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Blasphemous ModernismThe 20th-Century Word Made Flesh$
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Steve Pinkerton

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190627560

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190627560.001.0001

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To Be as Gods

(p.131) Conclusion
Blasphemous Modernism

Steve Pinkerton

Oxford University Press

Modernist writers have often engaged God as an object of both imaginative identification and profanation, at once emulating and blaspheming a deity memorably pronounced dead in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Such an ambivalent response to God’s “death” betrays revealing structural affinities with the psychodynamics of Freudian melancholia; just as the melancholiac both incorporates and abuses a lost love-object, so these writers profane their lost God while also yielding to the original biblical temptation “to be as gods.” This chapter surveys the modernist artist-god as he (or she) appears in works by writers including Mina Loy, Djuna Barnes, Wallace Stevens, and, finally, Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses provides a demonstration of how modernism persists in postwar anglophone literature—and of the critical role blasphemy plays in that persistence.

Keywords:   death of God, melancholia, Freud, Nietzsche, Wallace Stevens, The Man with the Blue Guitar, Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

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