CAL Seminar - Shell-Shocked History: Memory and Forgetting in Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End

Monday, March 4, 2013 ( 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm )

Location: Morton 324, Stevens Institute of Technology

Post-Doctoral Lecturer, New York University

Ford Madox Ford's 4-part novel Parade's End (1923-1928; mini-series version recently shown on HBO, directed by Susanna White, screenplay by Tom Stoppard) depicts the wartime tribulations of Christopher Tietjens, the youngest son of a landed Yorkshire family. Unlike many epic war novels, Parade's End is marked by fragmentation, jarring time-shifts, ellipses and long stretches of interior monologue. Ford was experimenting in novelistic form, but was also attempting to create new ways of writing history. For Ford, historical objects cannot be directly represented but must be approached from oblique angles, and he sets himself a unique challenge early in the tetralogy by having Tietjens suffer from shell-shock in the form of amnesia. Placed in the context of the secularization of Europe and the increased weight, according to the Foucault of The Order of Things, that historiography is asked to bear, Ford’s modernist experiment emerges at the juncture of the necessity of histories and a modern suspicion of historiographical representation. Shell-shock, in Ford’s hands, is both modern and modernist: modern as a formulation that emerges during the war, but modernist in that Ford uses it as a metaphor for the very process of historical representation, the overwhelming modern need for narratives and depictions of history that modernist interrogations have revealed as so problematic.

Seamus O'Malley is a graduate of the City University of New York and is currently a Postdoctoral Language and Lecturer at New York University. He has written on W.B. Yeats, Ford Madox Ford, Rebecca West, Robert Louis Stevenson, Frank McGuinness and Alan Moore. He co-edited a volume of essays titled Ford Madox Ford and America and is writing a book on modernism and the historical novel.