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Modernism: 1. Context

3. War/Psychology

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About this Lecture


This module considers how the experience of World War One impacted modernist writers and their work. We begin by exploring how the destructive force of the war expresses itself in the fragmentation that haunts many modernist poems and novels written in the post-war period. We focus in particular on Ford Madox Ford’s use of fractured time in his tetralogy of war novels Parade’s End, before moving on to an examination of how the experience of shellshock and mass technological warfare affected how the modernists thought and wrote about human psychology.


In this course, Professor Max Saunders (King’s College, London) explores the literary movement of modernism in the context of the broader concept of modernity. We begin by introducing the terms ‘modernism’ and ‘modernity’ and think about the relationship between modernist literature and the social history of the modern in the late 19th and early 20th-century. In the second module, we begin to explore modernism as a literary movement in more detail, focussing on the emphasis modernist writers such as Henry James placed on the form of literature (how a piece of writing is presented) over and above its content. We then move on in the third module to think about the First World War and its impact on modernist literature, focussing particularly on how it influenced the way in which the modernists thought and wrote about human psychology. The fourth module looks at how developments in modern science and technology influenced modernist literature, while the fifth module explores modernism as a movement informed by literary tradition but nevertheless significantly orientated towards the future.


Max Saunders is Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Professor of English and Co-Director of the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London, where he teaches modern literature. He studied at the universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and was a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He is the author of Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, 2 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1996) and Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature (Oxford University Press 2010); the editor of five volumes of Ford’s writing, including an annotated critical edition of the first volume of Ford’s Parade’s End: Some Do Not . . . (Carcanet, 2010). He has published essays on Life-writing, on Impressionism, and on a number of modern writers. He was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship from 2008-10 to research the To-Day and To-Morrow book series; and in 2013 an Advanced Grant from the ERC for the Ego-Media 5-year collaborative project on Digital Life Writing.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Saunders, M. (2019, January 31). Modernism: 1. Context - War/Psychology [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Saunders, M. "Modernism: 1. Context – War/Psychology." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Jan 2019,