The Art of Hunger: Aesthetic Autonomy and the Afterlives of Modernism

ISBN : 9780198828891

Alys Moody
256 ページ
138 x 216 mm
Oxford English Monographs

Hunger is one of the governing metaphors for literature in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, writers and critics repeatedly describe writing as a process of starvation, as in the familiar type of the starving artist, and high art as the rejection of 'culinary' pleasures. The Art of Hunger: Aesthetic Autonomy and the Afterlives of Modernism argues that this metaphor offers a way of describing the contradictions of aesthetic autonomy in modernist literature and its late-twentieth-century heirs. This book traces the emergence of a tradition of writing it calls the 'art of hunger', from the origins of modernism to the end of the twentieth century. It focuses particularly on three authors who redeploy the modernist art of hunger as a response to key moments in the history of modernist aesthetic autonomy's delegitimization: Samuel Beckett in post-Vichy France; Paul Auster in post-1968 Paris and New York; and J. M. Coetzee in late apartheid South Africa.

Combining historical analysis of these literary fields with close readings of individual texts, and drawing extensively on new archival research, this book offers a counter-history of modernism's post-World War II reception and a new theory of aesthetic autonomy as a practice of unfreedom.


Introduction: The Aesthetics of Hunger
1 The Modernist Art of Hunger
2 Hunger in a Closed System: Samuel Beckett in Postwar France
3 The Starving Artist as Dying Author: Paul Auster and Aesthetic Autonomy After 1968
4 Starving Across the Color Line: J. M. Coetzee in Apartheid South Africa
Conclusion: On the Refusal of Modernism's Afters


Alys Moody is a Lecturer in English at Macquarie University in Sydney where she teaches modernism and contemporary literature. She previously worked at the University of Waikato and the University of Oxford, where she received her DPhil. With Stephen J. Ross, she is the editor of a forthcoming anthology of source texts for global modernism.