The Great War and the Annus Mirabilis Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Eichholz, Patrick
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • This dissertation surveys British literary culture from 1914 to 1922, including works of fiction, poetry, philosophy, art history, and literary criticism. From each genre, I have culled prominent examples of postwar formal theory and experimentation. The three central works are Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, and Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The attention to form exhibited in each of these works has come to define what it means to be a modernist in their respected genres. Beginning in 1914, the dissertation examines Woolf, Eliot, and Wittgenstein's work in the context of the Great War and in dialogue with the various other formalisms that arose in the war's wake. Traditionally, high modernism and the war are considered to be two distinct subjects, just as formalism and historicism are commonly considered to be two distinct modes of study. This dissertation challenges both of these divisions by examining the form of high modernist literature as an index to the tumultuous historical period out of which it emerged. In the various examples, the exigencies of the war can be seen time and again leading writers to reexamine the formal assumptions upon which their genres are based. I argue that this general turn toward form does not coalesce into any one ideology, but rather yields an assortment of new literary, philosophical, and critical approaches that, a century later, remain quite useful.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Cooper, Pamela
  • Downing, Eric
  • Barbour, Reid
  • Curtain, Tyler
  • McGowan, John
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

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