Comic Modernism: The Reception of Aristophanes in British Poetry, Fiction, and Criticism, 1900-1940
This research project aims to examine the presence and effect of ancient Greek comedy in British modernist literary culture. The dominant view of modernist literature as a profoundly serious endeavor has so far prevented a sustained study of the status of comedy in modernism’s literary legacy. By focusing on the reception of Aristophanic comedy, this project proposes an untrodden path into this field. It uncovers the keen interest modernist writers displayed towards this body of classical material that has never received systematic attention within the study of modernism. Starting from a corpus of poetic, fictional, and critical texts that combines highly canonized with (relatively) neglected writers, it aims to elucidate the various functions ancient Greek comedy was made to perform in modernism by analyzing the writers’ unambiguous borrowings from Aristophanes on the level of textual genres, thematic concerns, and metaliterary debates. Built on the steady methodological ground of Classical Reception Studies, the study of the reception of one classical writer in a range of writers from the same historical period is also meant to contribute new theoretical insight into literary reception itself, and to place a step toward a broader consideration of classical reception in the modernist period.