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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32007

Title: The Operatic Imperative in Anglo-American Literary Modernism: Pound, Stein, and Woolf
Authors: Fairbrother Canton, Kimberly
Advisor: Hutcheon, Linda
Department: English
Keywords: modernism
opera
Issue Date: 17-Jan-2012
Abstract: It is generally agreed that modernism is a period and movement rich in interdisciplinary collaboration. What is often contentious in understandings of the modernist period is to whom modernist artists addressed their projects. On the one hand, traditional scholarship has tended to view modernism as an essentially elitist project practiced among a closed set orbiting around British and American expatriate coteries: Ezra Pound and his “Ezuversity,” Stein and her Paris Salon, Woolf and the Bloomsbury circle. On the other hand, recent scholarship in modernism has sought to expand the field to included modernisms practiced in different time periods, in different countries, and by a wider range of artists. While my project is firmly situated in the work of the so-called high modernists, my operatically focused approach, which sees Pound, Stein, and Woolf engaging directly with mass culture by way of opera (albeit in different ways and to different aims), suggests that we need to re-think the way in which we have mythologized the period, even where these “high” modernists are concerned. In chapter one, I read Pound’s operatic endeavors as alternative means of translation. Though these pedagogical projects valorize the art they “translate” for its unique difficulty, the use of opera and later, radio opera, as the means to translate this art demonstrates an interest in democratizing this difficulty. This is a remarkable inconsistency given Pound’s undisputedly fascist allegiances. Chapter two, which focuses on Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts, shows how the prospect of writing an opera helped Stein to forge a new connection between playwright and audience in the theatre. What I am calling the “envoiced landscape” is an anti-patriarchal, enabling alternative to teleologically driven narrative that defeats authorial control by way of play. Chapters three and four turn to Woolf’s conspicuously hybrid novels, The Waves and Between the Acts. Both works question the nineteenth-century notion of music’s capacity to transcend language, embracing instead a distinctly operatic frame of reference, as Woolf celebrates the novel as an omnivorous but democratic, open-ended, contingent form, endlessly capable of incorporating and co-opting other genres. Whereas The Waves enacts a critique of the Gesamtkunstwerk played out on the Wagnerian stage, Between the Acts considers the social text played out among opera’s audiences, positing, then critiquing, a Brechtian reevaluation of Wagnerian aesthetics.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32007
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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