Reading Modernism’s Cultural Field: Rebecca West’s The Strange Necessity and the Aesthetic “System of Relations”

Laura Heffernan, University of Pennsylvania
Vol. 27, No. 2 (Fall 2008), 309-325

As part of a broader scholarly effort to recover important female-authored texts and establish them in the literary canon, this article claims a place for Rebecca West and her largely marginalized collection The Strange Necessity (1928). Simultaneously, and perhaps more importantly, it seeks to establish the critical conditions that marginalized West in the first place and by extension assert the importance of another modernist literary aesthetic in opposition to the strictly masculinized literary formalism typically associated with T. S. Eliot. West’s aesthetic, which this work names the “Cultural Field” of modernism, is positioned in opposition to New Critical aesthetic formalism by taking umbrage with the formalist notion that the personal and the formal are diametrically opposed.


Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]