Sunday, February 26, 2012

What is Jonathan Greenberg reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jonathan Greenberg, author of Modernism, Satire and the Novel.

His entry begins:
English professors like to teach texts that we are “working on,” and since I am now writing a book about satire aimed at the college student and the common reader, much of what I am working on these days is satiric. Prepping a graduate seminar in American fiction last fall allowed me to discover some great American satires I’d never read before, and to reopen and reevaluate some old favorites. Let me talk about two.

The book that surprised me most in re-reading was Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt. I recalled almost nothing of my earlier encounters with Lewis, and I must have dismissed him as an artless social realist who lacked the stylistic daring of his great high-modernist contemporaries. It’s true that the satire in Babbitt can feel polemical and obvious, and for intellectuals today a Midwestern Republican businessman is perhaps too easy a target. But although the plodding Babbitt (like his literary descendant Rabbit) often seems overmatched by the intelligence of his creator, this remarkable novel still manages to...[read on]
About Modernism, Satire and the Novel, from the publisher:
In this groundbreaking study, Jonathan Greenberg locates a satiric sensibility at the heart of the modern. By promoting an antisentimental education, modernism denied the authority of emotion to guarantee moral and literary value. Instead, it fostered sophisticated, detached and apparently cruel attitudes toward pain and suffering. This sensibility challenged the novel's humanistic tradition, set ethics and aesthetics into conflict and fundamentally altered the ways that we know and feel. Through lively and original readings of works by Evelyn Waugh, Stella Gibbons, Nathanael West, Djuna Barnes, Samuel Beckett and others, this book analyzes a body of literature – late modernist satire – that can appear by turns aloof, sadistic, hilarious, ironic and poignant, but which continually questions inherited modes of feeling. By recognizing the centrality of satire to modernist aesthetics, Greenberg offers not only a new chapter in the history of satire but a persuasive new idea of what made modernism modern.
Read an excerpt from Modernism, Satire and the Novel, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

Writers Read: Jonathan Greenberg.

--Marshal Zeringue