Some Notes on Modernism and Creative Writing

Michael Nath

Literary Criticism


In what may be taken as a challenge, the critic and novelist Elif Batuman noted that, 

Within the seemingly homogeneous sphere of the university English department, a schism has opened up between literary scholarship and creative writing, disciplines which differ in their points of reference (Samuel Richardson v. Jhumpa Lahiri) […] literary historians don’t write about creative writing, and creative writers don’t write literary histories.1

So as a teacher of both modernism and creative writing, I would like to consider the following: 1) the practical training that the creative-writing student may acquire from experience of the modernist novel; 2) the modification, or refutation, of what may have become creative-writing doctrine by examples drawn from modernism; 3) some ways in which creative-writing practice and study may refresh our understanding of modernism. In part, my concern is the manner in which institutionalized creative writing has, in fact, been yielding for some time to the pressure to accommodate theory, as its ‘pedagogy’ (a symptomatically inflated term in itself) is rationalized.2 The pressure is due to a presumption about the problem of defining solely artistic values or criteria in teaching and assessing creative writing, though it is, of course, tailgated by literary discourse generally, where concern with value has been transferred from close reading to social and ideological diagnosis and identity recognition. In creative-writing teaching, this is apt to issue in formulations such as the following: ‘Can you identify your own theoretical perspective in terms of your most important values, beliefs or ideology?’3 Meanwhile, attention to the practice, intention or disposition (not to mention the life) of the individual artist, is inhibited. An account of the general situation is offered by James Wood:

Writers […] are often suspicious of the way academic criticism nullifies authorial intention in pursuit of the symptomatic. […] Value follows intention. There is no greater mark of the gap that separates writers and English departments than the question of value. The very thing that most matters to writers, the first question they ask of a work – is it any good? – is often largely irrelevant to university teachers. Writers are intensely interested in what might be called aesthetic success, they have to be because in order to create something successful, one must learn about other people’s successful creations. To the academy, much of this value-chat looks like, and indeed can be, mere impressionism.4

That final sentence I take as caution, rather than concession. Un-academic discussion is not of necessity mere impressionism; and as we shall see, the responsive impression may be important.

But if creative writing needs to be conserved from agitation by theory, it needs also to be defended against the kind of textbook or masterclass ‘principles’ that have now become dogmatic in a manner bossed by the market. I would suggest that discussion of modernist models in the creative-writing class may be doubly effective here, and in a way, moreover, that re-illuminates modernism itself at the level of practice. The issue is persuading the literary-academic wing that a reconciliation of interests is possible, when it has long since shelved in the nursery those exponents of value who were unembarrassed by irrational standards, enchantment, instinct, reading with the spine.5 This may require a degree of contranatant bargaining till we come upon a stretch where the banks of theory and practice are bridged by experience. 

A foundation may occur in Aristotle’s discussion of the intellectual virtues, among which appears phronesis (‘practical wisdom’/ ’prudence’/ ’sagacity’). Following a definition of art, phronesis says Aristotle is not an art (since it’s concerned with doing, not making), though the sequence suggests sympathy between the two. Phronesis combines knowledge of general principles and (imperatively) ‘familiarity with particulars’. The following statement offers guidance of a kind we may attend to as expressive of a valuable bias: ‘It is, in fact, experience rather than theory that normally gets results.’ The manner in which the virtue in question recurs in Chapter 6 of The Ethics suggests its fertility.6 Aristotle concludes by stipulating its collaborative necessity for other acts of judgement and intellectual activity.7

Encouragement appears also in Husserl’s final conception of the ‘life-world’, the practical and pre-theoretical substructure of ‘straightforward experience’ in its intuitive and subjective dimensions, and, we might say, the common stage of the impression.8 An attraction of this is Husserl’s commitment to representing the life-world below the level of theory, with unceasing attention to his own method of ‘reduction’ (a leading-back to experience as ‘Heraclitean flux’). The following complaint seems to me notable since it reveals willingness to reconcile the scrupulous method of Husserl’s own philosophy with the material of imagination: ‘Since we seek in vain in world literature for investigations that could serve as preparatory studies for us […] we ourselves must make a completely new beginning.’9 The note of heroic disappointment is answered responsively in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s recognition of the life-world as the ‘central theme of phenomenology’ in Husserl’s final work, and in his description of phenomenology as an attitude of wonder whose development into a system has not overtaken the work of certain modern artists.10 A confirmation of the infra-theoretical vitality of Husserl’s conception was offered by Hans-Georg Gadamer: ‘Life-world [is] one of the few new words proposed by a philosopher that has had a success of its own in ordinary language […] It does not restrict the task of philosophy to the foundation of science but extends it to the wide field of everyday experience.’11 And we will note Gadamer’s recommendation of phronesis as a vital connection with ‘Husserl’s idea of a new kind of life-world praxis.’12 To the objection that the extension of the life-world to the creative-writing class may issue in a ‘picture-book phenomenology’, an attitude of (provisional) impudence might be recommended.13 For what it is worth, the term ‘life-world’ has at least the recent approval of the Nobel Academy.14

A second source of encouragement is a passage of mature revaluation where Nietzsche addresses the artistic disposition as the subject of ‘that most difficult and captious form of backward inference […] from the work to the maker’. This issues in the cardinal formulation: ‘Regarding all aesthetic values I now avail myself of this main distinction: I ask in every instance, “is it hunger or superabundance that has here become creative?”’15 The distinction speaks for the life-world, where the separation of work and maker has always been intuited as rationalization. From an impression of capacity, energy, attitude, we infer a making personality, spontaneously, or gradually. The distinction also confers value. I will pause here on its positive term.

Nietzsche’s word for superabundance, Überfluß (= ‘overflow’), also sounds like a designation of the Baroque. Now we may think of the baroque traits of subjective emphasis, phantasmagoria, confusion of borders, and the attraction towards ‘movement above all, movement which is a frank exhibition of energy and escape from classical restraint’, as morphologically related to modernism; while the baroque drive to ‘depart so far from the familiar model that some of your audience think you have forgotten it entirely,’ comprehends the dialectical relationship between modernism and tradition.16 To Harbison’s caution that, ‘When one thinks of “Baroque” impulses in modern literature, one is on shakier ground than in architecture,’ we might reply, not if your stance is morphological, rather than taxonomic.17 The idea of morphology (‘not the study of forms but of forming powers’) I take from Marshall Brown.18 Brown argues that the work of Heinrich Wöllflin progressively sublates the initially-preferred category ‘classic’ in the category ‘baroque’ in a manner that, I’d suggest, correlates with the unexhausted power of modernism itself. Thus, the ‘true meaning’ of baroque art ‘is to be an art of flux – of time’. ‘Classic’ comes to stand for ‘absence’, ‘rest’, ‘law’, ‘silence’, ‘death’; while ‘baroque’ stands for ‘presence’, ‘movement’, ‘freedom’, ‘voice’, ‘life’.19 Furthermore, Brown compares Wöllflin’s growing attraction to the baroque with Nietzsche’s ‘similarly shifty dialectic of the Apollonian and the Dionysian.’20 The point to be made here is that by the time of The Gay Science, the Apollonian has evidently disappeared from Nietzsche’s aesthetics, the Dionysian seeming to attract Nietzsche exclusively. Yet the Apollonian has been preserved, as the text insists, when the superabundant artist is driven (by love or gratitude) to forms of ‘immortalizing’ expression.21 Meanwhile, Brown’s final remarks on Wöllflin propose that ‘every artwork is both classic and baroque’, classic with respect to its ‘essence’ and ‘formal perfection’, baroque with respect to its ‘existence’ and ‘expressivity’.22

