Transatlantic Modernism: Moral Dilemmas in Modernist Fiction

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Edinburgh University Press, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 264 pages

Transatlantic Modernismtraces the intersection of artistic and moral ideas in European and American literary modernism. Rather than reading modernism as a complete rejection of social morality, this perceptive study shows how early twentieth-century writers such as Conrad, Faulkner, Gide, Kafka, Mann and Stein devised new aesthetic techniques to address ethical problems. By focusing on a range of decadent, naturalist, avant-garde and expatriate writers between the 1890s and 1940s, this book reassesses the moral trajectory of fiction on both sides of the Atlantic.

The book is divided into four parts - Part I deals with Decadence and Naturalism, Part II with Symbolic Centres of Modernism, Part III with Sexual and Cultural Difference, and Part IV with Modernist Trickery - to discuss how modernist writers forged creative, but sometimes dangerous, links between personal and social morality. The chapters alternate between considering broad literary trends, such as the European avant-garde, American writers in Paris and the modernist picaresque, and the close study of influential texts, includingThe Immoralist, Death in Venice, The Secret Agent, The Sound and the Fury, Amerikaand Mephisto. In response to the recent emergence of ethical theory in the humanities and the shifting parameters of national morality in the early twentieth-first century, Halliwell's book provides a fresh and timely analysis of the ways in which transatlantic modernists used fiction as a testing-ground for moral possibility. This new paperback edition contains an updated conclusion which explores modernist continuities in the early twenty-first century, literary responses to September 11 and the shifting parameters of national morality.

Key Features

  • Offers a fresh look at American and European Modernism
  • Discusses a wide range of important Modernist writers and texts including Wilde, Wharton, Conrad, Faulkner, Stein, Hemmingway, Kafka, Roth and Mann
  • Explores the role of ethics in literature in new and innovative ways
  • Introduces the historical and theoretical issues involved in ethical criticism using a broad range of examples

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About the author (2006)

Martin Halliwell is Professor of American Studies and Head of the School of Arts at the University of Leicester. His authored books include Voices of Mental Health: Medicine, Politics, and American Culture, 1970-2000 (Rutgers University Press, 2017), Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945-1970 (Rutgers University Press, 2013), American Culture in the 1950s (Edinburgh University Press, 2007) and Transatlantic Modernism (Edinburgh University Press, 2005).

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