Informality in Modernist Literature, 1900–1940
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Illegitimate Freedom: Informality in Modernist Literature, 1900 - 1940 is the first study of informality in modernist literature. Differentiating informality from intimacy in its introduction, the book discusses the informal in relation with sensory experience, aesthetic presentation, ethical deliberation or action, and social attitudes within modernist works. It examines these works for particular nuances of the word "informality" in each of its chapters in the following thematic sequence: informality that offers promiscuity and humour as counters to self-absorption in works by Virginia Woolf; rebuttals to male priorities in liberalism through "feminine informality" in several short stories by Katherine Mansfield; contempt for colloquialism and intimacy, tinged with class-anxieties and crises of attitude, in T. S. Eliot’s poetry; resistance to disgust in James Joyce’s novels; and the fusion of irreverence, protest, and praise in W. H. Auden’s writings before 1940. The book’s conclusion considers the risks of informality through a discussion of what it calls "inverted dignity." The theoretical aspects of the book offer insights into Lockean liberalism, the ethical dimensions of what Hélène Cixous termed "feminine writing," relations of sublimity and domesticity, Sigmund Freud’s arguments on humour and melancholia, and recent affect theory’s—as well as Immanuel Kant’s and Friedrich Nietzsche’s—views on disgust, linking these with modernism. This wide range of engagement makes this study relevant for those interested in literary studies, critical theory, and philosophy.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Informality as Illegitimate Freedom
2. Chapter One: "Intoxicated Sense": Humour and Promiscuity in Woolf’s To the
Lighthouse and Orlando
3. Chapter Two: Marking Absence: Mansfield’s Feminine Informality vs. Lockean
4. Chapter Three: Eliotic Contempt
5. Chapter Four: Joyce’s Challenges to Disgust
6. Chapter Five: "Inverted Hypocrisy": Auden’s Informal Pedagogy
7. Conclusion: An Openness to Misreading: The Risks of Informality
Gaurav Majumdar is Professor of English at Whitman College. His publications include the book Migrant Form: Anti-Colonial Aesthetics in Joyce, Rushdie, and Ray.