: a transnational reading

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Abstract:

This article identifies a revisionist critical tradition that argues for the existence of an indigenous English poetic line which, allied to a formally conservative poetry in the United States, forms an Anglo-American anti-modernist front. Central to this critical approach is the figure of Edward Thomas, whose work appears to demonstrate the continuity of traditional poetic form in the face of the historical cataclysm of World War One and the formal challenges of modernism, and whose literary relation with Robert Frost appears to exemplify an Anglo-American partnership in opposition to the modernist pairing of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. By subjecting Thomas's work to a transnational analysis, this article reveals the ideologies which underlie this critical approach. It contends instead that Thomas should be read as a Welsh writer who opens English literature to modernist influences, and promotes writers from Ireland and the United States who are interested in re-appropriating the English language on behalf of their culturally dominated nations. As a case history in transnational modernism, this article thereby exposes the limitations of the Anglo-American anti-modernist critical tradition, showing in particular how, in anglicizing Britain and attempting to make anglophile American culture pre-eminent within the United States, it misses the literary significance of other national relations.

Keywords: Anglo-American; Edward Thomas; Wales; canon formation; modernism; transnational

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ejac.28.2.167_1

Affiliations: University of Warwick.

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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