Impossible Modernism reads the writings of German philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) and Anglo-American poet and critic T. S. Eliot (1888–1965) to examine the relationship between literary and historical form during the modernist period. It focuses particularly on how they both resisted the forms of narration established by nineteenth-century academic historians and turned instead to traditional literary devices—lyric, satire, anecdote, and allegory—to reimagine the forms that historical representation might take. Tracing the fraught relationship between poetry and history back to Aristotle's Poetics and forward to Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations, Robert S. Lehman establishes the coordinates of the intellectual-historical problem that Eliot and Benjamin inherited and offers an analysis of how they grappled with this legacy in their major works.
About the author
Robert S. Lehman is Assistant Professor of English at Boston College.
"Impossible Modernism presents the most attentive and sustained readings of poetry and criticism that I have encountered in many years. No reader of this book can fail to admire and learn from Lehman's comprehensive erudition within the field of modernist studies and beyond."
—Steven Miller, State University of New York, Buffalo
"This beautifully written and subtly argued book manages to open striking new avenues for thought through the well-mapped terrains of Eliot and Benjamin scholarship, not to mention scholarship on literary and philosophical modernism more generally."
—Kevin Attell, Cornell University