samuelbeckett-walking“As a literary structure, the recounted walk encourages digression and association, in contrast to the stricter form of a discourse or the chronological progression of a biographical or historical narrative. A century and a half later, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf would, in trying to descrive the workings of the mind, develop the style called stream of consciousness. In their novels Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway, the jumble of thoughts and recollections of their protagonists unfolds best during walks. This kind of unstructured, associative thinking is the kind most often connected to walking, and it suggests walking as not an analytical but an improvisational act. Rousseau’s Reveries [of the Solitary Walker] are one of the first portraits of this relationship between thinking and walking.”

— From Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Should we bother with modernism? Is it suited to our bedside table, or should it be exiled to obscurity on some distant library shelf?
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Virginia Woolf

While looking for something interesting to read online recently I stumbled across something boring. Namely, Robert McCrum’s Guardian piece on ‘The best boring books’: it listed big, grey bricks of supposedly anaesthetic prose. McCrum selected novels based on their ability to relieve anxiety and dull the senses, singling out two modernist novels among his favourites: James Joyce’s notorious Finnegans Wake and Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. I looked again. Is there something intrinsic to modernism that lends itself to these kinds of associations? Of dullness and tedium in the mind’s eye of the public?

Gabriel Josipovici asked What Ever Happened to Modernism? As part of an in-depth literary study, he charted the recent decline of modernist literature in opposition to other, more traditional forms of storytelling. But what is it about Modernism that turns so many readers away? Why are Joyce, Eliot and Kafka missing from our holiday reading lists? And if by some miracle they are on our bookshelves, why do we never pick them up? (more…)

Finnegans Wake imagined technology which did not even exist. It is a novel—if we are to call it such—written for the 21st century, and perhaps the only way it can be adapted in other media is through the internet’s nonlinear, labyrinthine structures; the online project First We Feel Then We Fall does just that, creating a multimedia adaptation of Finnegans Wake that “transfers” the novel ‘to audiovisual language,’ and demonstrates the novel as—in the words of The Guardian’s Billy Mills—’the book the web was invented for.'”

More at Open Culture.

Source: Classic Penguin.

Writer imagines the life of James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia
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Lucia Joyce

“With admirable narrative control, this debut novel depicts its narrator, Lucia, James Joyce’s daughter, losing control to ‘ungovernable emotions’. The immensely gripping story skilfully oscillates between Zurich, 1934, where Lucia is having excruciatingly tense sessions as a patient of Dr Carl Jung, and the devastating tale of how, in late 1920s Paris, her life unravelled.”

More at The Guardian.

The Norwegian author discusses the 20th century Irish modernist in the New York Times
james-joyceThis year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Its genesis was long and tortuous — Joyce began writing his novel in 1904 — and the road to its canonisation as one of the seminal works of Western literature was not short either: The reviews spoke of the author’s “cloacal obsession” and “the slime of foul sewers,” comments that seem strange today, insofar as it is the subjective aspect of the book, the struggle that goes on inside the mind of its young protagonist, that perhaps stands out to us now as its most striking feature. What appeared at the time to be unprecedented about the novel seems more mundane to us today, whereas what then came across as mundane now seems unprecedented. Joyce’s novel remains vital, in contrast to almost all other novels published in 1916, because he forcefully strived toward an idiosyncratic form of expression, a language intrinsic to the story he wanted to tell, about the young protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, and his formative years in Dublin, in which uniqueness was the very point and the question of what constitutes the individual was the issue posed.

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On 19 May, Professor Anne Fuchs FBA MRIA will give a lecture exploring the figure of the walker in modernist and contemporary literature at the British Academy in London

About the event

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Robert Walser

Modernity celebrated speed as the motor of progress and a source of pleasure unleashing vitality and energy. But speed also provoked a new desire for slowness to allow modern selves to cope with the frantic pace of transformation. Hence the emergence of the modern walker who, for example, strays through texts by Benjamin, Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, Thomas Mann and Robert Walser. Focusing on diverse types of walking such as urban perambulations, rural rambling, disorientated straying, imprisoned crawling and condemned walking, my lecture examines the aesthetic and moral implications of perambulating through time and space. (more…)

Flavorwire have compiled a list of the ’30 harshest author-on-author insults in history’. Here are just a few…

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