Wednesday 2 January 2013

A happy new year to all my reader.

The singular is used advisedly as I'm a newcomer to the blogiverse and so far from being a digital native that I have never so much as perpetrated a Twitter. But a youngish person told me in the bleak days between Christmas and the end of the year that, while Twittering is largely for and about the inane, one has to blog to be taken seriously if, like me, you wish to forge a career as a writer and researcher. Blogging, you see, is here to stay and not just some flash in the technical pan. Although they said that of Daguerrotypes.

I'm a writer and researcher. My first book comes out this month - a contribution to a whizz-bang collection of essays called Auden in Context (Cambridge University Press) - and  I also appear regularly in the Times Literary Supplement and the Literary Review. 

So much for self-promotion. What currently interests me (for research purposes) is the extent to which modernist writers (born in the decade after 1880 - Joyce, Lewis, Eliot, Stein etc) were influenced not (as is widely assumed) by early cinema techniques (they were born too soon), but by the impact of magic lantern lectures, universally popular around the turn of the century and which, in their heterogenous and fragmentary reconfiguration of the world, clearly anticipate the form and content of (above all) The Waste Land. Published in 1920, this was too early to be influenced by (say) Soviet montage techniques, yet this is what many critics have assumed for many decades, without checking the dates. Lantern lectures ranged from fairy tales to religious stories (not a vast arc, I agree) but also images of Empire, of urban life, and (for training purposes) medical conditions: 'as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in pattern on a screen', as the line in Prufrock has it.

Reading Prufrock for the first time in many years I was struck by the phonetic similarity of  Moorgate and Margate (on whose sands etc...). And this in turn struck me as the aural equivalent of a dissolve between two magic lantern slides, which in turn suggests something not so far recognised in Eliot's approach to poetry.

Any takers?

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