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This article is taken from PN Review 26, Volume 8 Number 6, July - August 1982.

Dada in England Jonathan Buckley

ALAN YOUNG'S investigation of the relationship between Dada and Surrealism and modern English literature really begins in the second chapter of his book, after a survey of Dadaism in New York, Zurich and Paris which concludes with the opinion that it would have been impossible 'for any serious writer in England who was concerned about the direction of the modern movement in art, literature or music to be completely unaware of Dadaism.' After thirty well-documented pages, this statement seems incontrovertible, and yet, as Young says, it is frequently claimed by literary historians that such ignorance was prevalent in English literary circles at the time. The usual complement to this claim is that even when English writers were aware of the progressive activities on the Continent, their response was conditioned by a resolute Philistinism. Such Philistinism clearly did exist-Young has unearthed a remarkable example from the pages of the English Review, a poem by W. R. Titterton, from which this is an excerpt:


But you, you prate of intervals Chinese;
Experiment in tom-toms, nigger howls;
Study your plastic in the Cannibal seas;
And chant your dissonant verse with heaving bowels.


Here the target is modernity in general, but often the conservative press was more specific in its demolitions, manifesting a particular loathing for small publications such as Coterie and Edith Sitwell's Wheels. It is easy to see why the combative Sitwell and her equally conspicuous brothers should have been ...


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