Enchanted and Disenchanted Violence

Sarah Cole

in At the Violet Hour

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195389616
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979226 | DOI:

Series: Modernist Literature and Culture

Enchanted and Disenchanted Violence

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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This chapter develops one of the central ideas of At the Violet Hour: that conceptualizing and writing about violence has for the last century been organized around the dichotomous paradigms of “enchanted” and “disenchanted” violence. Enchanted violence is defined as an approach to violence that stresses its transformative value; disenchanted violence insists on its unredeemability. Taking especially powerful form in the early twentieth century, these opposed principles are perhaps most resonant when they come close to one another (around the image of blood, for instance, or in the prospect of the drowned body). The first half of the chapter offers a cultural and literary history of these principles, discussing such diverse discourses and writers as Anthropology, Classicism, Photography, Georges Sorel, Rene Girard, Franz Fanon, Virginia Woolf, English WWI poets, Ernest Friedrich, and Jean Norman Cru. The second half offers a reading of Eliot's The Waste Land as perhaps the most elaborate and exquisite example of a literary work shaped around the double (and irreconcilable) motifs of enchanted and disenchanted violence.

Keywords: enchantment and disenchantment; generative violence; anthropology and classicism; Georges Sorel; Rene Girard; Three Guineas; Ernst Friedrich; photography; T. S. Eliot; “the violet hour”

Chapter.  19791 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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