School of European Culture and Languages

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus (1920)

Creatures Facing Backwards

Constructions of Lateness in Modern European Literature

Professor Ben Hutchinson

Professor Hutchinson was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2011 in the field of Modern European Languages and Literature. He is using the prize money to work on lateness in European literature.

If we tend to connect the modern intuitively to the new – the implied paradigm being one of youth and innovation – an alternative view of modernity, as ‘the old age of the world’, haunts it from its earliest theorizations. Undertaken between Canterbury and Visiting Fellowships in Marbach and Montpellier, this project considers the consequences of viewing modern European literature not as that which is new, but as that which is ‘late’. Inverting the usual teleological perspective of literary history, it explores the extent to which the adjectives ‘modern’ and ‘European’ can be taken to imply what one might term, with Paul Valéry, the ‘embarrassment’ of lateness. Theories of lateness, Spätheit, or tardiveté have changing inflections at different times and in different languages, but they can all be understood as an expression of the modern’s continuing quest for legitimacy. Pursuing a broad historical sweep from late romanticism to late modernism – Professor Hutchinson's forthcoming monograph discusses authors including Mary Shelley, Chateaubriand, and Immermann, Baudelaire, Pater, and Nietzsche, Valéry, Eliot, and Adorno.

School of European Culture & Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

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Last Updated: 16/07/2014