The capacity for meaningful survival is at stake here, and when Frank Kermode associated that capacity with the ‘classic’, he implicitly resorted to the effects of the baroque. So, the classic tends to be ‘complex, superficially confused, resembling a dream in its condensations and overdeterminations, yet not like a dream in speaking with disarming immediacy to our waking concerns.’ In this sense, the modernism of Kafka, Joyce, Proust, is ‘classic’.23

We have identified here a set of terms, ‘life-world’, ‘superabundance’, ‘classic’, ‘baroque’, which, taking the long view, may offer possibility of a more vigorous practical sense of ‘modernism’ itself, than any limited period interpretation, whether formalist or historicist.24 They may, in addition, conduce to a sense of modernism as power, as opposed to lament, revolt, complaint; the power would be that of re-enchantment.  

In practice, the terms may be supplemented with the following: 1) A working language that is familiar with the life-world, everyday, ad hoc. Since the novelist’s ‘workshop’ is a subjective space, and a wide one, this requires flexibility over rigour or academicism; and it justifies recourse to the impression; as it does to the use of technical terms from fields outside the one in question – a method in criticism that Michael Baxandall traced back to Pliny’s Natural History via the Florentine scholar Landino (painterly terms having been originally literary).25 2) A criterion sensitive to liveliness, energy, fullness, which may guide inference of the author’s disposition or intention; here again, the impression or instinctive response can lead the way.26 3) Recognition of a living bridge between work and maker constituted by diary entry, interview, biography, actual relationships, state of health. 4) Adapting Kermode’s sense of ‘classic’, and Harbison’s departure from the familiar model, recognition of tradition as source, and elastic limit. 5) An attention to art as magic and enchantment that is responsive to the artistic self-consciousness of modernism itself, as it is to the fundamental effect of creative writing.27


The creative module I will offer as example is devoted to novel writing. Classes alternate between discussion of extracts from published novelists and writing exercises based on the aspects of the novel illustrated by the extracts. The spirit of the course is one of apprenticeship. Class exercises encourage technical imitation, and a lively sense of tradition. The extracts range from Boccaccio and Defoe to Cormac McCarthy, Donna Tartt, Lee Child, Dan Brown. Modernists compose roughly one third of the extracts (Joyce, Proust, Woolf, Kafka, Mansfield, Lawrence, Musil, Céline, Henry Green); two novels are studied in full: Franz Kafka, The Trial (1923); Saul Bellow, Herzog (1964). In order to offer a reasonably concentrated discussion here, I shall confine my observations to the parts of the module concerned with Character and Narrative Voice. My evidence is everywhere drawn from practice and class discussion, though some of the speculation about the bearing of creative writing upon the study of modernism, belongs to the present essay alone.   

The writers represented in extract in our study of Character are: Lee Child; Woolf; Proust; Dan Brown; DH Lawrence; George Eliot; Dickens; Thomas Harris; RL Stevenson; Bellow. Adverting where relevant to some of the other writers, I shall consider in detail the presentations in Proust, Lawrence, and Woolf of, respectively, the Baron de Charlus, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, and Mrs. Manresa (with overlapping comments on another novel by Woolf). I shall identify the extracts employed.28

We begin with the extract, ‘The morning after Robert had told me all these things about his uncle […] I had caught him in the act of spying on me.’ Proust’s character work here is, according to a dominant principle, not superabundant, but excessive, or merely wasteful, creative-writing doctrine as a whole tending towards what one may term dietary severity, or austere economy. Frequent use of Hemingway and Raymond Carver as models is symptomatic. The following instruction is typical: ‘One telling detail can be more effective than a page of photographically accurate description. Be wary of over description and cut down on your use of adjectives.’30

The Narrator’s impressions of a man who is making a remarkable spectacle of himself (madman, spy, thief), are indeed copious, and the similes didactic, in a manner typical of Proust (e.g., ‘[he] made the perfunctory gesture of annoyance by which people mean to show that they have waited long enough, although they never make it when they are really waiting’); yet the effect is arresting. So how to employ this long passage as an example? 

One may begin with a simple impression, putting oneself in the Narrator’s shoes: Now what’s he up to? Not acting, but over-acting, suspiciously, in extravagant combination of ham gestures, cabotinage, mime. The everyday idiom serves the creative-writing class, since it removes the cordon from a rather grand modernist, allowing apprentices to go up and touch. One might add that it also serves modernism, where an immediately-academic enquiry or formulation would abstract the life-world of the novel from both the common experience of the student and the practical attitude of the artist. Proust does not compose in research terms, and his effects are not research effects; though they will, of course, exemplify aesthetic tendencies, and these may have their phenomenological complements. 

One such tendency is modernism’s foregrounding of character over story. Merleau-Ponty conceived the life-world itself as drama, when he wrote of the living body of another, once perceived, as the centre of a ‘vortex’ and the ‘theatre of a certain process of elaboration’.31 These suggestive phrases do something to explain the quality of the Narrator’s response, as does Sartre’s stipulation: ‘We can not […] perceive and imagine simultaneously; it must be either one or the other.’32 We may not be able to do both at the same time, but it was a preoccupation of Sartre’s that the alternation of these mental acts may be so rapid as to induce a flux that is itself a form of narration. This is because behaviour is sufficiently often play-acting that what is seen may give rise to possibilities of simulation, concealment, motivation.33 It can be movement towards, or away from, the self. The lesson, then, for the apprentice is that behaviour itself may suggest, or even produce, story, as impression is characterized and plotted by imagination – thus the Narrator’s representation of himself as a boy detective. The Narrator’s observation, ‘He darted a final glance at me that was at once bold, prudent, rapid and profound’, an extravagance from the point of view of ‘austerity’, absorbs students as they are set to work out the oppositions and balances of the adjectival quartet – in competition with what they tend to regard as the childishness of the Narrator’s concluding impression ( the ‘hotel crook’). So, the initial impression (Now what’s he up to?) leads, unresolved, to secondary impressions: 1) He’s hiding in the limelight; 2)There’s more to him than meets the eye; 3) He has something up his sleeve – that something being the Baron’s fierce sexuality, but also himself

