In his paper, "Modernism and the Issue of Periodization," Leonard Orr describes how literary theorists, historians, and anthology editors have put forward many conflicting models for literary periodization, while simultaneously expressing their doubts about the categories they have created. They are caught between intellectual despair and pragmatic necessity, scholarly journals and presses and academic departments imagine they are working at the cutting edge of thinking about their subjects but period concepts remain in place, even while every article focused on the subject expresses strong objections to the terms. Orr traces in his paper these problems and issues through the twentieth century, including the post-modern and post-structuralist responses to the question. Theorists have attempted to narrow the issue by dealing solely with form, techniques and stylistic practices, mere temporal boundaries. In addition to these "splitters," there are "lumpers," who would deny the many different boundary lines that have been made and deny the existence of "postmodernism" or "early modernism" and think of the master-narrative category of "modernism" for the twentieth century. While this essay is focused on modernism, it notes the way parallel questions exist for all of the other periods which are the basis for departments, journals, anthologies, and curricula.
"Modernism and the Issue of Periodization."
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