This book is about the literary representation of selfhood in the Modernist period. It explores developments and interrelationships within a twentieth-century discourse about the self which is both specialised and experimentalist. It is concerned with new ways of representing self-experience in both fiction and poetry, all of which are construed as part of a shared ongoing project. So implied in the discussion will be one kind of description of Modernism itself: Modernism in literature was a movement that radically probed the nature of selfhood and problematised the means whereby ‘self’ could be expressed. This phenomenon may be most easily evidenced in terms of key instances: Conrad’s Lord Jim and Eliot’s Prufrock; James’s Lambert Strether and Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley; Joyce’s Leopold Bloom and Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway; Ford’s Christopher Tietjens and Jones’s John Ball; Eliot’s ‘Tiresias’2 and Pound’s Ego Scriptor.3 Each instance signifies a literary site where the complexities of self-experience and the problems of their expression are activated and engaged. It is clear that such literary exploration did not take place in a vacuum: a variety of factors are involved in the phenomenon — most obviously, the general diffusion of social alienation, the rise of the psychoanalytic movement, the disorientation brought about by the shock of the Great War and the increasing experimentalism of almost all the contemporary artistic movements.


Literary Discourse Social Alienation Modernist Discourse Literary Site Linguistic Awareness 
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  1. 4.
    ‘The point of view which I am struggling to attack is perhaps related to the metaphysical theory of the substantial unity of the soul’. T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays (Faber and Faber, 1958 ), p. 19.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Signet, 1961), pp. 65–6.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Robert Langbaum, The Mysteries of Identity: A Theme in Modern Literature (University of Chicago Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  4. Karl Miller, Doubles: Studies in Literary History (Oxford University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    To Richard Woodhouse, 27 October 1818, in The Letters of John Keats, vol. 1, edited by Hyder Edward Rollins (Cambridge University Press, 1958), p. 387.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth Century Fiction (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983), p. 14.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Joseph Conrad, Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard (Penguin, 1963), p. 259.Google Scholar
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    Virginia Woolf, The Waves (Penguin, 1964), p. 172.Google Scholar
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    Antony Easthope, ‘Why Most Contemporary Poetry is So Bad and How Post-Structuralism May be Able to Help’, PN Review, 48, Nov–Dec 1985, p. 36. See also Antony Easthope’s Poetry as Discourse (Methuen, 1983), especially Chapter 9. While my book was in press Maud Ellmann’s The Poetics of Impersonality: T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (Harvester Press, 1987) was published. I wish I could have read this book while formulating my arguments; it provides fine insights into the deconstruction of selfhood in Eliot and Pound.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    ‘Epimenides the Cretan said that all Cretans were liars, and all other statements made by Cretans were certainly lies. Was this a lie?’ Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, Principia Mathematica (Cambridge University Press, 1967), p. 60.Google Scholar
  11. 25.
    From ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909–1962 (Faber and Faber, 1968), pp. 16–17. All quotations from Eliot’s poetry will be taken from this edition.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dennis Brown 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hatfield PolytechnicUK

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