Such impressions may serve as patterns or essences for the apprentice, as they direct the attention to character sources in personal experience. ‘Only the impression,’ writes Proust, ‘however trivial its material may seem to be [….] is a criterion of truth […] The impression is for the writer what the experiment is for the scientist, with the difference that in the scientist the work of the intelligence precedes the experiment, and in the writer it comes after the impression.’34 From a flux of experience, grafting, reparticularization, patient work may raise sublime personality. So, beginning in Proust’s actual friendship with the fabulous charlatan Robert de Montesquiou, the Baron de Charlus appears to have been combined in earlier drafts with the diplomat M de Norpois (a friend of the Narrator’s family who counsels him against a career in writing), this composite bearing the name M de Quercy.35

These impressions may also register the uncanny quality of the Baron’s first substantial appearance, the narrator having listened with absorption to Saint Loup’s accounts of his uncommonly-intimidating uncle, descended from princes of Sicily, without being able to identify the man he is observing as that person.36 A particular family history becomes present in this scene, with the effect of sorcery. 

The sense of ‘calling up’ images and characters is peculiarly common among modernist writers, and its expression peculiarly confident.37 It is the more persuasive the more it depends on attention to the mundane, to the recorded past, to ordinary effects and presences. Conceiving history as a grimoire, Proust’s Narrator speaks later of the necromantic aspect of a living person’s relationship to the images of their race, the ‘disconcerting pantomime’ of presence, solidity, movement.38 The idea is extended to the supernatural effect of the most insignificant action. Genius does not reveal the ‘secret of the infinite’; it says, ‘Take care of my top hat.’39 The marvel of this casual phrase is its resurrection of a host of instances.40 The comparison of novelist and medium is solicited.41 These are valuable lessons about character and magic for students who enter the course with developed tastes in fantasy writing (and in many cases, not much else); though they require the fostering of confidence that neither the writer nor the reader’s time is being wasted, which is the element that creative-writing orthodoxy, at its most importunate, would deny the apprentice.

Instructions of the order, ‘As a writer you have only one job: to make the reader turn the page’, or ‘The purpose of writing is communication’,42 and dogmatic assertions about ‘narrative drive’ and ‘leanness’, are infected with the rationalism of the culture/entertainment industry, whose end is to maximize consumption of standardized product. To this end, superabundance is an obvious obstacle; the page that detains, and, we might say, feasts, the reader with character, also teaches the reader that time they’re supposed to lack as a matter of ideological etiquette (‘Life’s too short to read Proust!’), is theirs all along – if they choose to take it. Thinkers on both the left and liberal-conservative wings have observed that the fate of the individual under enlightenment or rationalism is ‘repressive equality’, ‘levelling’, or the condition ‘manqué’.43 In the agitated partnership of creative-writing orthodoxy and modern publishing, the phenomenon translates into ressentiment against character itself (as subjectivity, or embodied time, and style).44

The consequence is a decline into ‘pseudo-individuality’.45 We read that clothing does not constitute character, so that ‘A single item – black jeans, a flimsy halter top – will usually do the work. The well-chosen detail is always more effective than the exhaustive inventory.’46 The persuasion is to supply the reader with the ‘trademark’ (a notably vicious cliché of our time) which assures them that they are getting what they are paying for. At its most coercive, such denial of all detail that does not contribute to character as a set of distinctive vectors, produces Jack Reacher, who ‘had long ago quit carrying things he didn’t need […] He owned the things in his pockets and the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet. That was all, and that was enough.’47 One of the things in Reacher’s pocket is a ‘clip-together toothbrush’, a ‘well-chosen detail’ that betrays the vulnerability of such fiction to the silly question: Does this hero of modern life remember to clean his teeth? Indeed, he does (otherwise his breath would suffice to knock men out – no need for martial arts skills). But for the most part, one is not encouraged to marvel at the contiguity of Reacher. The attitude of all such writing is false magic: the reader is led to a hole in the fence, through which they escape history and the life-world; an unreal fiesta or blood banquet awaits them. 

When Lawrence begins with a description of Gudrun Brangwen’s clothing, ‘She wore a dress of dark-blue silky stuff, with ruches of blue and green linen lace in the neck and sleeves; and she had emerald stockings’, he is not ‘inventorising’, but offering an experimental ensemble.48 Our response may begin with the question, What does she look like? Women’s couture of a century ago is unfamiliar now to many of us. To consider what sort of style Lawrence (an attentive observer of female dress in this novel) ascribes to Gudrun (as an artist and model who has returned to the provinces from the metropolis), interested students may consult Vogue, which goes back to this period, and provided threats of its own in an era of provocative magazines.49 Gudrun’s fashion sense is striking enough to provoke the mockery of some miners’ wives later in the chapter; along with the disdain with which Ursula and Gudrun regard marriage, this contributes to the impression that style may now function as a positive complement of attitude (a modernist development that we compare with the narrator’s remarks on the dress of free-thinking Dorothea Brooke in the opening of Middlemarch (1871), so as to recognize a classic model, and the tradition to which Lawrence’s novel belongs). So, Gudrun’s dress is an expression of independence, or freedom, she possesses ‘perfect sang-froid’ (= she is cool). But unlike the flowers that Lawrence describes with the same sort of absorption, humans have selves, a troubling addition conveyed in Gudrun by the attribution of ‘a strange grimace, half sly smiling, half anguish’, and ‘her look of confidence and diffidence’ (a seeming contradiction that suggests a double nature, later to be formulated as Gudrun’s governing quality of ‘irony’, but here a fascinating problem for the class: is she inwardly more confident than she looks, or is she all show?). As we note the cold natural colours of her dress, we deduce that clothing may indeed be constitutive of character. We also note the tension between this and Lawrence’s exploratory approaches upon the life-world via scenes of male nakedness.50 Both modes of presentation are, in fact, among modernism’s most energetic experiments with character: their aim is that transformation described by Lawrence in a letter to Edward Garnett, in which, by analogy with the phenomenon of allotropy, self appears as a different form of the same element.51 In the novel itself, the language of the occult is abundantly ready to hand, not as evidence or presumption of transformation, but as invitation to the reader to collaborate in effecting it.52 Implicit in the opening presentation of Gudrun is ‘something almost demoniacal’.53

With respect to the treatment of Gudrun’s older sister, Ursula, the passage offers an instructive modification of the ‘single detail/exhaustive inventory’ dichotomy. Which is to say, it tells us nothing of Ursula’s clothing. Our lessons here are about asymmetry and ‘ease’ or ‘facilita’:54 a fullish portrait of one character is contrasted by an economic sketch of the other. The category of ease, adapted in discussion of painting from literary criticism, means ‘quickness-with-diligence’/’diligence-with-quickness’, and is used in approval of art that ‘appears complete but not overfinished.’ We might add that Ursula’s look of ‘sensitive expectancy’ is a novelist’s way of clearing the decks. If this opening is, so to speak, Gudrun’s debut, Ursula being familiar from the earlier The Rainbow (1915), that look advises us that the character’s future is now our concern.

