By Suzanne Hobson (auth.)
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Extra resources for Angels of Modernism: Religion, Culture, Aesthetics 1910–1960
They did not always succeed. The brilliance of Woolf’s conceit in squaring up to and then finally killing her nemesis tends to obscure the fact that far from being universally worshipped the Angel in the House had long been a divisive image. To some critics it seemed restrictive to women; to some, irreligious; and to others, radical precisely for the irreligious way it identified the divine with the domestic and the female. Nina Auerbach cites the end of Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book as an earlier example of the kind of critique found in Woolf.
This attracted not only regretful responses of the type that Lytton Strachey exaggerates and lampoons in Eminent Victorians, but also resourceful redeployments of this figure in new contexts such as those provided by early technologies of flight, the market for greetings cards and, of course, the quintessentially Victorian domestic scene. Strachey repeats the common perception of the Victorians as a generation fighting a doomed rearguard defence of religion in the face of what – from the point of view of the moderns – was incontrovertible evidence of the non-existence of God.
E. in the intellectual climate created by thinkers such as Nietzsche, Freud and Weber and in the social and political aftermath of World War I. Over four chapters, I take four aspects of this larger dilemma in turn, showing how the angel features in modernist responses to, respectively, debates over history, science, sexual emancipation and war. In Chapter 1, I examine three signature angels of the twentieth century: the Angels of Mons, Woolf’s Angel in the House and Benjamin’s Angel of History.