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Title:Fiction-criticism in interwar England: Judgment, gender, and the pluralist public sphere
Author(s):Garber, Cecily
Director of Research:Mahaffey, Vicki
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mahaffey, Vicki
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Nazar, Hina; Hansen, James A.; Gaedtke, Andrew
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
British modernism
interwar period
public sphere
Virginia Woolf
Aldous Huxley
Rose Macaulay
J.M. Coetzee
Hannah Arendt
Abstract:It is tempting to say that intellectual writers in early twentieth-century Britain produced popular journalism for outlets like Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, and The Daily Telegraph simply to make money. However, this dissertation argues that such “side” work in fact played an important role in intellectual writers’ careers by giving them tools to produce topical, political literature. This study first examines the popular essays of Rose Macaulay, Aldous Huxley, and Virginia Woolf, all intellectually respected novelists in their day, to argue that their journalism crossed contentious lines in the period’s “battle of the ’brows,” or the battle between high, middle, and lowbrows for cultural legitimacy. This study then defines a genre I call “fiction- criticism” to describe novels like Macaulay’s Potterism, Huxley’s Point Counter Point, and Woolf’s unpublished “novel-essay,” The Pargiters, which all bear significant traces of their popular essay writing and occupy an overdetermined position in the literary public sphere. Fiction-criticism’s status as accessible, intelligent, and conversant with high and middlebrow conventions allowed it to capture and speak to a wide readership from varying classes and cultural backgrounds. In doing so, the genre promoted dialogue between citizens with different tastes, outlooks, and even value systems and consequently worked to broaden readers’ political judgment. The project argues that cultivating political judgment was particularly important for women who were entering the public sphere through professions newly opened to them. To ground my understanding of judgment, I turn to Hannah Arendt’s seminal text on the subject, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, which draws a link between aesthetic judgment, a practice that these writers were cultivating, and political judgment, which effects how readers perceive and ultimately act in the world. This project concludes with a “coda” that demonstrates the persistence and relevance of fiction-criticism in the twenty-first century, in J. M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year.
Issue Date:2014-05-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Cecily Garber
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-05-30
Date Deposited:2014-05

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