Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development

ISBN : 9780199857968

Jed Esty
304 Pages
162 x 238 mm
Pub date
Nov 2011
Modernist Literature & Culture
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Unseasonable Youth examines a range of modernist-era fictions that cast doubt on the ideology of progress through the figure of stunted or endless adolescence. Novels of youth by Oscar Wilde, Olive Schreiner, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, and Elizabeth Bowen disrupt the inherited conventions of the bildungsroman in order to criticize bourgeois values and to reinvent the biographical plot, but also to explore the contradictions inherent in mainstream developmental discourses of self, nation, and empire. The intertwined tropes of frozen youth and uneven development, as motifs of failed progress, play a crucial role in the emergence of dilatory modernist style and in the reimagination of colonial space at the fin-de-siecle. The genre-bending logic of uneven development - never wholly absent from the coming-of-age novel - takes on a new and more intense form in modernism as it fixes its broken allegory to the problem of colonial development. In novels of unseasonable youth, the nineteenth-century idea of world progress comes up against stubborn signs of underdevelopment and uneven development, just at the same moment that post-Darwinian racial sciences and quasi-Freudian sexological discourses lend greater influence to the idea that certain forms of human difference cannot be mitigated by civilizing or developmental forces. In this historical context, the temporal meaning and social vocation of the bildungsroman undergo a comprehensive shift, as the history of the novel indexes the gradual displacement of historical-progressive thinking by anthropological-structural thinking in the Age of Empire.


Series Editors' Foreword
Chapter one: Introduction
Scattered Souls: The Bildungsroman and Colonial Modernity
After the Novel of Progress
Kipling's Imperial Time
Genre, History, and the Trope of Youth
Modernist Subjectivity and the World-System
Chapter two
"National-Historical Time" from Goethe to George Eliot
Infinite Development vs. National Form
Nationhood and Adulthood in The Mill on the Floss
After Eliot: Aging Forms and Globalized Provinces
Chapter three
Youth/Death: Schreiner and Conrad in the Contact Zone
Outpost Without Progress: Schreiner's Story of An African Farm
"A free and wandering tale": Conrad's Lord Jim
Chapter four
Souls of Men under Capitalism: Wilde, Wells, and the Anti-Novel
"Unripe Time": Dorian Gray and Metropolitan Youth
Commerce and Decay in Tono-Bungay
Chapter five
Tropics of Youth in Woolf and Joyce
The "weight of the world": Woolf's Colonial Adolescence
"Elfin Preludes": Joyce's Adolescent Colony
Chapter six
Virgins of Empire: The Antidevelopmental Plot in Rhys and Bowen
Gender and Colonialism in the Modernist Semi-Periphery
Endlessly Devolving: Jean Rhys's Voyage in the Dark
Querying Innocence: Elizabeth Bowen's The Last September
Chapter seven: Conclusion
Alternative Modernity and Autonomous Youth After 1945
Works Cited

About the author: 

Jed Esty is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England and coeditor, with Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Antoinette Burton, and Matti Bunzl, of Postcolonial Studies and Beyond.

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