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Title: Reviving the Rural: The Modernist Poetics of the 20th Century Rural Novel
Authors: Moffitt, Anne Fay
Advisors: DiBattista, Maria A
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: algeria
Subjects: Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In stark contrast to the city, rural spaces are often considered resistant to the novelistic impulse of narrative progress. Lives here are seemingly unchanged by time or human invention. The rural is often overlooked as an immobile reference point of beginning, way station or end, not a location for engagement with modernity. Instead, the rural is the space of retreat from our modern selves, from what we have become. If ideally, the rural encourages a reclamation of the self, as would suggest Rousseau, Thoreau, and Turgenev, it does not offer a space for becoming modern nor would it appear that the countryside can properly depict the nature of our contemporary relationship to society or nation, as the novel so often seeks to do. Rural society is just too sparse, and relationships stereotypically appear as changeless as the age-old rural modes of living. Reviving the Rural overturns this conventional wisdom by reestablishing these out-of-the-way places as proper and necessary for understanding the expressive capacities of 20th century modernism. Though literary modernism was born and developed in the city, this project questions the practice of pairing aesthetic and narrative techniques to a particular kind of place. By examining novelistic representations of the rural in the American South, Ireland, and Algeria with authors such as William Faulkner, Elizabeth Bowen, Molly Keane, John Banville, and Rachid Mimouni, this project argues for a new poetics that counters urban-centric literary conventions and champions the rural as structurally expedient for dramatizing the tumultuous conditions of modernity. The past, which in William Faulkner's words is never past, lives louder and more integrally here. Rural social networks, forged out of historical and genealogical ties, resist the urban ethos of forgetting and self-willed reinvention. Through their resistance, these networks draw attention to the otherwise invisible cultural and personal realignments that occur in a traditional society's confrontation with the impulsion of the Modern. In these ways, a modern rural sensibility opens up the novel to new representations of entangled, enduring human interconnectedness that are critical for understanding the large-scale, interpersonal devastation of social upheaval wrought by slavery, colonialism, war, and nation-building.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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