The Art of Scandal: Modernism, Libel Law, and the Roman a Clef

Overview


The Art of Scandal advances a relatively simple claim with far-reaching consequences for modernist studies: writers and readers throughout the early twentieth century revived the long-despised codes and habits of the roman à clef as a key part of that larger assault on Victorian realism we now call modernism. In the process, this resurgent genre took on a life of its own, reconfiguring the intricate relationship between literature, celebrity, and the law.

Sean Latham summons ...

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Overview


The Art of Scandal advances a relatively simple claim with far-reaching consequences for modernist studies: writers and readers throughout the early twentieth century revived the long-despised codes and habits of the roman à clef as a key part of that larger assault on Victorian realism we now call modernism. In the process, this resurgent genre took on a life of its own, reconfiguring the intricate relationship between literature, celebrity, and the law.

Sean Latham summons cases of the novel's social notoriety-and the numerous legal scandals the form provoked-to articulate the material networks of reception and circulation through which modernism took shape, revealing a little explored popular history within its development. Producers as well as consumers used elements of the controversial roman à clef, a genre that challenges the idea of fiction as autonomous from the social and political world. In turn, this widespread practice provoked not only a generative aesthetic crisis, but also a gradually unfolding legal quandary that led Britain's highest courts to worry that fiction itself might be illegal. Modernism sat squarely, for a time, between literature and the law.

With skillful close readings aided by extensive archival research, Latham illuminates the world of backbiting, gossip, litigation, and sensationalism through chapters on Oscar Wilde's trial, Joyce's Ulysses, celebrity salons, and Parisian bohemia. Original, colorful, and perceptive, The Art of Scandal both salvages the reputation of the roman à clef form and traces its curious itinerary through the early twentieth century.

Seeking out the best new interdisciplinary work, this series explores the cultural bearings of literary modernism across multiple fields, geographies, symbolic forms, and media.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Enormously valuable...Latham has clearly achieved a primary goal of The Art of Scandal, which has brought the roman à clef and libel law to the center of research in literary studies." —Clio

"The Art of Scandal elevates the chronically depreciated roman à clef to its rightful place as a signature form of the novel. A shrewd, provocative and immensely engaging work, one that demands we revisit our assumptions about the values and methods of revolutionary modernists from Wilde and Freud to Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Lawrence and Jean Rhys."—Maria DiBattista, Princeton University

"This is an important book, a real contribution to both modernist studies and the theory of narrative. It is a smart, readable, original, and very convincing study of a form of narrative crucial to both the rise of the novel and the development of modernism."—Robert Scholes, Brown University

"The Art of Scandal is a lively account of the modern roman à clef. Well informed, superbly written, and critically intelligent, Latham's study is always engaging as he explains the 'art of scandal,' real and imagined."-Thomas F. Staley, The University of Texas at Austin

"A taut, well-researched study of a genre that has had an enormous influence on the development of the novel." —James Joyce Quarterly

"Latham has made a valuable contribution not only to modernist studies with The Art of Scandal, but also to the field of law and literature. It's a great read, and a tribute to Latham's cleverness that he so artfully weaves in a sense of dramatic narrative to his insightful piece of literary criticism." —AmeriQuests

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195379990
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/23/2009
  • Series: Modernist Literature and Culture Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sean Latham is Professor of English at the University of Tulsa where he serves as Editor of the James Joyce Quarterly and Director of the Modernist Journals Project. He is the author of Am I a Snob? Modernism and the Novel and Joyce's Modernism.

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Table of Contents

Series Editors' Foreword

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