Modernism and the Reinvention of Decadence

April 2, 2015 (Thursday) / 5:30 pm7:00 pm

Rosenbach Museum & Library, 2008 Delancey Place

Modernism and the Reinvention of Decadence

Vincent Sherry

Howard Nemerov Professor in the Humanities
Professor of English
Washington University in St. Louis

Vincent Sherry discusses his major new work of literary criticism and history, Modernism and the Reinvention of Decadence.  Tracing a forgotten pathway into literary modernism, his book links the idea of decadence to such key events as the failures of the French Revolution and the cataclysm of the Great War.

As Penn’s Jed Esty notes, "Sherry offers a powerful, learned rereading of an entire literary tradition, in effect restoring decadent aesthetics to the foreground of literary modernism where it had been forgotten, lost, or actively suppressed." He canvasses "enormous swaths of literature," beginning with an exposition of the English Romantic poets and ending with a reevaluation of modernists as varied as W. B. Yeats, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Rebecca West, Djuna Barnes, Samuel Beckett, and, centrally, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. . . .  This is a weighty and consequential book."

Vincent Sherry teaches and writes about literary modernism in Britain and Ireland. Throughout his career, he has focused on bringing an historically informed understanding to the modernist project. His works include The Great War and the Language of Modernism (Oxford, 2003; rpt 2004, 2006); the Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War (2005); James Joyce: Ulysses (Cambridge, 1995, 2d ed. 2004); Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Radical Modernism (Oxford, 1993); and The Uncommon Tongue: The Poetry and Criticism of Geoffrey Hill (Michigan, 1987). He is currently also writing the Blackwell biography of Ezra Pound.