An Unrecognised Face of Literary Modernism (Joanna Rzepa, Modernism and Theology: Rainer Maria Rilke, T.S. Eliot, Czesław Miłosz, Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham 2021, pp. 438)

Jean Ward


A close, and sometimes polemical, reading of Joanna Rzepa’s study Modernism and Theology: Rainer Maria Rilke, T.S. Eliot, Czesław Miłosz reveals the cognitive fruitfulness of a comparativist perspective in considering the nature of the relationship between theological and literary modernisms in a broad European context that, through Rilke, even takes in Russian Orthodoxy. The article shows how in the British context, in which 1922 is a key year for literature, the once clear connection between modernist concerns in theology and literature has been largely forgotten. In Polish literature in turn – since modernism is generally equated with the “Young Poland” movement around the turn of the twentieth century and thus coincides with the most heated period of the modernist controversy in the Catholic Church – the connection is more obvious. In discussing the questions raised by Rzepa’s study, the author is led to reflect on how the substance of historical modernist – anti-modernist debates, as well as their rhetoric, continues to be of importance in the present day, in certain respects very disturbingly so.

Słowa kluczowe: modernisms, literary modernism, theological modernism, European comparativist perspective, Young Poland movement

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