Modernist studies is a vibrant and exciting area of study, and many new postgraduates are being drawn to the field. The future is likely to mean more interdisciplinary work, increased attention to the transnational and post-colonial aspects of Modernism, and more discussion of the material culture of Modernism. Seeking to revive the radical energy and experimentation that drove earlier forms of Modernism is no bad thing in a contemporary cultural environment that often seems overly attached to the safe and the familiar. Debate will continue around the use of terms such as avant-garde, modern and Modernist to describe past as well as current works of art. And it is not inconceivable to imagine a time when the talk is once again of Post-Modernism, but the Modernism that it might supplant will this time be more accurately represented and considered. At the moment, however, the more likely picture is one in which diverse Modernisms continue to inform our cultural and artistic futures.
Pardon the academic note, but I would just add that study of the most famous modernists — Joyce, Pound, Eliot, Woolf, Yeats, etc. — has been languishing for many years, and languishing, I think, because they found in the first decades after their death a set of scholars whose intellects rivaled their own. Richard Ellmann and Hugh Kenner, in the second half of the twentieth century, created a portrait of magisterial Modernism that has never really been displaced, but has never been strongly challenged either. They ruled the scholarly roost in their own day and they effectively rule it now, if only because no great rival accounts have yet been forthcoming.
And I’ll add this: the work of literary criticism I most wish I had written is Kenner’s The Pound Era. What an amazing, beautiful, constantly surprising book. I believe that one day it will itself be seen as one of the monuments of Modernism.