The Art of Scandal: Modernism, Libel Law, and the Roman à by Sean Latham

By Sean Latham

The paintings of Scandal advances a comparatively easy declare with far-reaching results for modernist experiences: writers and readers in the course of the early 20th century revived the long-despised codes and conduct of the roman à clef as a key a part of that better attack on Victorian realism we now name modernism. within the procedure, this resurgent style took on a lifetime of its personal, reconfiguring the complicated courting among literature, famous person, and the legislations.

Sean Latham summons instances of the novel's social notoriety--and the various criminal scandals the shape provoked--to articulate the cloth networks of reception and flow by which modernism took form, revealing a bit explored renowned historical past inside of its improvement. manufacturers in addition to shoppers used components of the arguable roman á clef, a style that demanding situations the assumption of fiction as independent from the social and political global. In flip, this common perform provoked not just a generative aesthetic trouble, but additionally a progressively unfolding criminal challenge that led Britain's maximum courts to fret that fiction itself can be unlawful. Modernism sat squarely, for a time, among literature and the law.

With skillful shut readings aided by means of large archival learn, Latham illuminates the area of backbiting, gossip, litigation, and sensationalism via chapters on Oscar Wilde's trial, Joyce's Ulysses, famous person salons, and Parisian bohemia. unique, colourful, and perceptive, The paintings of Scandal both salvages the recognition of the roman à clef shape and strains its curious itinerary during the early 20th century.

Seeking out the simplest new interdisciplinary paintings, this sequence explores the cultural bearings of literary modernism throughout a number of fields, geographies, symbolic kinds, and media.

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Extra resources for The Art of Scandal: Modernism, Libel Law, and the Roman à Clef (Modernist Literature and Culture)

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28 Although not explicitly a book about genre theory, The Art of Scandal nevertheless contributes to this resurgent field by pursuing what John Frow calls the “social life of forms” in their densely articulated historical context. It thus integrates close readings of individual texts—some familiar and others much less so—with biography, legal history, and the sociology of reading in order to articulate the various uses to which the roman à clef was put in the twentieth century’s I N T R O D U C T IO N 15 opening decades.

H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, and W. J. Turner. Far from being simpleminded acts of brutality or revenge, these works instead deliberately exploit the genre’s aesthetics of detail in order to cross the boundary between the hermetic aestheticism of highbrow modernism and the considerable rewards—both social and financial—of the wider literary marketplace. In the deep reaches of expatriate Paris, Jean Rhys deployed the roman à clef in similarly strategic ways, using the masochistic protagonist in a book like Quartet to attack Ford Madox Ford and the misogynistic culture of his bohemianism.

Woolf ’s Terence Hewett has an identical yet isomorphic problem: everyone reading his imagined novel about “Silence” will nevertheless believe that he is little more than a journalist or an editor who is protecting his sources by T RU E F IC T IO N S A N D FA L SE H I ST O R I E S 23 changing a few key names. Indeed, the very fact that readers so often treat Hewett and Rachel Vinrace as ciphers for Woolf herself only makes this confusion that much more pressing. On the one hand, therefore, it is obvious that the networks of reception through which imaginative texts move underwent a radical change soon after the novel’s invention, so that Hewett (and through him, perhaps Woolf ) seeks to claim the freedom of his work from the very world of factual events to which Defoe tied his narrative star.

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