Academic journal article The Space Between

Modernism and the New Spain: Britain, Cosmopolitan Europe, and Literary History

Academic journal article The Space Between

Modernism and the New Spain: Britain, Cosmopolitan Europe, and Literary History

Article excerpt

Modernism and the New Spain: Britain, Cosmopolitan Europe, and Literary History. By Gayle Rogers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 304 pp. $65.00 cloth.

In Modernism and the New Spain, a sense of failure creates perhaps the most inescapable and troubling impression: not the failure of Gayle Rogers's book, which is a nearly unqualified success, but of literary plans and projects that promised so much in the interwar years and that all but invariably foundered before those years were over. Disappointed hopes and expectations are written all over the interwar period in European letters, so it is no surprise that they are also written into the history of Spanish-English literary exchanges of the era. Lorca is killed, the Criterion and Revista de Occidente both fold, the Republic loses the Spanish Civil War, and the Franco regime begins to silence Spain's leading writers. The "new biography" loses its luster, resurgent nationalisms substitute partisanship for cooperation throughout Europe, and Spanish-English partnerships-once so vigorous-attenuate and end. "Franco's victory," writes Rogers, "made all but moot the bonds among British and Spanish writers that had been forming in the late 1930s" (199). What is remarkable is that writing linking two geographical margins of Europe-Great Britain (and Ireland) and Spain (and Latin America)-for a time expressed with supreme purpose, ingenuity, and scope a living vision of what Europe might be. By the onset of World War II, it was only a vision of what might have been.

The important relationship between Britain and Spain has long been underrepresented in studies of modernism in part because teasing out its particulars entails unusual difficulties for the contemporary scholar, as, indeed, did building the relationship for British and Spanish writers themselves. As Rogers points out, "The two countries had few long-standing literary relations, almost none among writers at the time, and each had strong, complex anti-European movements domestically [. . .]. Their writers wedded their cultural authority and reputations to one another's, however, through a symbiosis between the production and the reception of texts" beginning in earnest in the early 1920s (7). Although from the outset the writers engaged in this project represented diverse political and aesthetic ideals, their thinking generally converged around principles of anti-fascism, pro-Europeanism, anti-nationalism, increased exchange of literary texts between nations, and new literary forms to meet the changing demands of a post-World War I Europe. Attendant upon their work, Rogers writes, were "struggles over the physical and metaphysical borders of Europe (historical and present), over the competing definitions of modernity and race between its north and south, over the imbalances of power between its 'advanced' and 'benighted' nations and their major and minor languages, and over the very status of culture and literature between two cataclysmically violent wars" (10). High stakes, indeed, for two nations that did not make the most natural of bedfellows, not least for reasons of geographical and linguistic difference. So it is exhilarating to see the ties between them detected, traced, and foregrounded by Rogers, who, equally at home in the Spanish and British literature, seems uniquely suited to the work.

The Introduction and first chapter speak much about literary exchanges, maps, networks, alliances, and so on (not, notably, manifestos and movements) that linked Britain and Spain and that suggested in outline the intellectual design of a new Europe. Rogers's approach, though, is nothing if not particular, so while these early sections read like scaffolding, they are built upon an impressively detailed study of letters, periodicals, and political and philosophical texts, some very obscure in one country or both. The stars of these pages and of the initial efforts to bridge national divides in literary Europe are T. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.