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Title: The modernist grotesque body : Joseph Conrad, Wyndham Lewis, T.S. Eliot and Djuna Barnes
Author: Cruickshank, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 9351 5387
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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In this project, I examine how and why modernists used grotesque bodies, and how such an analysis opens up our understanding of what modernism and the body are. While critical responses are highly divided on the grotesque, regarding it as either an a-temporal primitive experience or as a historical genre, in either case it is rarely viewed as intertwined with modernism or modernity. Through a discussion of the literary – and visual – works of Joseph Conrad, Wyndham Lewis, T.S. Eliot and Djuna Barnes, I argue that grotesque bodies are critical to understanding modernism as a movement brought about by sociopolitical, economic, scientific and technological upheavals in the early twentieth century, and as a stylistic entity more generally. These authors use similar imagery – automat that are simultaneously comic and horrible; walking corpses; savage animal-human hybrids – to construct both similar and contradictory responses to contemporary society. By drawing on medieval satire and gothic horror and adapting them to new social and scientific developments, their bodies come to metaphorise the ‘modern’ moment, which is both the fin de siècle and the beginning of a new, unknown epoch. Even the modernist corpus itself becomes a grotesque body, marked by the material conditions of its production. Although the body has become a commonplace in modernist criticism, reading theories of the grotesque alongside modernist art and literature provides a historically grounded, theoretical framework which allows issues like identity, race, politics and sexuality to speak to one another. I will analyse how and why these authors draw on the grotesque in their presentation of the body as a stylistic phenomenon, reading the social-historical context surrounding their creation to determine how the body informs our understanding of the fragmented, often self-contradictory present.
Supervisor: Day, Jon ; Saunders, Max Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available