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Chapter 6 - A Duplication of Consciousness: Realism, Modernism and Prosthetic Self-Fashioning

from Part IV - The Modernist Body: From James to Beckett

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2020

Peter Boxall
Affiliation:
University of Sussex
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Summary

This chapter traces the emergence of a prosthetic modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It suggests that the literature of the fin de siècle, from Bellamy and Wells to Gilman and Wilde, registers a shifted relation between the interior and the exterior of being and between the figurations of surface and depth in the artwork, produced by the development of a new period in the history of modernity. This shifted relation is discernible in the late-century realism, but it is in the first stirrings of the modernist form that it comes to a new kind of expression. The chapter reads this new modernist relation between inside and outside, between surface and depth, as it is given expression in the novels of Edith Wharton and Henry James, particularly in The House of Mirth, and in What Maisie Knew. These works depict a duplication of consciousness, a sense that the novel imagination encounters itself always at remove from itself, but they also produce a new formal means of giving this duplicated consciousness a unity, of bringing depths onto the modernist surface of the artwork.

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Chapter
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The Prosthetic Imagination
A History of the Novel as Artificial Life
, pp. 225 - 257
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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