Before Modernism Was searches for modernism within the textures of modern history. The search takes the reader deep into some of the local historical contexts for modernist cultural production; it is a search for a lost prospect, for a sense of possibility which opens up before us in the act of historical reading. This 'before' is sensed within the haunted properties of the literary marketplace and in the embarrassed and awkward body of the adolescent. It is there in the figure of the rabid dog and of the wandering Polish artist. The prospect is held open by Freud, when he finds that however fully analysed he may be, he cannot quit smoking. The works of Stein, Woolf, Dostoevsky, James, Malinowski, Freud, Wyndham Lewis, and others, are read in relation to these contexts, as these writers and thinkers grapple with the emergence of a fragile sense of historical possibility, and appeal outwards for a constituency to help them realise that prospect.

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