Anxious inheritance: Family, legacy, and intimacy in modernist fiction

2008 2008

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

This dissertation examines models of inheritance in twentieth century novels which oppose an economic model of lineage and familial association. Rather than depicting inheritance in terms of the transference of money and property, John Galsworthy, D. H. Lawrence, Gertrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes mobilize aesthetic alternatives. Organized according to an increasingly avant garde representation of the family, the texts I treat ultimately move towards symbolic and associative constructions of lineage in resistance to their nineteenth century literary predecessors who frequently depict families in terms of problematic primogeniture. The modernist authors I explore offer alternative conceptions of legacy and unconventional predecessors.

I begin with Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga, in which the author depicts a seemingly conventional family that eventually resists primogeniture as its basis for familial association; the Forsyte family concludes, at the end of the trilogy, that assets should be willed in accord with intimacy rather than male blood right. In my chapter on Lawrence's The Rainbow and Sons and Lovers, I turn the concept of family legacy and genealogy towards the agrarian, and suggest that familial intimacy within multiple generations is fostered by a connection to the seasons and to the material results they produce, where the earth becomes the central familial predecessor. In The Making of Americans and “Composition as Explanation,” Stein destabilizes the notion that there is one family story by depicting the “family” as a linguistic construction, modified according to each family member's memory. The families in her novel strive for an American national identity and democratic educational opportunities allied with Stein's democratic use of language wherein each part of speech and each character's version of family history is equal to the others. Barnes troubles the basic notion that family genealogy and its dynamic is exclusively human and cerebral in Nightwood and Ryder. She offers a new account of human history—one that turns to the animal and to love for an individual's knowledge of personal history, and posits an animal history as the predecessor of the human.

Indexing (details)

Modern literature;
American literature;
British and Irish literature
0298: Modern literature
0591: American literature
0593: British and Irish literature
Identifier / keyword
Language, literature and linguistics; American fiction--20th century; British fiction--20th century; Family; Family in literature; Fiction; Gender; History and criticism; Inheritance; Intimacy; Legacy; Models of inheritance; Modernist; Twentieth century
Anxious inheritance: Family, legacy, and intimacy in modernist fiction
Connell, Christine Maria
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Norris, Margot
University of California, Irvine
University location
United States -- California
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.