Examines literary modernism in its relation to the history of criticism by analysing the role of Aristotelian principles, primarily the notion of formal affectivism, in the critical writings of these three modernists who have invariably been thought to uphold incompatible aesthetic beliefs: whereas Eliot saw himself as a classicist modernist, Stevens and Woolf shared a marked anti-classicist stance. Despite their initially incompatible attitudes to literary history and criticism, this study discloses their convergence on the Aristotelian notion of formal affectivism, demonstrated through specific conceptual shifts. The main feature of the book is its originality of approach, which seeks a 'diachronic' solution to a 'synchronic' problem -- the debate about the Modern, reflected in the claims and counterclaims made by the modernists themselves and by subsequent literary critics and theorists. This methodology was largely dictated by the nature of the subject: the adversarial critical orientation of three modernists, who have never been studied as a group before, and the attempt to reconcile their differences by reconfiguring them in terms of the Aristotelian critical tradition.
The author demonstrates conclusively how Eliot incorporated central Aristotelian dramatic principles into his view of literary history and criticism, and, similarly, how both Stevens and Woolf, through historically determined conceptual shifts, endorse and use formal affectivism and dramatic criteria, which, as may be expected, they almost never refer back to Aristotle or to his foremost modernist defender, Eliot.
Edna G Rosenthal completed her MPhil in modern literature at St Antonys College, Oxford (1978), and her PhD at Bar-Ilan University, Israel (2004). She teaches English at the Kibbutzim College of Education, Tel Aviv, and is currently associate editor of The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms.
Introduction; What's New in Eliot's Use of the Poetics?; Aristotle and the Puzzling Case of Wallace Stevens; Aristotle and Virginia Woolf's Modern Sublime; Ethos and Pathos in Mrs Dalloway; Conclusion; Index.