Rethinking G.K. Chesterton and Literary Modernism: Parody, Performance, and Popular Culture, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Rethinking G.K. Chesterton and Literary Modernism

Parody, Performance, and Popular Culture, 1st Edition

By Michael Shallcross


296 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781138678736
pub: 2017-11-30
SAVE ~$31.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315558752
pub: 2017-11-27
from $27.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


This book comprehensively rethinks the relationship between G.K. Chesterton and a range of key literary modernists. When Chesterton and modernism have previously been considered in relation to one another, the dynamic has typically been conceived as one of mutual hostility, grounded in Chesterton’s advocacy of popular culture and modernist literature’s appeal to an aesthetic elite. In setting out to challenge this binary narrative, Shallcross establishes for the first time the depth and ambivalence of Chesterton’s engagement with modernism, as well as the reciprocal fascination of leading modernist writers with Chesterton’s fiction and thought.

Shallcross argues that this dynamic was defined by various forms of parody and performance, and that these histrionic expressions of cultural play not only suffused the era, but found particular embodiment in Chesterton’s public persona. This reading not only enables a far-reaching reassessment of Chesterton’s corpus, but also produces a framework through which to re-evaluate the creative and critical projects of a host of modernist writers—most sustainedly, T.S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, and Ezra Pound—through the prism of Chesterton's disruptive presence. The result is an innovative study of the literary performance of popular and ‘high’ culture in early twentieth-century Britain, which adds a valuable new perspective to continuing critical debates on the parameters of modernism.


Shallcross’s volume presents "a fascinating and important contribution to the literature not just on Chesterton but also on modernism and literary movements of the early 20th century more widely… Shallcross does this with Chesterton so expertly, originally and fascinatingly that his book should be welcomed and read by anyone with any interest in British culture in the early twentieth century."

Luke Seaber, University College London

"Rethinking G. K. Chesterton and Literary Modernism proves a richly informed, rewarding undertaking […] Shallcross's masterful project offers keen insights into [Chesterton's] peculiarly unsettled/unsettling narrative performances"

William J. Scheick, University of Texas

Table of Contents


Introduction: Sublime Vulgarity, Fanatical Play

1 The Chesterbentley: A Fin-de-Siècle Nonsense Friendship

2 The Ethics of Travesty: Chesterton’s Ludicrous Performance on the Edwardian Literary Stage

3 A Hundred Visions and Revisions: Chesterton Refracted through the Avant-Garde of 1910

4 We Discharge Ourselves on Both Sides: The Parodic Commerce of Chesterton and the Men of 1914

5 Le Mob c’est Moi: 1920s Modernism as Monstrous Carnival

6 Audacious Reconciliation: The Human Circulating Library of Late Modernism

About the Author

Michael Shallcross is an independent researcher, based in York, UK.

About the Series

Literary Texts and the Popular Marketplace

In the past, the critics and writers who formulated the boundaries of the literary canon in British literature restricted its membership to ‘high culture’ and the ‘highbrow’. Writers whose work lies outside these selectively applied parameters of literary taste and value have been assigned to the derogatory category of ‘middlebrow’ or ‘popular’ literature. Some of these writers were rejected from the canon by their willing embrace of popular appeal, and their openness to a wide readership. Many texts were not included because they were written by women, addressed women’s concerns, or because they were concerned with middle- and working-class values and aspirations that were inimical to the literature of high culture. Other categories that have been disadvantaged by the institutional application of canonicity in British literary culture include regionality, the literature of impairment, political stance, and writers of colour.

This series offers monographs and edited collections of essays that examine the extents and effects of writing that resists the regulation of the canon. Crossing both cultural and geographic boundaries, this series brings together studies of texts, writers, readers, producers, and distributors. It will highlight current debates about the politics of mainstream readerships and media, about the designation of audiences and material methods of circulation, and will address contemporary critical concerns. By attending to how these texts resist the ‘high’ cultural imperative the works in this series make it possible to learn how culture is commodified for particular classes, and the role that gender and social class play in the production of those categories.

Manuscripts should be in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 words. Proposals should be eight to ten pages in length and should include a brief overview of the relevant scholarship in the field, the contribution which your work will make, a breakdown of the contents by chapter, an account of the number and type of illustrations, a brief survey of competing works, to whom the proposed book could be marketed, and the intended audience. Proposals should include a minimum of two sample chapters.

Please send all queries and proposals to the series editors, Kate Macdonald ( and Ann Rea (, for preliminary review.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 20th Century