This item is under embargo and not available online per the author's request. For access information, please visit http://libanswers.wustl.edu/faq/5640.

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

English and American Literature

Language

English (en)

Date of Award

Summer 9-1-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

William J Maxwell

Abstract

"Spontaneous and Leaderless" traces the genealogy of a range of modernist and postmodernist texts, from Ulysses (1922) to Blood and Guts in High School (1978), from U.S.A. (1930-1938) to Mumbo Jumbo (1972), through their shared engagement with anarchist theory. I argue that literary experimentalists drawn to the political Left found that the modernist aesthetic principles of the craft of voice and formal ambiguity formed a natural link with the anarchist political principles of non-didactic education, individual rights, and grassroots organization. Demonstrating the explicitly anarchist context of debates that took place among Joyce and the authors of The Egoist circle and among Dos Passos and his contemporaries at New Masses, I reconstruct an anarchist aesthetics at work in some of the most historically noted texts of Anglophone modernism. Much as Old Left political organizations repressed their members' anarchist impulses, so did modernist impulses to transhistorical social order circumscribe the energies of aesthetic avant-gardes. However, if we uncover the repressed anarchist energies in Marxist and modernist world-historical narratives, we discover in modernism and the Old Left a historical cause for the explosion of those energies that constituted the New Left in politics and the postmodern era of writers such as Thomas Pynchon and Ishmael Reed. This historical cause has been missed because radical scholarship has misunderstood anarchist theory and practice as violent and irrationalist, when it has not ignored anarchism entirely. Reexamining classic works of anarchist theory, I counter with a more accurate sense of anarchism, a political philosophy in which Marxist strategies of nation-building are rebutted by a complex system of thought more concerned with balancing individual rights and ethical altruism than with throwing bombs. In the process, I show that diverse writers across the twentieth-century Atlantic were unified by a near-utopian hope that artistic experiments could foster a world where, as one of Pynchon's anarchist characters puts it, "revolutions break out spontaneous and leaderless, and the soul's talent for consensus allows the masses to work together without effort, automatic as the body itself."

DOI

https://doi.org/10.7936/K7QF8QZH

Comments

This work is not available online per the author’s request. For access information, please contact digital@wumail.wustl.edu or visit http://digital.wustl.edu/publish/etd-search.html.

Permanent URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.7936/K7QF8QZH

Available for download on Saturday, September 01, 2114

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