Date of Award
Amy M King
This dissertation proposes the modernist kunstlerroman as a site for aesthetic theorizing. Like the aesthetic manifestos that proliferated between 1890 and 1939, the kunstlerromane of this period advance a set of aesthetic criteria and values. The modernist kunstlerroman’s formal qualities—it’s an art object about art—as well as the period in which it is written—the aesthetically revolutionary modernist period—provide the foundation for reading modernist kunstlerromane as manifesto-like novels. Through close reading, three kunstlerromane of the period are explored as examples of the novel-manifesto: The Tragic Muse (1890), by Henry James; Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), by James Joyce; and The Revenge for Love (1937), by Wyndham Lewis. These novels were chosen for two reasons. First, they span much of the modernist period and represent what we might call emerging, high, and late modernism. Second, the authors have produced important theoretical statements, and their positions in the canon. mean that each has been the subject of extensive critical work. My readings of the three kunstlerromane, then, trace the authors’ theoretical statements and subsequent critical work. Such tracing is not to show that the kunstlerromane are novelized statements of the theoretical statements. Rather, the kunstlerroman is an unrecognized, supplementary site for critical understanding of modernist theory. There are at least three important implications for this research. First, it introduces a heretofore unrealized source for researching modernist aesthetic theory. Next, it provides an underutilized source for studying the theoretical ideas of specific modernist writers, and, finally, it provides a fuller understanding of modernist aesthetics. To this last point, I conclude that for these three canonical writers, at least, theories of perception were foundational to modernism, and perception itself was being redefined in late-nineteenth/early-twentieth-century literature.
Marks, Edward Stephen, "The Novel-Manifesto: Modernist Kunstlerromane and the Discourse of Modernist Aesthetic Theory" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 46.
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