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13. Modernism, Mind, and Manuscripts

Dirk Van Hulle

Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780470658734.2013.00014.x


Why have so many modernist writers kept their manuscripts? In her capacity as director of the manuscript department of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Florence Callu (1993) opened a chapter on twentieth-century manuscripts by noting that this is the beginning of a “golden age”: “Commence alors l'âge d'or du manuscrit contemporain. Tout auteur—du plus modeste au plus grand—préserve la moindre note, le moindre ‘tapuscrit’, le moindre placard corrigé comme une relique” (65). Callu's use of the religious metaphor of relics is appropriate in this context if, as Peter Childs suggests, the “diagnosis of the individual” in literary modernism “came to substitute for religion” (60). If manuscripts are relics of the workings of the mind, it is understandable that many literary modernists preserved them, and this act of preservation can be linked to the content of their works. Manuscripts thus become part of a modernist project, described by Finn Fordham (2010) as “reformulating the self” or “the reconstruction of ideas of selfhood and identity,” which is turned “Inside-Out” in his chapter on “Modernism and the Self”: “Manuscripts—broadly understood—have been underestimated as a potential scene from which such reformulations can be both provoked and described” (35). The program of “reformulating the self” is presented as part of the so-called “shift from outside to inside” ( Meisel ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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