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From House to Case of Fiction: A Study of Modernist Literary Luggage

RIDGE, EMILY,ANNA,MARIA (2012) From House to Case of Fiction: A Study of Modernist Literary Luggage. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis presents the first full-length study of modernist literary luggage. It explores all facets of imaginative engagement with luggage, both material and metaphorical, in modernism, as this builds upon and develops a long-standing and overlooked symbolic and analogic tradition. The study approaches luggage in two ways; as thematic motif and as model for modernist form. Drawing on an extensive range of primary sources spanning from the mid-nineteenth through to the mid-twentieth century, it identifies the proliferating appeal of luggage imagery over the course of this period as defined against the diminishing appeal of governing sedentary paradigms for apprehending and framing experience, exemplified in the symbolic form of the house. It contends that the 'case' overtakes the 'house of fiction' in the early-twentieth-century literary imagination as the central structural model for modern fiction in line with the emergence of what E.M. Forster disparagingly refers to as the 'civilisation of luggage' in Howards End in 1910. As Forster's disparagement suggests, the very idea of a civilisation of luggage provoked conflicting responses and contentious readings. Correspondingly, the case of fiction model was characterised by its very paradoxical nature; most conspicuously, it enacted a break from old forms while also demonstrating an inability to entirely leave the past behind. Yet it was precisely because, and not in spite of, this paradoxical quality, this semantic instability, this capacity to inspire divergent responses, that modernist literary luggage became such an appropriate means of encapsulating the experience of modernity in all its complexity.

A central focus is the special significance of luggage for women. The thesis will consider the recurrent use of the woman's bag as a pivotal motif and sticking point in portrayals of shifting gender relations around the turn of the twentieth century in order to demonstrate that the woman's struggle for a bag of her own was a necessary precursor to the struggle surrounding the room, feeding into a wider modernist preoccupation with the nature of the relationship between freedom and property. Following this preoccupation more generally into the interwar period, the thesis charts the impact of the politicization of forms of mobility in late modernist work as this is manifested in the problematization of an earlier modernist luggage paradigm. Taking account of luggage conceptions of refugee and evacuee writers caught in the political crossfire on mainland Europe - that other civilization of luggage compelled by force, rather than by choice, to travel light - the study will conclude with a detailed discussion of the widespread reappraisal of the case of fiction model in the late 1930s in light of complicating political factors. Overall, the thesis contends that luggage - signalling obstruction as much as mobility, adventure as much as dispossession, the exhilaration of travel as much as the terror of flight, the material attachment to a familiar past as much as the immaterial projection forward into an unfamiliar future - proposes an innovative re-description of modernist fiction which offers illuminating new perspectives on the contradictory forces, interests and imperatives of modernism with wide-reaching implications.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Modernism; Luggage; Architecture; Travel; Material Cultures; Mobilities
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Dec 2012 16:28

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