Baroque Between the Wars: Alternative Style in the Arts, 1918–1939 by Jane Steevenson is published by Oxford University Press.
Baroque Between the Wars draws its strength from Stevenson’s omnivorous sourcing of material and her intellectual curiosity. But if ‘modern baroque’ has traction for a broad range of inter-war visual and performing arts, it works less well, as Stevenson acknowledges, in the context of literature. Where, for instance, do we situate James Joyce? An undoubted modernist, Joyce proves impossible to categorise, his rich intertextuality having little in common with, say, architectural modernism’s quest for purity and new beginnings. And at times Stevenson appears to abandon her quest for a modern baroque altogether, digressing on French crime fiction by contrast with Agatha Christie, or interwar fantasy writing ranged loosely round the undoubted baroque of Ronald Firbank, discussions that seem to belong in another equally fascinating book.