A basic difference between the two presentations so far considered is between the introduction of character as silent spectacle, and characters paired in conversation. A third kind of presentation takes place in a group. Here, we may find that bold strokes are required to foreground one person among a number.

Students are quick to notice that in Woolf’s introduction of Mrs. Manresa, a scarlet woman who has gate-crashed an upper-middle class lunch with a gay friend in tow, the verb ‘ogled’ or participle ‘ogling’ occurs four times; and some of them hear the pun in the surname.55 Yet the presentation hovers over caricature without settling on it. The first sentence pairs the character’s supposedly crude gaze with a clause that might connote Pygmalion (animation of the stuffed butler). The second counterpoints philistine gesturing at the family paintings with her acknowledgement that someone will appreciate them (this being the friend she’s brought with her). Paragraph three begins with a sort of group hyperbaton, in which the obvious imputation yields to gratitude: ‘Vulgar she was […] But what a desirable, at least, valuable, quality it was […]’. The group narrator then catches Mrs. Manresa’s probable idioms, a breath of fresh air, and break the ice. The champagne she brings is, we might say, her bottled self. And its rising fizz in the glass of the old man for whom she’s poured first, replaces her conversation – a moment in which spontaneity is finely focussed. Practically, all this offers basic lessons for the introduction of a character to a group, or character’s distinction within a group. Manresa’s appearance is both disruption and relief. ‘Relief’ may also alert us to the workshop term ‘rilievo’: ‘the appearance of a form modelled in the round, attained by skilful and discreet treatment of the tones on its surface.’56 We could also attend to the explicit revaluation of vulgarity as evidence of a development in Woolf’s modernism. 

One way into this is by recalling Mrs Dalloway (at our institution, a novel with which most students are familiar), where Woolf pursues the life-world via the impression. Critical preparation for the novel is evident in the essays ‘Modern Fiction’ (1919) and ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’ (1924), which take issue with the ‘materialism’ and ‘bootmaking’ of some established English novelists.57 In practice, however, Woolf’s dichotomies of impressionism and materialism, spirit and body, consciousness and vulgarity, issue in a novel whose significant effects often seem portentous, and whose texture and main beings depleted and too delicate. Comparing the closing party with the Manresa scene, we find an empty table: plates are already being cleared, guests are going upstairs.58 This movement recognizes as recent models those parties in Joyce and Proust, in which the protagonist reflects on time, and the ageing of those long known to them – though it is in search of its own ecstasy.59 But it leaves something vital behind. There is a saddening clarity in the recognition that the feeling sought by Clarissa Dalloway is secured only hollowly, ‘at arm’s length […], not in the heart,’ – saddening, because this is also what the writing is seeking.60 And a tough criticism – tough because it approaches the kind of backward inference from work to artist that Nietzsche thought so important – is, one could say, ventriloquized through a ‘very bad poet’ (though figure of good sense), who happens to be among the guests: ‘She was rather a prig.’61 A hunger that lacks stomach has here become creative, and is aware of it. In this regard, the ressentiment that seems to be levelled at Woolf’s elected free spirit, Sally Seaton, is of considerable interest. The drift of the re-encounter with Clarissa’s old friend, who, like Mrs. Manresa, has gate-crashed the party, is not only that her once-remarkable vitality has decayed, but that it has decayed into vulgarity (with the insinuation that it might have been no more than that all along).62 Yet if one of the signs of this vulgarity is that she has married a version of the philistine businessman of ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’, it is also an indication of the way towards superabundant characterization.

This in fact requires the movement away from modernist models (in Proust and Joyce) that we witness in the characterization of Mrs. Manresa. The workshop is re-stocked. One may get a bearing on the process from her colonial background. Rumour of a scandalously-transported relative reminds us of certain emigrants in Dickens, both voluntary and involuntary, but always impressively energetic (Peggoty, Micawber, Magwitch). To these figures, she is a kind of grand-daughter. The startling development, however, is concentrated in the participle with which we began this discussion. The four-fold repetition seems to be signalling something, and this may be the entry of the astonishing dwarf Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield, who, ‘after ogling Steerforth for a few moments, broke into a torrent of words’.63 I’m not suggesting that the modelling is decisively conscious on Woolf’s part; indeed, a certain relaxation of vigilance may have been an effective part of the process; the repetition of the word would be an attempt to call up a figure whose name and place were forgotten – so to say, Who was the one who was always ogling? And thus, by a kind of metonymic magic, the spirit of the character is conducted into its new form. In its original, this may seem to be a spirit of monstrous vulgarity, but as Miss Mowcher later explains to Copperfield, the theatricality, humours, and loquacity are, in fact, the means of a remarkable self-overcoming, turning self-pity to gratitude: ‘ “If I don’t brood over all I want, it is the better for me, and not the worse for anyone.”’64 Woolf’s work in renovation is, of course, considerable, since it transforms the grotesque to the glamorous; in so doing, it indicates possibilities of female characterization beyond Dickens’ mid-career grasp. But the sign that possibilities that earlier daunted Woolf herself have been finally realized is, first, proclaimed in that ostentatious repetition of ‘ogle’. 

Above all, this assists us in backward inference from work to maker via Woolf’s private response to criticism of Mrs Dalloway. Two days ‘illness’ were occasioned in Woolf by Wyndham Lewis’s impression that the fundamental perspective of the book consisted not in ‘looking’ but ‘peeping’. That shaming participle caused the illness: ‘If there is truth in W.L. well, face it: I’ve no doubt I am prudish and peeping, well then live more boldly. But for God’s sake dont try to bend my writing one way or the other.’65 This is courageous and dedicated. It is also, for the time being, defensive, revealing as it does how modernism’s slogans (‘in or about December, 1910, human character changed’), may tend towards a formalism at odds with the life-world.66 It was from tradition that the energy for vital development, perhaps obscurely, appeared, cutting loose Woolf’s ‘wild child of nature’.67


The writers represented in extract in our study of Narrative Voice are: Alison Lurie, George Eliot, Martin Amis, Robert Musil, Charlotte Bronte, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Ford Madox Ford (as examples of first and third-person forms); and Virginia Woolf, Elmore Leonard, Tillie Olsen, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield (as examples of indirect, interior, reported direct or complex forms). I shall focus here on Joyce (pursuing a development in Bellow), and Mansfield. 

