Publications

Gifford, James. Personal Modernisms: Anarchist Networks & the Later Avant-Gardes. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 2014.

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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.

Reviews

"...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 – which might explain why these anti-authoritarian writers have suffered such neglect."
—Ian Pindar, Times Literary Supplement

"...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 like Miller..."
—Margaret Konkol, Modernism/modernity

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