Despite intense critical debate and disagreement over its very name, nature and scope, modernism continues to be widely acknowledged as probably the most important and influential artistic-cultural phenomenon of the twentieth century, whether it is considered primarily as a movement, a period, a genre, a style or an ideology. Within literature and literary studies especially, modernism looms large as an established canonical category, for publishers, readers, critics, students, and scholars alike.
It is surprising therefore to find a relative dearth of ready reference material devoted specifically to literary modernism, especially when there exists such a plethora of handbooks, companions and glossaries on literary topics generally, and a plethora, too, of developed critical scholarship on modernism in the shape of introductory overviews, scholarly monographs, edited essay collections, and anthologies of primary source materials. The classic survey of the field presented in Malcolm Bradbury’s and James McFarlane’s seminal essay collection, Modernism 1890–1930 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976; rptd. 1991), and the similar more recent collection edited by Michael Levenson, The Cambridge Companion to Modernism (Cambridge UP, 1999), are perhaps the nearest we have to the sort of reference guide I mean here. However, though these are both invaluable sources of information and critical insight, neither of them is specifically designed as a reference book and certainly not as a source of quick reference (though the former contains such elements as a detailed chronology of events, a hundred “Brief Biographies,” and an extensive general bibliography).
The present volume, then, has been designed to fill the gap suggested above by providing a comprehensive and accessible source of quick reference to the key authors, works, movements, theories, places and events commonly associated with literary modernism. Written by expert scholars from around the world and covering hundreds of different topics in a clear, incisive and critically informed manner, this Encyclopedia presents a unique range of detailed entries—many in the form of mini-essays—mapping out the complex and variegated field of literary modernism in a fresh and original way from an early twenty-first century perspective.