Blasphemous Modernism

The 20th-Century Word Made Flesh

Oxford University Press, 2017 

Modernist Literature & Culture

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Reviews

“Lively and readable. . . . An important contribution to rethinking the engagement of modernist writers with religion. . . . Makes a persuasive case for the importance of blasphemy as a category of study in its own right.” 

LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS

“Provocative. . . . Pinkerton realizes the extremes of the ‘religious turn’ by entering the conversation through the back door. He convincingly eviscerates the secular caricature of modernism by drawing attention to the various ways in which modernist writers deployed religious belief against itself via acts of often self-reflexive, playful, ‘jocoserious’ blasphemy. All of this is done in an enviably pithy, lucid prose style.” 

MODERNISM/MODERNITY

In the current political and cultural climate it is good to see that people are still willing to take on controversial topics in a thoughtful way. . . . Pinkerton has done a great service to Modernist studies by reminding us of literature’s transgressive power.

ENGLISH: JOURNAL OF THE ENGLISH ASSOCIATION

“Nietzsche posited that both the stench and shadow from the corpse of God would linger long after the death of God, and it is likely that he knew that works of art could function not only as solvents for this stench and shadow, but also as prime perpetuators of it. The especially intriguing thing here, though, is that they can do both at the same time, as Pinkerton makes clear in, say, his insightful reading of Ulysses.”  

RELIGION AND THE ARTS

“Pinkerton’s overall argument is novel, transcending simplistic evaluations of modernism as an overwhelmingly secular aesthetic. . . . [Blasphemous Modernism] is lucid yet ornate, interrogating the complexity of blasphemy as a mechanism ‘giving voice to the unrecognized, the unnatural,’ and transgressing the orthodox boundaries of religion, sexuality, politics, and the body.”

TIME PRESENT

Blasphemous Modernism is a book worth reading, for the work of both research and analysis that Pinkerton put into its writing and for its controversial thesis.” Chapter 1: “a detailed and beautiful analysis of blasphemy in Ulysses and in the last part of Finnegans Wake.” Chapter 2: “insightful readings of poems from [Mina Loy’s published works] and from the unpublished manuscript ‘History of Religion and Eros.’” Chapter 3: “the most exciting part of the book.” Chapter 4: “intelligently and originally presents the opacity of Djuna Barnes’s style . . . as a form of resistance to the sexological view of ‘the invert.’” 

NOVEL: A FORUM ON FICTION

“Steve Pinkerton’s compellingly readable new study is a welcome addition to those literary histories that complicate and nuance readings of a modernist period supposedly marked by a fatal spread of doubt in all religious issues. . . . What is distinctive about Pinkerton’s critical approach is his resolve to show that [this era’s] intense interest in religion (and speaking out against it) was a formidable, even vitalizing potency behind aesthetic modernism.”

LITERATURE & HISTORY

“Steve Pinkerton’s Blasphemous Modernism: The 20th-Century Word Made Flesh interrogates and challenges common understandings of the period as uninterested in religion’s primacy. . . . Most compellingly, Pinkerton points to the ways that 'blasphemy is a barometer and a mechanism of power, a discourse governed by the powerful but also occasionally usurped by the marginalized in politically significant ways.' . . . This rebalancing of context is the greatest achievement of Blasphemous Modernism, situating religion even where it seems to be rejected.” 

THE YEAR'S WORK IN ENGLISH STUDIES

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From the back cover: 

© 2019 by Steve Pinkerton