Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Ford Madox Ford and the Misfit Moderns by Rob Hawkes

My review of Rob Hawkes's Ford Madox Ford and the Misfit Moderns: Edwardian Fiction and the First World War is in the current issue of Modernism/modernity (20.3).

Rob Hawkes’s engaging study of “misfit moderns” positions Ford Madox Ford alongside writers like Arnold Bennett, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Richard Aldington, and Rebecca West, all of whom in some way have an uneasy relation to modernism, either as non-modernists against whom the modernists defined themselves or as not-quite-modernists who never achieved the centrality of Joyce or Woolf. While these writers all have a place in Hawkes’s study, Ford is the primary focus, “the misfit par excellence” (22), because while he was an Edwardian like Bennett and Wells, he also wrote two modernist masterpieces, making him both a central figure within modernism and not fully of the period. Ford’s writing “occupies aesthetic territory between the conventional realist novel and high modernism” (2), a position of “in-betweenness” that, far from making Ford a “peripheral figure on the margins” of both Edwardians and moderns, “constitutes an acute and exemplary responsiveness to the conditions of modernity” (3).