"In Formlessness and Appetite": Modernist Form and Imperial Food Politics, 1890-1922 Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Martell, Jessica L.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • My dissertation explores the impact of the British Empire's food system upon the culture of the Anglophone world. I argue that the experiments we collect under the auspices of literary modernism emerged in response to the social conditions created by imperial Britain's newly-industrialized eating economy. The texts I investigate, including works by Thomas Hardy, E. M. Forster, Joseph Conrad, and James Joyce, sought new strategies to represent what Joe Cleary calls "the spectacle of lived unevenness" that this shift in economy produced. For instance, as industrial food production erased distinctions between rural and urban spaces, traditional genres that relied upon these categories were pushed into new and hybrid artistic territory. My first two chapters summon ecocritical insights to analyze the transformation of pastoral and country house novels, which admit increasing aesthetic strangeness and chronological distortion into their figurations of reality. Later chapters utilize Marxist and biopolitical frameworks to examine the political impact of the food system upon colonies like Ireland, ultimately linking modernism's disjointed narrative forms to the nutritional stratification created by imperial agribusiness. By reading literary experimentation in light of the empire's food history, my work revises the perception of modernism as a fundamentally urban phenomenon and reveals its early engagement with the challenges of resource production and consumption that still haunt our political and environmental discussions in the wake of globalization.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • McGowan, John
  • Flaxman, Gregory
  • Allen, Nicholas
  • Cooper, Pamela
  • Moses, Michael
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2014
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • This item is restricted from public view for 2 years after publication.

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