Prolegomenon to a Poetics of English Modernism
This chapter puts the Liberal support of the Great War in the context of 19th-century British Liberalism. This legacy places an exceptionally high degree of value on Reason, a priority that results often in a reliance on verbal reason over factual evidence. This susceptibility is evidenced in the rhetoric of support for the war, which was at odds with the major tenets of Liberal policy, and so evinced a most strenuous exercise of sheer verbal rationalization. The language of “seeming reason” is followed across a wide body of writing in support of the war, ranging from the partisan press to scholarly articles and monographs. The prevalence of this new tone in national politics is established as the basis of a number of verbal initiatives in literary modernism, beginning with the critical work of I. A. Richards, whose signature doctrine of “pseudo-statement” answers specifically to the tone of the political times.
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