Something significant appears once students are set the exercise of converting to a simple third-person voice the interior monologue of Leopold Bloom, wandering in the sun before the pre-funeral bath: the results are deathly, the original now seems remarkably lively.68

This offers a local lesson about Joyce’s narrative technique, its special adaptation to consciousness of the everyday, and its potential for (re-)enchanting the ordinary; and it may do so more effectively than the straight literature class on Joyce, where students aren’t always encouraged to test for themselves academic claims about style.69 As elsewhere in the early presentations of Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, the narrative voice is, in fact, a complex splicing of third-person directions and interior-monologue speculation, thought association, memory, with traces of free indirect style. Bloom’s speculation, prompted by the label on a tea packet, about Ceylon, its botany and temperature, what they eat out there, water that supports large leaves/ a body, and his confusion over scientific principles (of fluid mechanics and of gravity), set free in time the breakfast he has just consumed and the bath he is about to take. The flux of knowledge into curiosity involves us in the life-world. Bloom’s confusion is vital. 

At this point, we may venture the general conclusion, recalling Brown’s remark on Wöllflin’s conception of time or flux as the true meaning of baroque art, that the forming power of Joyce’s modernism, is itself baroque. We will note how often at primer level, or in the popular sense, subjective temporality and interior monologue (or ‘stream of consciousness’) are taken as the essence of Anglophone modernism; reductive as this may be, it indicates that such modernism may itself be a phase of the baroque, the latter understood as one of two dialectical phases of cultural history. These phases being interdependent, we discover the other (the ‘classic’) not only in the Homeric aspect of Ulysses, but in the explicit life-project of Joyce to become classic.70

The passage also offers a surprise that we may take as exemplary: ‘Under their dropped lids his eyes found the tiny bow of the leather headband inside his high grade ha.’ Though the sentence is flanked by two references to Bloom’s ‘hat’, students tend to flounder over ‘ha’, often resorting to the explanation that the phoneme is an interior-monologue interjection in a third-person direction; this isn’t entirely off the mark, but ‘ha’ is what Bloom sees, rather than says – in other words, it is a free-indirect particle: the narrative voice enters Bloom, but as ‘he’, not ‘I’. The suggestion that the two letters have lost their ‘t’ to Bloom’s hair oil, is regarded, with the odd groan, as a rum conjuring trick, reversing Look what I have in my hat! The narrator produces not something from nothing but, seemingly, less than Bloom has in his hand. Yet the surprise is peculiarly satisfying. We receive a lesson in attention, and in the potential marvellousness of the small or daily. ‘That is God […] A shout in the street,’ to borrow an observation of Stephen Dedalus.71

We also receive a lesson in difficulty. Backward inference takes us to Joyce’s personal tradition, which would have left certain hats about his workshop; and if Bloch’s supernatural topper was not necessarily among them, Charles Bovary’s would have been.71 Flaubert resorted to architecture in the design of the future cuckold’s schoolboy cap, the direction that it was ‘of the Composite order’ leading to the overloaded description that makes the item exceedingly difficult to visualize. The difficulty in Joyce is cunningly responsive to Flaubert, both in inverting overload, and in approaching the technique of another art: the scorcio, or ‘foreshortening’, of the C15th Italian painters. As well as the end-on view of a long object, this can also mean the presentation of a familiar thing from a surprising perspective. In Baxandall’s account, scorci are a form of stimulus within the general enjoyment of difficulty, which crossed the arts between literature and painting.73 With Joyce, the device is primarily vocal, but its effect is visual, producing Bloom’s hat as something suddenly seen, and then, of course, there all along. Joyce’s peculiar philistinism about painting is hardly at issue here;74 and any objection to the stretching of a term might consider a still greater wrench, in Mallarmé’s ‘Comment’ on his radical experiment in free-verse, A Dice Throw At Any Time Never Will Abolish Chance: ‘Everything takes place in a foreshortened, hypothetical state; narrative is avoided.’75 It was with Mallarmé, wrote Valéry, that the conception of the ‘difficult author’ appeared, and that from difficulty, which is produced by nothing less than ‘hard work’, and manifold revision, ‘literature enters the domain of ethics.’76

Such a lesson in difficulty as that provided by Joyce assuredly implies an ethics of disobedience, or resistance, with respect to creative-writing orthodoxy, its rationalism, its fetishising of efficiency, page-turning, ‘narrative drive’. So, it may be all right after all to take your time, to expend much on what, from the point of view of ‘entertainment’, will seem little effects (Bloom doesn’t really know much about anything, and he wears an old hat). A lesson about relevance also emerges: enjoyable difficulty may exercise the reader to discern relevance in a way that makes the question ‘So what?’ seem nothing more than an act of vandalism. So, the ‘high grade ha’ reminds us that Bloom is without tea; it is moreover a generic reflection: Ulysses is comedy of a distinguished kind.77

Yet it is not enough merely to acquire vocal technique from Joyce (in which students demonstrate skill). One must be on guard against encouraging a ‘caged’ conception of modernism, such as is evident in reviews and media discussion of novelists such as Tom McCarthy, Zadie Smith, Will Self, where reviewers and experts have been reminded of modernism (rather than aesthetically surprised).78 When the novelists themselves accept the identification of their work as formally modernist, the life-world is sold out to technique, or imitation.79 Modernism becomes a matter of preservation, rather than surprise, or vital development. As a moment of the baroque, it turns to rococo.80

The principle of apprenticeship comes under pressure here (as, of course, it does at other points). It should not enclose the creative freedom of the student in technical observance. Yet it calls for the acknowledgment of tradition. A vital account of the issue occurs in TS Eliot’s essay, ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ (1919).81 To Eliot, the writer must apprentice themself to tradition until they find their own voice, at which point, according to their degree of talent, they most sound as if they are being spoken through. There’s a necromantic aspect to this, about which Eliot was less unashamed than Proust, but it’s discernibly there in the scientific smoke Eliot makes around the identification of the writer as a ‘medium’. Eliot’s essay is still of the liveliest practical interest; yet as Batuman complains, the presumption that tradition and vital development, or capacity to surprise, are opposites, has become the ethos of the American creative-writing programmes, with their ideal of creative originality, or spontaneity (which issues in the sterile decorum or ‘subversive’ posturing of so much current literary fiction).81

