Material Modernism: The Politics of the Page

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Material Modernism draws on editorial theory, cultural studies and the history of the book to argue for a freshly historicized reading of modernism. Instead of taking texts as consisting of disembodied words, Bornstein considers their physical bodies as themselves semantically important. He argues that current constructions of literary modernism - like those that regard its achievements and attitudes as favoring the anti-historical over the historical, or product over process - are derived from the fixed, current, material forms of its texts. By studying modernism in its original sites of production and in the continually shifting physicality of its transmissions, an alternative construction emerges that emphasizes historical contingency, multiple versions, and the material features of the text itself. Bornstein recontextualizes works by a range of British, Irish, and American authors, including W. B. Yeats, Emma Lazarus, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, James Joyce, and writers of the Harlem Renaissance, among others.