• “Structures of Irony: Curiosity and Fetishism in Late Imperial London”

    Author(s):
    George Phillips (see profile)
    Date:
    2011
    Group(s):
    Late-Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century English Literature, LLC Victorian and Early-20th-Century English
    Subject(s):
    Modern literature
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    modernism, Visual Culture
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6N61G
    Abstract:
    This essay argues that curiosity can work as irony's shadow dialectic in modernist responses to imperialism and metropolitan culture, and suggests that curiosity deserves further exploration as a modernist device. Attentive to the settings and visual metaphors of space and structure that abet irony's role, this essay finds that curiosity's conspicuous absence in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent (1907) burdens irony with the obligation to respond alone to the late imperial culture Conrad characterizes as governed by fetishism. By contrast, curiosity emerges in E. M. Forster's review “The Birth of an Empire” (1924) not as irony's naive opposite but as that which may learn from the distance irony produces and as the occasion for testing tentative styles of reattachment to the metropole that seek deeper knowledge of British India and late imperial London than colonial exhibitions could display. Reading such texts today calls not for reaffirmations for ironic distance, but for pursuing an alternative knowledge of curiosity's role in response by considering it within the paradigm of modernist irony.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal Article
    Pub. DOI:
    10.1215/00295132-1381312
    Publisher:
    Duke UP
    Journal:
    Novel: A Forum on Fiction
    Volume:
    44
    Issue:
    3
    Start Page:
    424
    End Page:
    443
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    7 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved

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