At the Violet Hour: Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland

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At the Violet Hour argues that the literature of the early twentieth-century in England and Ireland was deeply organized around a reckoning with grievous violence, imagined as intimate, direct, and often transformative. The book aims to excavate and amplify a consistent feature of this literature, which is that its central operations (formal as well as thematic) emerge specifically in reference to violence. At the Violet Hour offers a variety of new terms and paradigms for reading violence in literary works, most centrally the concepts it names enchanted and disenchanted violence. In addition to defining key aspects of literary violence in the period, including the notion of violet hour, the book explores three major historical episodes: dynamite violence and anarchism in the nineteenth century, which provided a vibrant, new consciousness about explosion, sensationalism, and the limits of political meaning in the act of violence; the turbulent events consuming Ireland in the first thirty years of the century, including the Rising, the War of Independence, and the Civil War, all of which play a vital role in defining the literary corpus; and the 1930s build-up to WWII, including the event that most enthralled Europe in these years, the Spanish Civil War. These historical upheavals provide the imaginative and physical material for a re-reading of four canonical writers (Eliot, Conrad, Yeats, and Woolf), understood not only as including violence in their works, but as generating their primary styles and plots out of its deformations. Included also in this panorama are a host of other works, literary and non-literary, including visual culture, journalism, popular novels, and other modernist texts.