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Modernism on Sea

Art and Culture at the British Seaside


Edited By Lara Feigel and Alexandra Harris

Modernism on Sea brings together writing by some of today’s most exciting seaside critics, curators, filmmakers and scholars, and takes the reader on a journey around the coast of Britain to explore the rich artistic and cultural heritage that can be found there, from St Ives to Scarborough. The authors consider avant-garde art, architecture, film, literature and music, from the early twentieth century to the present, setting the arrival of modernism against the background of seaside tradition.
From the cheeky postcards marvelled at by George Orwell to austere modernist buildings such as the De La Warr Pavilion; from the Camden Town Group’s sojourn in Brighton to John Piper’s ‘Nautical Style’; from Paul Nash’s surrealist benches on the promenade in Swanage to the influence of bunting and deckchairs on the Festival of Britain – Modernism on Sea is a sweeping tour de force which pays tribute to the role of the seaside in shaping British modernism.


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Part VSocial Change on the Promenade


Part V SOCIAL CHANGE ON THE PROMENADE Edwina Keown Edwina Keown lives in Dublin. She holds a BA in literature from Cardiff University and an MPhil and PhD from Trinity College Dublin. She is a teaching fellow at St Patrick’s College, DCU, Dublin. She co-organised the first conference on Irish modernism and is currently working on a collected edition of essays, Irish Modernism: Origins, Contexts, Publics, to be published by Peter Lang, and a mono- graph on Elizabeth Bowen. The Seaside Flâneuse in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart english novelists have long celebrated the seaside as a cornerstone of Englishness, but it is only recently that cultural critics, such as the novelist and art critic Michael Bracewell, have recognised the special role of English seaside resorts in rep- resenting cultural transformations in English society. Bracewell describes a heady scene of art deco architecture, surreal arts, music and popular enter- tainment: a setting that mixes style and vulgarity, grandeur and seediness, permissiveness and morality. He lists ‘the seers of British modernism’: T.S. Eliot; Paul Nash; W.H. Auden and Graham Greene ‘who set out a particu- lar – and enduring – relationship with the ritual landscape of the English coastal holiday’.1 Elizabeth Bowen is a troubling and enlightening addition to Bracewell’s seaside seers of British modernism. An Anglo-Irish writer with homes in both England and Ireland, Bowen was always alert to the significance of crossing- points and boundary spaces. She responded to the English seaside as a place of shifting identities,...

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