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6. Empire, Imperialism, and Modernism

John Marx

Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780470658734.2013.00007.x


Early twentieth-century novelists replaced the Victorian notion of imperial core and colonial periphery with the alternate formulation of a global network. In the pages of modernist novels, that network appeared to be composed of locales and populations that could be administered by English-speaking (if not always British) experts. I will attempt to explain how modernists linked up with scholars and commentators from across the disciplines to generate a revised geopolitical model, one in which English language and literature appeared part and parcel of a differential system that spanned the globe. I note that wide-reaching associations among modernist readers and writers formed even as British policy makers began to emphasize financial investment and interconnection over and above the conquering and holding of territory. Fiction secured its status in this recalibration, in part, by promoting itself as a curator of discrete and various vernacular languages and cultures worldwide. Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf refuted the notion that there should be, or in fact could be, any singular standard English unmarked by demographic or disciplinary distinction. Instead of promoting populations and individuals willing to mimic the Queen's speech, modernist fiction proliferated parallel forms of English each bearing the accent of time and place. These multifarious versions ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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