In the present instance, a valuable lesson is offered by Bellow’s Herzog (1964). To an interviewer, Bellow declared that Joyce was a writer in whom he had a ‘special interest’, observing that, ‘In the end, the force of tradition carries realism into parody, satire, mock-epic – Leopold Bloom.’83 This is a serious and expansive claim, and we might assume that Bellow thought of his own writing, dedicated to both the marvellous and the witnessing of the commonplace, as operating within, if up against, its stated limit.84 Bellow’s protagonist, Moses Herzog, is named after a Jewish grocer mocked and elevated by the alternating voices of the ‘Cyclops’ section of Joyce’s novel.85 But as a man sexually betrayed, yet party to his own betrayal, tormented Herzog might surprise us with the memory of how blithely Bloom responds to adultery. Herzog’s torment is also, however, the intellectual’s. We might say that in Herzog, Bellow, who called Ulysses the ‘modern masterpiece of confusion’, undertook Bloom’s education. The joke is that the impossibility of synthesizing learning with private being confuses Herzog into a kind of madness, though this is patterned in a three-step structure of recent action, unsent letters, memories. The narrative voice that conveys this lacks the conspicuous variety that it has in Joyce, but is distinguished by a complexity that gives the impression of spontaneity, composed as it is of movements between third person and free indirect style (which are dominant), and first person and second.86 Students seem to notice this, without being arrested by it. Which may tell us something about the way in which the difficulty of, let us say, classic modernism did not give way to, but developed into, ‘ease’ or ‘facilita’ in certain later writers. I am again resorting to Baxandall’s terms from literary criticism that crossed over into painting, the quoted words conveying here not slickness but quickness of technique, and ‘acquirable skill developed through exercise’.87 One might regard ease as the indication of the novelist’s coming into their own, the energy required by technical observance now being released for the pursuit of the sort of synthesis that compels Bellow; and therefore as an indication of value, this being confirmed by the appearance of signature distinctions (in Bellow’s case, poetic, intellectual, comic). It is at this point that tradition, as that which speaks through, yields its sense of lineage to a larger and unnamed agency. In Bellow’s case, this is ‘a source of which we know little’, but someone assumed to be generally present. ‘I suppose that all of us have a primitive prompter or commentator within, who from earliest years has been advising us, telling us what the real world is. There is such a commentator in me. I have to prepare the ground for him.’88

The artist’s idiom may be complemented by a term that gathers several of our concerns in the present essay, namely, ‘intersubjectivity’. This profound concept, which Husserl posited with habitual caution as a boundary for the life-world of intuition and immediate experience, supposes an aggregate subject or complex world-soul.89 Taken up by Merleau-Ponty, the concept acquires marvellous potential: 

We are in the world, which means that things take shape, an immense individual asserts itself [my italics], each existence is self-comprehensive and comprehensive of the rest. All that has to be done is to recognize these phenomena which are the ground of all our certainties. The belief in an absolute mind, or in a world in itself detached from us is no more than a rationalization of this primordial faith.90

Is a version of this ‘immense individual’ modernism’s legacy to the novel?

In the same year as Ulysses appeared a twelve-part story by Katherine Mansfield, ‘At the Bay’, which offers what may seem a virtuoso lesson in voice.81 As a sample passage, we take ‘You see, it’s so frightfully difficult when you’ve nobody’ down to ‘She recognized him’. In nineteen lines, the writing undergoes around ten changes: second-person interior monologue; first-person interior monologue; tagged direct thought; mocking self-address in speech marks; third person merging into free-indirect style; self-revising fantasy dialogue in speech marks, anticipating memories of the subject; third-person; free-indirect style; third-person reporting. One may reduce superabundant technique to an impression. So to say, Beryl Fairfield is ‘trying herself on’ in the privacy of her bedroom; the variations in voice express (and adorn) a restless subjectivity – and this we might compare with the gestures of the Baron de Charlus, or with the clothing of Gudrun Brangwen (part-modelled, incidentally, on Mansfield). 

But the virtuosity of the instance requires attention to the life-world in a way that does justice to Mansfield’s correlation of voice, natural sound, and silence, of diffusion and concentration. Here, we may introduce a striking citation of Wöllflin: ‘In the baroque, “places of most speaking form emerge from a groundwork of mute or less speaking form”’.92 Earlier in Part XII, as Beryl compares day and night worlds, formal ‘one’ turns to excited ‘you’.93 The effect is incantatory, loosening: character, space and possessions flux as ‘conspirators’ (co-breathers), the room is ‘darlinged’. There follows the appearance of a lover for Beryl, as voice then image (so the sought-after Harry Kember will come out of the dark at the end of Part XII); then the conspiracy of night, garden, Beryl, a speaking bush. This motion of the story gives the most persuasive colour to Merleau-Ponty’s reversal of the rational ordering of experience: ‘The world is wholly inside and I am wholly outside myself.’94 When he resents sharing the sea with another, the man who is wholly inside is turned to a supreme joke by Mansfield.95 In the beginning, primordial sound gives rise to a general subject, as the sea lulls to cause ‘such a silence that it seemed someone was listening.’ So we listen too, and in time, we hear Beryl Fairfield.96

We are advised often enough that we need to consider the ‘material condition’ of the artist, though that requirement, biographical study excepted, is not often observed with respect to physical health. Date of publication noted, we may be moved as well to understand Part XII of Mansfield’s story as breathing exercise, and death song.

Appendix of Passages Cited in Detail

  1. Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time (1913-1927), Vol II, Within a Budding Grove, translated by Scott Moncrieff & Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J.Enright  (London: Vintage, 2005), p.38
  2. D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love (1921; repr London: Penguin, 1960), Ch1, ‘Sisters’, pp.7-8
  3. Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (1941; repr. London: Penguin, 2000), p.27
  4. James Joyce, Ulysses (1922; repr. London: Bodley Head, 1960), pp.86-87
  5. Katherine Mansfield, ‘At the Bay’, Part XII, in The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951), pp.61-62


1 See Elif Batuman, ‘Get a Real Degree’, London Review of Books, Vol 32, No18, 23rd September 2010, 3-8

2 Developments in this direction may be observed in Amanda Boulter, ‘Assessing the Criteria: An Argument for creative writing Theory’, International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, Vol 1, No 2, 2004, pp.134-140; Mary Swander, Anna Leahy, and Mary Cantrell, ‘Theories of creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy’, in The Handbook of Creative Writing, ed Steven Earnshaw (Edinburgh: EUP, 2007), pp.11-23; and, especially, Lauri Ramey, ‘Creative Writing and Critical Theory’, in Earnshaw, pp.42-53.

3 See Ramey, p.50, whose essay seems to confuse ‘critical thought’ (as produced by creative practitioners)) and ‘critical theory’ (hardly ever produced by creative practitioners). This essay willingly recognizes the value of the former.

