On the Limits of Greenwich Mean Time, or The Failure of a Modernist Revolution

Huber, Irmtraud (April 2014). On the Limits of Greenwich Mean Time, or The Failure of a Modernist Revolution (Unpublished). In: Annual Conference of the British Society for Literature and Science: (BSLS). Guildford. 10.-12.04.2014.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

On the Limits of Greenwich Mean Time, or The Failure of a Modernist Revolution From the introduction of World Standard Time in 1884 to Einstein’s theory of relativity, the nature and regulation of time was a highly contested issue in modernism, with profound political, social and epistemological consequences. Modernist aesthetic sensibilities widely revolted against the increasingly strict rule of the clock, which, as Georg Simmel observed in “The Metropolis and Mental Life,” was established as the necessary basis of a capitalist, urban life. This paper will focus on the contending conceptions of time arising in key modernist texts by authors like Joyce, Woolf and Conrad. I will argue that the uniformity and regularity of time necessary to a rising capitalist society came under attack in a similar way by both modernist literary aesthetics and new scientific discoveries. However, while Einstein’s theory of relativity may have led to a subsequent change of paradigm in scientific thought, it has failed to significantly alter social and popular conceptions of time. Although alternative ways of thinking and living with time are proposed by modernist authors, they remain isolated aesthetic experiments, ineffectual against the regulatory pressure of economic and social structures. In this struggle about the nature of time, so I suggest, science and literature join force against a society that is increasingly governed by economic reason. The fact that they lost this struggle can serve as a striking illustration of an increasing shift of social influence from science and art towards economy.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

UniBE Contributor:

Huber, Irmtraud


800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages




Irmtraud Huber

Date Deposited:

05 Sep 2014 09:16

Last Modified:

05 Sep 2014 09:16



Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback