Conclusion <i>Alternative Modernity and Autonomous Youth after 1945</i>

Jed Esty

in Unseasonable Youth

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199857968
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919581 | DOI:

Series: Modernist Literature and Culture

Conclusion Alternative Modernity and Autonomous Youth after 1945

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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This concluding chapter charts the afterlife of the unseasonable youth plot, first in relation to challenges posed to developmental discourse by cultural theories of (colonial) difference, then in relation to the Anglophone novel of youth after WWII. The anti-developmental bildungsroman reached a peak of symbolic currency in the modernist period perhaps because it mediated -- in a recognizable aesthetic form, and staged -- in visibly global terms, a deep struggle between Hegelian historicism and post-Hegelian critiques of historicism. This may also be why modernist fiction still resonates for twenty-first century readers confronting a theoretical and political divide between worldwide development and a world of differences. Still, despite the modernist vogue for wayward storylines and extended adolescence, and despite the modernist-era critique of the historicist logic underpinning the bildungsroman, both the coming-of-age novel and its developmental imperatives persist alongside of, and after, any modernist revolution of form. The argument thus circles back to its framing terms by placing the entire project more squarely in relation to postcolonial and globalization studies and by addressing the contemporary debate over alternative modernities. It briefly reassesses the biographical novel's capacity to use unseasonable youth as the concrete embodiment of failed modernization, within and beyond Europe, by considering the work of post-WWII writers ranging from Beckett, Grass, and Lessing to Spark, Rushdie, and McEwan.

Keywords: modernism; global; transnational; alternative modernities; postcolonial; contemporary; novel; bildungsroman; development; youth

Chapter.  8521 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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