4 James Wood, ‘The Slightest Sardine’, London Review of Books, Vol26, No10, 20th May 2004, 11-12.

5 See, eg, Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Literature (New York: Harvest, 1980), pp.64ff, p.123, pp.371-380; or DH Lawrence, ‘Why the Novel Maters’, in David Lodge (ed), 20th Century Literary Criticism (London: Longman, 1972), pp.131-135

6 See The Ethics of Aristotle, trans J.A.K.Thomson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958), pp.175-177, 181-182, 190-192.

7 Ibid, pp.191-192. A valuable accommodation of creative writing practice and theory, because it insists on ‘crad’, is offered by Jeremy Scott’s Creative Writing and Stylistics (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Scott’s premises are explicitly Aristotelian – see p.19.

8 ‘We wish, then, to consider the surrounding life-world concretely, in its neglected relativity and according to all the manners of relativity belonging essentially to it – the world in which we live intuitively, together with its real entities [Realitäten]; but [we wish to consider them] as they give themselves to us at first in straightforward experience, and even [consider] the ways in which their validity is sometimes in suspense (between being and illusion, etc). Our exclusive task shall be to comprehend precisely this style, precisely this whole merely subjective and apparently incomprehensible “Heraclitean flux.” Thus we are not concerned with whether and what the things, the real entities of the world actually are […] Thus we exclude all knowledge, all statements about true being and predicative truths for it […] but we also exclude all sciences, genuine as well as pseudosciences, with their knowledge of the world as it is “in itself”, in “objective truth.”’ – Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences & Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy (1954), trans David Carr (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), Sec 44, p.156:

9 Ibid., p.155. Compare Husserl’s earlier assertion, ‘It is then allowable (if one likes paradoxes, and provided one understands as it should be the ambiguous meaning of this pronouncement) to state that fiction is the living element of phenomenology, as of all eidetic sciences.’ Cited in Robert Denoon Cumming, Phenomenology and Deconstruction, Vol 2, Method and Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p.157. For a de facto over-ruling of Husserl’s purism, see Milan Kundera, ‘The Depreciated Legacy of Cervantes’, in The Art of the Novel (1988; repr London: Faber, 2005), pp.3-5

10 ‘If phenomenology was a movement before becoming a doctrine or a philosophical system, this was attributable neither to accident, nor to fraudulent intent. It is as painstaking as the works of Balzac, Proust, Valéry or Cézanne – by reason of the same kind of attentiveness and wonder, the same demand for awareness, the same will to seize the meaning of the world or of history as that meaning comes into being. In this way it merges into the general effort of modern thought.’ Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ‘Preface’, Phenomenology of Perception (1945), trans Colin Smith (London: Routledge, 2008), pp.viii and xxiii-xxiv

11 See Hans-Georg Gadamer, ‘The Science of the Life-World’ (1969), in Philosophical Hermeneutics, trans David E Linge (Berkeley: University of Californian Press, 1977), p.183

12 Ibid., p,197

13 On the interpretation of Husserl by Sartre in ‘picture-book’ terms, see Denoon Cumming, pp.114,145,247,306.

14 See Johanna Thomas-Corr, Review, Patrick Modiano, The Occupation TrilogyLondon Evening Standard, 13th August 2015, 29

15 See Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1887 edition), trans Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1974), SecKon 370, p.329

16 See Robert Harbison, Reflections on Baroque (London: ReakKon Books, 2000), Foreword, p.viii, p.1 and p.240.

17 Ibid, pp.226-227

18 See Marshall Brown, ‘The Classic is the Baroque: On the Principle of Wöllflin’s Art History’, Critical Enquiry,

Vol 9, No2 (December 1982), 379-404. On morphology, see p.380. 19 Ibid. pp.392 & 394.

20 Ibid., p.395.

21 See The Gay Science, Sec 370, pp.329-330.

22 See Marshall Brown, p.403.

23 See Frank Kermode, ‘Survival of the Classic’, in Renaissance Essays (1971; repr London: Fontana, 1973), esp. pp.179-180.

24 My argument here is encouraged by the long view expounded by Gabriel Josipovici, What Ever Happened to Modernism? (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2010), Chs 1-3. Cf Matei Calinescu’s remarks on baroque, classicism, mannerism and modernism in German criKcism, Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism (1987; repr Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), p.89

25 See Michael Baxandall, Paining and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy, Second Edition (1988; repr. Oxford: OUP, 1990), p.117. Scott’s reference to the ‘”canvas” of a piece of creative writing’, and discussion of the stylistic balance between mimesis and diegesis, with its implication of the technique of relief in the pictorial and sculptural arts, has its place in this tradition. See Creative Writing and Stylistics, pp.163-164.

26 Cf Nietzsche, ‘Toward the Teaching of Style: 1. Of prime necessity is life: a style should live.’ Quoted in Lou Salomé, Friedrich Nietzsche: The Man in his Works (1894), translated and edited by Siegfried Mandel (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001), p.77

27 See, for example, Leigh Wilson, Modernism and Magic: Experiments with Spiritualism, Theosophy and the Occult Edinburgh: EUP, 2013), and John Bramble, Modernism and the Occult (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). A moving statement of the magical quality of creative writing is offered by Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, p.467.

28 Typically, these are around a page in length.

29 See Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time (1913-1927), Vol II, Within a Budding Grove, translated by Scott Moncrieff & Terence Kilmarian, revised by D.J.Enright (London: Vintage, 2005), p.383

30 Jane Rogers, ‘introduction to the Novel’, The Handbook of Creative Writing, ed. Steven Earnshaw (Edinburgh: EUP, 2007), p.121

31 See Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Percep3on, p. 412

32 See Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (1943), trans Hazel Barnes (London: Routledge, 1991), p.258

33 I’m here adapting Denoon Cumming’s valuable commentary on play-acting and the ‘metastability’ of perception and imagination in Sartre. See Phenomenology and Deconstruction, pp.211-223, & 296-308. 34 See Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time VI, Time Regained, trans Andreas Mayor & Terence Kilmarian, revised D.J.Enright (1992; repr. London: Vintage, 2000), p.234.

35 See, for example, George D. Painter, Marcel Proust: A Biography, New Edition (1989; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), Vol 2, p.143

36 See Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove, pp.379-382.

37 See, for example, Wyndham Lewis, Time and Western Man (1927; repr Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1993), p.187: ‘If you say that creative art is a spell, a talisman, an incantation – that it is magic, in short, there, too, I believe you would be correctly describing it. That the artist uses and manipulates a supernatural power seems very likely.’

38 See Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time III, The Guermantes Way (1920-21; trans Mark Treharne: London: Penguin, 2003), pp.187-88.

