Modernism and utopia, 1900-1920: politics and social betterment in early modernist writing

Waddell, Nathan Joseph (2010). Modernism and utopia, 1900-1920: politics and social betterment in early modernist writing. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis considers the early twentieth-century writings of four modernist writers – Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, D. H. Lawrence, and Wyndham Lewis – in relation to the problem of utopianism. The introductory chapter provides an overview of current scholarly debates concerning the nature and structure of utopian thinking, and establishes the broad context in which the above writers are considered in the argument that follows. The thesis works with an inclusive definition of utopianism that views it as an expression of the urge to better society, as opposed to an urge to realize social perfection. After a wide-ranging summary of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century utopian discourses, a summary that attends to the pre-First World War criticism of T. E. Hulme and Ezra Pound, the thesis turns to individual, ‘case study’ chapters that focus on the above-mentioned quartet of writers. Each chapter looks at a key issue: Conrad in relation to political anarchism; Ford in relation to urban design; Lawrence in relation to utopian philosophies of labour; and Lewis in relation to the linkages between the historical avant-garde and the betterment of society. The main claims running throughout the thesis are that in the period under consideration the links between modernism and utopianism are: complex; multi-sided and author-specific; politically multifarious; and insufficiently acknowledged by contemporary critics.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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