Modernism at the margins: De -forming sentimentalism in Mourning Dove, Virginia Woolf, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Gertrude Stein

2004 2004

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Abstract (summary)

Literary modernism created a radical break from nineteenth-century forms. This dissertation focuses on how we might perceive a different kind of “break” in novelists of the modernist era who use traditional forms associated with women: the marriage plot and the sentimental romance. By reading writers at the margins of modernism—Mourning Dove and Jessie Redmon Fauset—this study pushes modernism itself to the margins. Similar to canonical modernists such as Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein, form is the substance of these marginalized writers' novels. And, in this sense, their novelistic critiques of modernity in form are experimental and yet remain different than exclusive understandings of formal experimentation in canonical modernism. I read Woolf and Stein alongside Mourning Dove and Fauset to explore the resonances amongst all four writers' linguistic and phenomenological experiments and their de-formations and re-formations of sentimental subjectivity.

As inheritors of the sentimental tradition, Woolf and Stein belonged to the literary family they rebelled against. How do writers positioned outside that tradition, by virtue of its construction of race and class difference, join modernism's departure from nineteenth-century forms? As cultural outsiders, Mourning Dove and Fauset must first enable their heroines to inhabit the sentimental tradition in order to critique and dismantle modernity's interwoven legacy of colonialism and gendered subjectivity. Reading Woolf and Stein from the perspective of Mourning Dove and Fauset, we see afresh not only the project all these authors share but also the way the latter explore geographical and ontological shadows left untouched by the former.

Though Woolf s and Stein's writings more fundamentally rearrange the phenomenological landscape of language, they have more in common with the other two writers than at first glance. All of them create disorientation for readers who don't relinquish conventional modes of reading. They respond to modernity's understanding of the subject by questioning the conventional boundaries of the self, and they re-envision the temporal and spatial dimensions of intersubjectivity as these overlap with social categories. An understanding of the legacy of modernity in the long view enables us to see where these authors meet in the short view of early twentieth-century fiction.

Indexing (details)

American literature;
British and Irish literature
0591: American literature
0593: British and Irish literature
Identifier / keyword
Language, literature and linguistics; Fauset, Jessie Redmon; Modernism; Mourning Dove; Sentimentalism; Stein, Gertrude; Woolf, Virginia
Modernism at the margins: De -forming sentimentalism in Mourning Dove, Virginia Woolf, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Gertrude Stein
Dymond, Justine S.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 65/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Doyle, Laura
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
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.
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