Modernism and the Crisis of Sovereignty

By Andrew John Miller

© 2007 – Routledge

252 pages

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Paperback: 9780415541725
pub: 2012-02-23
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About the Book

This book describes how three of the most significant Anglophone writers of the first half of the twentieth century – Yeats, Eliot, and Woolf – wrestled with a geopolitical situation in which national boundaries had come to seem increasingly permeable at the same time as war among (and within) individual nation-states had come to seem virtually inescapable. Drawing on Jean-François Lyotard's analysis of the elements of performativity in J.L. Austin's speech act theory, and making critical use of Carl Schmitt’s writings on sovereignty and world order, Miller situates the writings of Yeats, Eliot, and Woolf in the context of what Lyotard describes as a "civil war of language." By virtue of its dissolution of any clear boundary between "interiority" and "exteriority," as well as by virtue of its resistance to any decisive form of resolution or regulation, this "civil war of language" takes on dimensions that are ultimately global in scope.

Miller examines the emergence of modernism as bound up with a crisis of personal, political, and aesthetic sovereignty that undermined traditional distinctions between the public and private. In the process, he directly engages with the theoretical discourse surrounding the geopolitical impact of globalization and biopolitics: a discourse that is central to the influential and widely-debated work of such varied figures as Carl Schmitt, Hardt and Negri, Giorgio Agamben, and Jean-Luc Nancy. This book will be of interest to anyone concerned not only with twentieth-century literature but also with questions of nationalism and globalization.

Table of Contents

Preface; Chapter 1: Crisis of Sovereignty: Global Civil War in Yeats, Eliot, and Woolf; Chapter 2: Civil Wars of Language: Irish Performativity in Yeats; Chapter 3: "Social Welfare Dream": Sovereignty, Responsibility, and Biopolitics in Yeats; Chapter 4: "Compassing Material Ends": Sovereignty, Pluralism, and Professionalism in Eliot; Chapter 5: Between Nation and Profession: Aesthetic Sovereignty in Woolf’s Between the Acts; Chapter 6: "Traditions of the Private House": Sovereignty, Civility, and Ownership; Notes; Bibliography; Index

About the Author

Andrew John Miller is Associate Professor in the Départment d’études anglaises at the Université de Montréal.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature

From Joyce to Rushdie, Modernism to Food Writing, Routledge Studies in Twentieth Century Literature looks at both the literature and culture of the 20th century. This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Considering literature alongside religion, popular culture, race, gender, ecology, travel, class, space, and other subjects, titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh