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New Left Review I/175, May-June 1989

Raymond Williams

When Was Modernism?

[This lecture was given on 17 March 1987 at the University of Bristol, as one of an annual series founded by a former student at the University and subsequent benefactor. The version printed here is reconstructed from my brief notes and Raymond’s even briefer ones. Although he spoke on that occasion in unhesitating, delicate and sinewy prose—the unmistakable and, where necessary, rousing Williams style—his notes are merely composed of jottings and very broad headings (‘Metropolis’, ‘Exiles’, ‘1840s’, ‘1900–1930’ etc.). Down the lefthand margin are timings in ten minute intervals: he finished according to plan exactly at fifty minutes. I cannot hope to have caught Raymond’s voice accurately, but the trenchancy and relevance of one of his last public lectures are not in doubt. Postmodernism for him was a strictly ideological compound from an enemy formation, and long in need of this authoritative rebuttal. This was a lecture by the ‘Welsh European’ given against a currently dominant international ideology.

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