Personal Modernisms: Anarchist Networks & the Later Avant-Gardes
Gifford's invigorating work of metacriticism and literary history recovers the
significance of the "lost generation" of writers of the 1930s and 1940s. He examines how
the Personalism of anarcho-anti-authoritarian contemporaries such as Alex Comfort, Robert
Duncan, Lawrence Durrell, J.F. Hendry, Henry Miller, Elizabeth Smart, Dylan Thomas, and
Henry Treece forges a missing link between Late Modernist and postmodernist literature.
He concludes by applying his recontextualization to four familiar texts by Miller,
Durrell, Smart, and Duncan, and encourages readers to re-engage the lost generation using
this new critical lens. Scholars and students of literary modernism, twentieth-century
Canadian literature, and anarchism will find a productive vision of this neglected period
within Personal Modernisms.
"...Gifford makes a persuasive case.... Engaged in a 'struggle against definition,' the
Personalists were perhaps victims of their own success. Certainly, they feel like a
missing link in the established narrative. In this metacritical study, however, Gifford
shows how literary works must always flow through the authoritarian structure of
institutions &endash; which might explain why these anti-authoritarian writers have
suffered such neglect."
—Ian Pindar, Times Literary Supplement
"James Gifford's Personal Modernisms is a groundbreaking critical, metacritical
and analytic reflexion that delves into an often neglected generation.... The originality
of this essay lies in Gifford's deft analysis of how anarchism...has contributed to a
renewed vision of the artist's role in society.... By revising the literary criticism of
the 1940s that relegated those authors in limbo James Gifford also pinpoints the
political implications of criticism itself."
—Isabelle Keller-Privat, Études britanniques contemporaines
"Rather than reinforcing lineages, Personal Modernisms adopts the concept of the
network. Networks are social, intertextual, and material in the sense that the relations
themselves express as much as the content itself... The occlusion in literary history of
the midcentury avant-gardes owes, as Gifford observes, to a scholarly habit of
organizing writers according to region, which does not work very neatly with writers
—Margaret Konkol, Modernism/modernity