PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Next Issue Fire and Tears: a meditation, VAHNI CAPILDEO Grodzinksi’s Kosher Bakery and other poems, MICHAEL BRETT Vienna, MARIUS KOCIEJOWSKI In conversation with John Ash, JEFFREY KAHRS Play it all the way through, first – but slowly, KIRTSY GUNN
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This article is taken from PN Review 48, Volume 12 Number 4, March - April 1986.

Genesis of the Subject Stephen Bann

The 'return to order' is a familiar figure of modernist discourse. A few decades after Manet and the Impressionists had unsettled the conventions of academic painting, Maurice Denis was acclaiming the achievement of Cézanne in reversing the modernist tendency and 'saving the orthodoxy'. Around 1910, avant-garde groups in Western and Eastern Europe were throwing off the historical burden of what the Futurists called 'passéisme'. But by 1922 El Lissitsky recalled Mayakovsky's well-known iconoclastic slogan when he proclaimed: 'It is laughable as it is naive to talk nowadays about "wanting to throw Pushkin overboard".'

Yet the Editors of PN Review have given a new twist to the screw in their statement of 'A New Orthodoxy'. For them it is the orthodoxy which must be attacked, and not reasserted. But it is an orthodoxy which has turned away from the work of contemporary poets, novelists and writers, taking refuge in 'unjustified' theories of language which militate against recognition of the individual subject. Against this orthodoxy, which they regard presumably as a kind of new academy, they advocate a judicious blend of the contemporary and the traditional - contemporary writers, certainly, are to be given their fair share of attention, but 'traditional literary approaches' must remain available for assessing and evaluating their texts.

Writing as I do from the viewpoint of an art critic and cultural critic, more so than as a literary critic, I find this scenario rather irrelevant. All of us have our private demonologies, and ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image