Mourning Modernism: Literature, Catastrophe, and the Politics of Consolation

Synopsis

This book examines the writing of catastrophe, mass death, and collective loss in twentieth-century literature and criticism. With particular focus on texts by Woolf, Benjamin, and Sebald, it engages the century's preoccupation with "world-ending," a mixed rhetoric of totality and rupture, finitude and survival, the end and its posthumous remainders. The spectacle of world-ending proliferates as a form of desire, an ambivalent compulsion to consume and outlive the end of all. In conversation with discussions of the century's passion for the real, the author reads the century's obsession with negative forms of ending and outcome. Drawing connections between current interest in trauma and the sublime, she reframes the terms of the modernist experiment and its aesthetics from the lens of a late sublime.