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Modernism: 3. Critical Perspectives

2. Chronological Expansion

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About this Lecture


In this module, we explore how our critical conception of modernism has been broadened chronologically. Traditionally, modernism has been bracketed between the Victorian period on the one hand and Postmodernism on the other, however, in recent years critics have begun to stretch the category of 'modernism' to also include some 19th-century work as well as some artists who were active after World War Two. We explore why and how this chronological expansion of modernism has taken place, focussing in particular on the ‘late modernism’ of Samuel Beckett.


In this course, Professor Max Saunders (King’s College, London) explores how critical perspectives on modernism have changed over time. In the first module, we think about how modernist literature was received at the time it was created and how it is received today, focussing in particular on the important critical shift signalled by Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz’ essay ‘The New Modernist Studies’ in 2008. The second module considers how our understanding of modernism as a period in literary history has been expanded chronologically, with a special focus on the ‘late modernism’ of Samuel Beckett. Module three examines how the spatial definition of modernism has evolved to encompass new geographical locations beyond Europe and the US. In module four, we consider how the once predominantly white, male and middle class modernist canon has been expanded to include people of colour, women and working-class writers. The fifth and final module investigates how the conceptual definition of modernism has been relaxed to include forms of writing that had previously been excluded, focussing on the genre of life writing as a prominent example.


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: 3. Critical Perspectives - Chronological Expansion [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Saunders, M. "Modernism: 3. Critical Perspectives – Chronological Expansion." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Jan 2019,

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"Tristan Tzara" by Will, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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