Midcentury Suspension

Midcentury Suspension

Literature and Feeling in the Wake of World War II

Claire Seiler


available from Aug 11, 2020

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How did literary artists confront the middle of a century already defined by two global wars and newly faced with a nuclear future? Midcentury Suspension argues that a sense of suspension—a feeling of being between beginnings and endings, recent horrors and opaque horizons—shaped transatlantic literary forms and cultural expression in this singular moment.

Rooted in extensive archival research in literary, print, and public cultures of the Anglophone North Atlantic, Claire Seiler’s account of midcentury suspension ranges across key works of the late 1940s and early 1950s by authors such as W. H. Auden, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bishop, Elizabeth Bowen, Ralph Ellison, and Frank O’Hara. Seiler reveals how these writers cultivated modes of suspension that spoke to the felt texture of life at midcentury. Running counter to the tendency to frame midcentury literature in the terms of modernism or of our contemporary, Midcentury Suspension reorients twentieth-century literary study around the epoch’s fraught middle.


Claire Seiler:
Claire Seiler is associate professor of English at Dickinson College.