Modernist Literature: Challenging Fictions / Edition 1

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"Challenging Fiction" is a double entendre. This unusual book argues that modernist fiction is not only difficult (or challenging) to read, it also provokes readers to challenge the fictions that they live by. To read modernist literature in a way that unlocks its humor, its discomfiting insights, and its strong emotional undercurrents, a reader must be both receptive and resistant to the author's perspective, actively challenging it with his or her own experience, knowledge, and sensibilities. Using writers as diverse as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Djuna Barnes, Oscar Wilde, and Jean Rhys, this book demonstrates that the rewards of "challenging fiction" are considerable, and unexpected.

About the Author:
Vicki Mahaffey is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of York

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ambitiously diverse and unsettling, a book that responds provocatively to the challenges it poses."
David Bradshaw, University of Oxford

"In this sharp, thoughtful and clearly-written book, modernism is not simply a descriptive category pigeon-holing a literary period; it is made both more problematic (as when its ending is linked with the holocaust) and empowering. Boldly redefining the field, Mahaffey throws a truly original light on the social, political and ethical relevance of main modernist 'chronicles of disorder,' showing convincingly how they challenge repressive authorities as well as the reader's ingrained passivity."
—Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania

"This intelligent, strongly argued book reconceives the term 'modernist' to mean modern literature that challenges the reader because of its originality, complexity, obscurity, or transgressive nature." (Choice)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631213062
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/12/2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Vicki Mahaffey is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of York and a former Guggenheim Fellow and winner of both the Lindback Award and the Ira Abrams Award for teaching. Her previous publications include Reauthorizing Joyce (1988) and States of Desire: Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and the Irish Experience (1998).

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Table of Contents

Preface     vi
Acknowledgments     xx
Introduction     1
Why Read Challenging Literature?     3
Readings     71
Partnering: Holmes and Watson, Author and Reader, Lover and Loved, Man and Wife     73
Window Painting: The Art of Blocking Understanding     124
Watchman, What of the Night?     169
Conclusion     200
Notes     203
Bibliography     226
Index     231
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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    Dr. Mahaffey is nothing short of a genius!

    Vicki Mahaffey's Modernist Literature: Challenging Fictions investigates what notoriously "difficult" literature of the early 20th C--like Joyce, Stein, Faulkner, Woolf, and other such modernists--requests of the reader and how such requests and, indeed, challenges help readers learn and mature through literature. Dr. Mahaffey's expertise is obvious--she's a staple in 20th C British modernism and holds an endowed chair at the prestigious University of Illinois. Her text invites readers to scrutinize their own preconceptions about literature and life, and she demonstrates how by letting texts disrupt our comforts and judgments, we can learn from them, grow, and become better human beings. Dr. Mahaffey is never sentimental--not that sentiment should be disdained--but her work is always temperate, reasoned, and sophisticated in her very important analysis of challenging fiction.

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