Cover for KATZ: Impressionist Subjects: Gender, Interiority, and Modernist Fiction in England

Impressionist Subjects

Gender, Interiority, and Modernist Fiction in England

Impressionist Subjects looks at the way modernist writers wrote about how the mind works, and connects those ideas to the way that women moved into public life in the early 20th century.

Exploring the intersection of ideas about woman, subjectivity, and literary authority, Impressionist Subjects reveals the female subject as crucial in framing contradictions central to modernism, particularly the tension between modernism's claim to timeless art and its critique of historical conditions.

Against the backdrop of the New Woman movement of the 1890s, Tamar Katz establishes literary impressionism as integral to modernist form and to the modernist project of investigating the nature and function of subjectivity. Focusing on a duality common to impressionism and contemporary ideas of feminine subjectivity, Katz shows how the New Woman reconciled the paradox of a subject at once immersed in the world and securely enclosed in a mysterious interiority.

Katz reads Walter Pater's aestheticism in the context of Victorian domestic ideology, a world split between safe interiors and risky exteriors. She uses some of the central debates of the 1890s on women's knowledge and interiority to illuminate fiction by George Egerton, Sarah Grand, and Henry James. She looks at how Lord Jim and The Good Soldier project a universalized masculine narrator against a vision of female subjectivity that is too close for comfort. She also considers Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage and Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves /i>as impressionist experiments that explore the complexity of the connection between modernist abstraction and feminine subjectivity.

Sophisticated and tightly argued, Impressionist Subjects is a substantial contribution to the reassessment and expansion of the modernist fiction canon.


"Katz argues that the feminine subject is central to modernism, but she focuses less on the critical and theoretical divide between women/femininity and modernism, and more on the ways in which gender shapes more complex tensions between authority and subversion, or order and chaos, within modernist texts. Highly recommended." -- Choice

"Katz's study is a sophisticated contribution towards current debates on the gender and historicizing of modernism." -- Deborah Parsons, Modern Language Review

"Intelligent and thoughtful. . . . An important contribution to our understanding of the conceptual ambiguities inherent in modernist experimental technique as well as women's role in making such new writing 'persuasive.' . . . [Katz's readings of core texts are sharp and incisive." -- Maureen Moran, English Literature in Translation

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