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Book Review: Sarah Cole, At the Violet Hour. Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012

  1. Martina Ciceri

Abstract

This book review analyses At the Violet Hour. Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland by Sarah Cole. Cole’s volume deals with the troubling relationship between art, with its focus on formal beauty, and violence in English-language literary modernism. Cole’s argument concentrates on three related issues: how literary modernism engages the controversial issue of violence, whether there exist major imaginative structures about violence in modernist works, and how these repeated patterns relate to the theoretical paradigm of enchanted/disenchanted violence. Cole argues that works of the modernist period had the tendency to elaborate aesthetic forms to restrain and display both intensive and extensive modes of violation, and she concludes that Eliot, Yeats, Conrad, and Woolf were able to formulate an idiosyncratic performative language of violence. In addition, Cole claims that this distinctive stylistics of violence gravitates around certain abstract patterns, preeminent among which are the rhetorical strategies of allegory, analogy, and substitution. Moreover, I note that Cole’s argument about a sort of miscegenation between the destructive nature of violence and its narrative creative potential resonates with an increasing focus on pre-modern, modern, post-colonial, and contemporary theories and traditions, thus progressively moving the reflections about the form and force of violence towards new literary, artistic, and cultural developments.

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