39 Ibid, p.188

40 A phenomenon that the Narrator later still formulates as palingenesis, or immortality by repetition. See In Search of Lost Time, VI, Time Regained, pp.299-300.

41 See Proust, The Guermantes Way, ibid. A valuable discussion of the novelist as medium occurs in Leigh Wilson, Modernism and Magic: Experiments with Spiritualism, Theosophy and The Occult (Edinburgh: EUP, 2013), pp.63-65.

42 See Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, How not to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid at all Costs if You ever want to get Published (2008; repr London: Penguin, 2009), pp.1 & 126. The popularity of this book is symptomatic.

43 See Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, ‘The Concept of Enlightenment’, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944; trans London: Verso, 1992), p.13, and Michael Oakeshott, ‘The masses in representative democracy’, in Rationalism in politics and other essays (1962; repr Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991), pp.363-383.

44 A preliminary explanation of ressentiment occurs in Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (1887), trans Carol Diethe, ed Keith Ansell-Pearson (Cambridge: CUP, 1995), ‘First Essay, “Good and Evil”, “Good and Bad”, Sec 10, pp.21-24.

45 See Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, ‘The Culture Industry’, Dialectic of Enlightenment, pp.154-156

46 See Newman and Mittelmark, op cit, p.59

47 See Lee Child, Nothing to Lose (London: Bantam, 2008), p.17

48 See DH Lawrence, Women in Love (1921; repr. London: Penguin, 1960), pp.7-8

49 The sisters find later that their copies of Vogue have been burned by their father. Ibid, p,421. 50 Ibid, pp.41, 109, 303

51 5th June 1914. In Collected Letters of DH Lawrence, edited by Harry T More, Vol 1 (1962; repr. London: William Heinemann, 1970), pp.281-282.

52 See, for example, Women in Love, pp.15-16, 24, 47, 101, 103, 130, 144, 195

53 Ibid., p.130

54 See Baxandall, pp.123-124, for an explanation of this term.

55 See Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (1941; repr London: Penguin, 2000), p.27

56 See Baxandall, p.121 The Italian corresponds to the Latin prominentia (‘projection’).

57 See Virginia Woolf, ‘Modern Fiction’, in Lodge, 20th Century Literary Criticism, pp.85-91; and ‘Mr Bennet and Mrs Brown’, in Collected Essays, Vol 1 (London: Hogarth Press, 1968), pp.319-337.

58 See Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925; repr. Oxford: OUP, 1992), pp.216-217

59 See James Joyce, ‘The Dead’, The Essential James Joyce, ed Harry Levin (London: Jonathan Cape, 1950), pp.160-202, and Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time – Vol 6: Time Regained, trans Andreas Mayor and Terence Kilmarian (London: Vintage, 2000), pp.215-451.

65 See Wyndham Lewis, Men Without Art (1934), ed Seamus Cooney (repr. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1987), pp.138-139, and ‘Afterword’, p.306, for Woolf’s response.

66 See Woolf, ‘Mr Bennea and Mrs Brown’, p.320.

67 See Between the Acts, p.29.

68 See James Joyce, Ulysses (1922; repr London: Bodley Head, 1960), pp.86-87

69 Cf Ellmann: ‘The initial and determining act of judgment in his work is the justification of the commonplace.’ Richard Ellmann, James Joyce, New & Revised Edition (Oxford: OUP, 1983), p.5

70 A final summary of Joyce’s ambition is given by Ellmann, p.703. 71 See Ulysses, p.42

72 See Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857), trans Geoffrey Wall (London: Penguin, 1992), pp.1-2. On the place of Flaubert among Joyce’s models, see Ellmann, p.148.

73 See Baxandall, Paining and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy, pp.141-144 74 See, eg, Ellmann, p.491

75 See Stéphane Mallarmé, Collected Poems and Other Verse, trans E.H. and A.M.Blackmore (Oxford: OUP, 2006), p.263

76 See Paul Valéry, ‘On Mallarmé’, trans Anthony Bower, in Selected Writings of Paul Valéry (1950) (New York: New Directions, 1964), pp.215-217

77 I owe these rather brilliant observations to Mr Cameron Sherwell, a student of the University of Westminster, who produced them in class on the 25th November 2016.

78 I employed the idea of ‘caged’ modernism in a paper delivered to the Inaugural Conference of the Modernist Network Cymru (Swansea University, 7th September 2015), ‘Creative Writing, Modernism and the Life-World’.

79 Questions from the author of this paper to Will Self at public readings (Friern & Barnet Public Library, Nov 14th 2012, and London Book Fair, 12th April 2013), confirm that novelist’s acceptance of such identification.

80 On the rococo as a ‘caging’ mode, see Harbison, Reflections on Baroque, pp.76-77.

81 See Lodge, 20th Century Literary Criticism, pp.71-77

82 See Batuman, ‘Get a Real Degree’, p.13

83 Saul Bellow, ‘The Art of Fiction No. 37’, interviewed by Gordon Lloyd Harper, The Paris Review, Winter 1966, No.36.

84 See, for example, Saul Bellow, Herzog (1964; repr. London: Penguin, 2001), pp.93 & 72.

85 See Ulysses, pp.376-377

86 See, for example, Herzog, pp.48-50, 77-79, 85-86.

87 See Baxandall, pp.123-124

88 See Bellow, ‘The Art of Fiction No.37’

89 See, for example, Crisis of European Sciences and Introduction to Transcendental Phenomenology, Sec 49, pp.167-170

90 See Phenomenology of Perception, p.475

91 See Katherine Mansfield, ‘At the Bay’, Part XII, in The Garden Party and Other Stories (1922; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951), pp.61-62

92 See Marshall Brown, p.393.

93 Ibid, pp.58-60

94 See Phenomenology of Perception, p.474

95 See ‘At the Bay’, pp.13-14

96 Ibid, pp.9-10

97 A version of this idea is presented in Walter Benjamin’s essay on Proust: the later’s extremely long sentences (and, we might add, disdain for paragraph breaks) were a defiance of and compensation for the asthma that was to kill him. See Walter Benjamin, ‘The Image of Proust’, in Illuminations (1970; repr London: Fontana, 1992), p.209

Michael Nath is a British author and academic. His first novel, La Rochelle (Route, 2010), was shortlisted for the James Tait Prize (2011). His second British Story (Route, 2014) divided the Man Booker judges (longlist phase). His third novel, The Treatment, was published by Quercus (Riverrun) in 2020 – please see website below for reviews, etc. Nath’s fiction and articles have also appeared in Stand, New Welsh Review, Critical Quarterly, and anthologies. Extracts from British Story were translated into Spanish (Argonauta 3, 2016). As an academic, he specializes in Creative Writing, Modernism, Shakespeare, and the Renaissance. @MichaelNath11

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