The Anatomy of Moments

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Aesthetic moments of revelation–intense, sensual, internal, and individual– are so key to modernist culture that the idea of them in criticism has become commonplace. Here I seek to breath life into this humdrum formula of modernist criticism by exploring multiple responses to an alternative moment amongst British cultural figures: the declaration of War against Germany at 11.15 on September 3rd, 1939. This was also an intense moment, but it was social, political, communal, mediated and disseminated publicly by new technologies. As my archival research here reveals, a wide spectrum of responses were recorded, so we can think of such a moment as ‘prismatic’. I will also show how this moment was a shock to culture, which went into a state of suspended animation. As well as offering critiques of the moment as a fetishised form, I argue that modernist culture and the idea of the moment would never be the same again.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-186
Number of pages22
JournalModernist Cultures
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

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