This site features Seton Hall University Professor Martha C. Carpentier’s undergraduate class in modern British literature mapping the key locations of British modernism, ca. 1900-1939, including sites such as Bloomsbury, Garsington, Hogarth, Charleston, Monk’s House, etc.
“Houses and bodies are similarly configured: an outer shell enclosing a private inner world, a visible exterior sheltering a hidden core of inhabitation . . . these physical modalities are expressive of affective sensibilities and present themselves for interpretation in the biographical reading” and historical understanding of art and literature.
— Nuala Hancock, “Introduction,” Charleston and Monk’s House, Edinburgh UP, 2012, pp. 1-11.
Letters, memoirs, diaries, fictions, and paintings of this group all feature a vivid sense of place, from birth homes to fashionable salons to country retreats. For no other generation before or since has physical locale been more important in the construction of psyche and art as for British modernists such as Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, and many others, as boundaries between subject and object were trespassed freely in both the form and content of their art.
Thus modernism can be best understood by mapping, along with the realms of its literary and aesthetic ideals, its embeddedness in originating sites, with all their quotidian spatial realities and local networks of social exchange. The local then becomes global, particularly given the rampant trajectories in the modernist period of war, politics, technology, and marketing, as individual agents travel outward from these originary nodes of production, carrying and reproducing via word and image the cultural artifacts that continue to inform the world we live in today.
“The stakes for situating Bloomsbury in the material life and social history of Bloomsbury, for reading ‘place as place,’ are bracingly high: a more nuanced understanding of modernist production, and a clearer view of its ongoing history as a resource for global social praxis.”
— Sara Blair, Local Modernity, Global Modernism: Bloomsury and the Place of the Literary, ELH vol. 71, no. 3, Fall 2004, pp. 813-33.