Harold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernism

By Varun Begley

© 2005

The Frankfurt School's discourse on modernism has seldom been linked to contemporary drama, though the questions of aesthetics and politics explored by T.W. Adorno and others seem especially germane to the plays of Harold Pinter, which span high and low cultural forms and move freely from hermetic modernism to political engagement. Examining plays from 1958 to 1996, Varun Begley'sHarold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernism argues that Pinter's work simultaneously embodies the modernist principle of negation and the more fluid aesthetics of the postmodern.

Pinter is arguably one of the most popular and perplexing of modern dramatists writing in English. His plays prefigured, then chronicled, the crumbling divide between modernism and its historical 'others:' popular entertainment, politically committed art, and technological mass culture. Begley sheds new light on Pinter's work by applying the methods and problems of cultural studies discourse. Viewing his plays as a series of responses to fundamental aesthetic and political questions within modernism, Begley argues that, collectively, they narrate a prehistory of the postmodern.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 0.8in x 9.3in
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SKU# SP000796

  • PUBLISHED NOV 2005

    From: $58.50

    Regular Price: $78.00

    ISBN 9780802038876
  • PUBLISHED JUL 2006

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    Regular Price: $89.00

Quick Overview

Viewing his plays as a series of responses to fundamental aesthetic and political questions within modernism, Begley argues that, collectively, they narrate a prehistory of the postmodern.

Harold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernism

By Varun Begley

© 2005

The Frankfurt School's discourse on modernism has seldom been linked to contemporary drama, though the questions of aesthetics and politics explored by T.W. Adorno and others seem especially germane to the plays of Harold Pinter, which span high and low cultural forms and move freely from hermetic modernism to political engagement. Examining plays from 1958 to 1996, Varun Begley'sHarold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernism argues that Pinter's work simultaneously embodies the modernist principle of negation and the more fluid aesthetics of the postmodern.

Pinter is arguably one of the most popular and perplexing of modern dramatists writing in English. His plays prefigured, then chronicled, the crumbling divide between modernism and its historical 'others:' popular entertainment, politically committed art, and technological mass culture. Begley sheds new light on Pinter's work by applying the methods and problems of cultural studies discourse. Viewing his plays as a series of responses to fundamental aesthetic and political questions within modernism, Begley argues that, collectively, they narrate a prehistory of the postmodern.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 0.8in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘A substantial and important addition to Pinter criticism, and to modern drama generally, this exciting book by Varun Begley makes a case for reading Pinter’s work on the cusp of modernism/postmodernism, leading to some intriguing and original insights into the plays. I found the book again and again surprising, with scholarship that is sound and up to date. Harold Pinter and the Twilight of Modernism provides a platform for a new and productive phase of Pinter scholarship.’


    W.B. Worthen, Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, University of California, Berkeley
  • Author Information

    Varun Begley

    is an associate professor in the Department of English at the College of William and Mary.

  • Table of contents

    Introduction
    A last modernist
    'someone called Pinter'
    Resistance
    Negation, autonomy, commitment
    Politics
    Popular culture
    Immanent criticism
    Cultural studies
    Moonlight and modernity

    1: The Politics of Negation
    Reading The Birthday Party
    The aesthetics of resistance: The Caretaker
    Anti-Oedipus: The Homecoming

    2: The Modernist as Populist
    Reading The Dumb Waiter
    A Slight Ache and the question of radio
    Betrayal and mass culture

    3: Towards the Postmodern
    The memory plays: Pinter among the radicals


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