In an influential study, After the Great Divide (1986), Andreas Huyssen argued that modernist art was radicalized and defined by its resistance to ‘mass culture’, the kinds of popular art being enjoyed by the vast majority of the population in this era. Much subsequent criticism, both that on individual authors, and that surveying the modernist literary period more broadly, have, however, placed their emphasis upon the fact that there is no such thing as a ‘great divide’ at this point. Writers, like many others, were after all eager to be present at, and were often influenced by, popular song, dance, movies, vaudeville and Music Hall. To take but one example — one of the most seemingly austere of the modernists, T. S. Eliot, attended tea dances in London with his first wife; he enjoyed the latest movies, but more particularly the vaudeville entertainments with which he was familiar in his youth, and their British equivalent, the Music Halls. He wrote an elegiac piece on one of the most famous of the music-hall performers, ‘Marie Lloyd’ (1923). He read detective fiction, and knew the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle well enough to be able to quote from them at length at parties. His own work shows the influence of vaudeville ‘turns’, especially the unfinished experimental drama Sweeney Agonistes (1927). But the first section of The Waste Land is punctuated by several popular songs of the time, adding to its uncertain and wildly unstable tonality.
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