25. Société d’Études Modernistes et Société d’Études Woolfiennes (SEM-SEW)

Société d’Études Modernistes et Société d’Études Woolfiennes (SEM-SEW)

Responsables : Nicolas
Boileau (Aix-Marseille Université) et Charlotte Estrade (Université Paris

Atelier I

Jeudi 6 juin 2019, 13h30-16h30


13h30 Alexandra Pédinielli-Féron

Aix-Marseille Université

‘Virginia Woolf’s exceptional representation of psyche: free indirect style?’

Critics in the field of literary research have long praised Virginia Woolf’s intensive use of free indirect style in order to stage the characters’ psyches and multiple points of view in her novels as an innovative device, proper to modern novelists, to challenge 19th century literary modes of representation of the psyche. Indeed, David Lodge ([1992], 1993) contends that « There are two staple techniques for representing consciousness in prose fiction. One is interior monologue, in which the grammatical subject of the discourse is an « I », and we, as it were, overhear the character verbalizing his or her thoughts as they occur. […] The other method, free indirect style, goes back at least as far as Jane Austen, but was employed with ever-increasing scope and virtuosity by modern novelists like Woolf » (43). Nevertheless, 21st century research in the linguistics field, such as that of Monique De Mattia-Viviès (2010), Sylvie Hanote (2015) or Laurence Rosier (2008), demonstrate that the concept of free indirect style implies the notion of linguistic speech. Claiming that Woolf intensively uses free indirect style so as to represent her characters’ psyches and multiple points of view, hence, intrinsically suggests the idea that the main mental activity she narrates in her novels is that of inner discourse or self-talk. However, the questions that we can ask ourselves are the following: is self-talk truly the chief psychological activity that is represented in Woolf’s novels? If not, what are the other mental processes at stake in those fictional writings and what devices, other than free indirect style, are used to represent them? In other words, does Woolf’s exceptional treatment of psyche in her novels truly reside in the use of free indirect style or does she challenge 19th century modes of representation of the psyche thanks to other innovative techniques? In order to attempt to answer those questions and tackle Woolf’s exceptional quintessence, we shall base our thinking on extracts drawn from Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Night and Day.


13h45 Julie Chevaux

Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle

‘Sometimes exasperatedly intense, sometimes almost uniform in its mysterious greyness’: Syncopation Creating Moments of Exception in E. M. Forster, Roger Fry and Virginia Woolf’s Writing’

This paper focuses on syncopation as a way of creating moments of exception that disrupt established narratives in the writings of E. M. Forster, Roger Fry and Virginia Woolf. In Difficult Rhythm, Michelle Fillion studies the way in which the rhythm of Forster’s writing unsettles the narrative and creates points of syncopation where the possibility of meaning is challenged, as in the famous Marabar Caves of A Passage to India. For Roger Fry, rhythm is both the defining power that creates the harmony and cohesiveness of a work of art, and the bodily sensation through which the artist’s emotion is conveyed to the spectator. Rhythm is opposed to ordinary vision and the true artist is defined by his distinctive rhythm; thus the artistic experience is characterized by exceptional rhythm and syncopation. Woolf frequently describes the composition of a story as the creation of relation between separate parts, a definition that recalls that of Fry; yet as early as in The Voyage Out, the composition of her novels revolves around moments of syncopation and revelation that underline the importance of the life of the mind in the construction of the narrative. I would argue that for each of these authors, the use of rhythm and syncopation is directly linked to the way we identify them as modernists: Forster’s use of rhythm and syncopation is the formal incarnation of his refusal to choose between rival narratives and of the openness of his stories; Fry’s definition of rhythm allows him to praise Cézanne and Matisse as the heirs of the great tradition of European masters of painting; the preference given by Woolf to internal rhythm over the staples of novelistic composition is one of the most distinctive features of her writing. E. M. Forster, Roger Fry and Virginia Woolf craft their own, singular brand of modernism by creating moments of exception that escape the rules of conventional narrative or conventional works of art.


14h Kit Kumiko Toda

Université de Versailles

‘ “Hardly a Citizen”: Class and The Exceptional Artist in Woolf and Eliot’

Critics have often noted the parallels in theories relating to the artistic ideal of “impersonality” advocated by both Woolf and Eliot. However, less attention has been paid to parallels or divergences between their theories on the ideal material conditions for artistic creation. While Woolf’s thoughts on material conditions have been much discussed thanks to A Room of One’s Own, Eliot critics have followed Tradition and the Individual Talent in concentrating on the internal conditions of the mind. Yet elsewhere, Eliot gave indications of his thoughts regarding the external social conditions that impede or facilitate the artist. In “A Romantic Aristocrat”, Eliot states that: “The Arts […] require that a man be not a member […] of a caste or of a party or of a coterie, but simply and solely himself.” He suggests that the aristocratic writer George Wyndham was incapable of being a true artist since he could not extract himself from his “awareness of caste.” In contrast, Eliot argues, Leonardo Da Vinci became a great artist because, being illegitimate, “he was hardly a citizen, and he had no stake in the community”; he was, in short, naturally an exception to society. Eliot’s exclusionary language reflects the assumption of his age: artists are male. As Woolf demonstrates in A Room of One’s Own, a woman would amply qualify as a person who, in Eliot’s words, “was hardly a citizen.” Yet such a status, Woolf argues, leads to difficult material conditions that impede artistic creation, while aristocratic status might alleviate some of the difficulties: “One would expect to find a lady of title meeting with far greater encouragement.” Eliot and Woolf appear, then, to have contrasting ideas on the conditions required for artistic creation, but both draw attention to the necessity of excepting oneself from society. This paper will clarify each writer’s theories on conditions necessary for artistic creation by studying them in the light of the other. By going beyond the conventional readings of these two famous texts, as well as incorporating their ideas on aesthetics expressed elsewhere, it will argue that their theories are largely complementary on material conditions, as well as on the (often consequent) conditions of the mind.




14h45 PAUSE


15h15 Stamatina Dimakopoulou

Université Nationale et Kapodistrienne d’Athènes

‘Vulnerability and/as Exception in Modernist Poetry’

Modernist writers and poets cultivated their exceptional personas and, often, their lives in ways that converged or clashed: the self-fashioning of the modernist writer took different guises, in relation to their idiosyncracies, to cultural representations, and the contexts of the production of their works. The question of the “exceptional” status of their works was therefore contingent on the dynamics of canon formation within the Anglo-American modernist field, but perhaps also on how they integrated “the question of exception within the economy of the works themselves”: this paper proposes to explore how certain poets approached exceptional lives, that become exceptional through conditions of vulnerability. Lola Ridge, Mina Loy, Djuna Barnes, Jean Toomer, Carl Sandburg turn to vulnerable subjects, to the conditions that make them vulnerable, or to the conditions their human subjects are vulnerable too. What will be probed is how the condition of vulnerability may constitute a form of exception at odds with paradigms of newness, and on how it is evoked doubly as an experience of dis/empowerment. The entwinement of vulnerability and dis/empowerment compels us to rethink the imaginings of how lives are exceptional by virtue of their vulnerability: this, as this paper suggests, is the case with the immigrants that populate Lola Ridge’s “ghetto”, Jean Toomer’s victimised female figures in Cane, the “women” that populate the early poetry of Djuna Barnes and Mina Loy, the workers in Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems.


15h30 Cécile Varry

Université Paris Diderot

‘The Obsession with Exceptions: Pitfalls of Perfection in T.S. Eliot’s Portrait of a Lady

In this talk, I propose to explore Eliot’s ambivalent attitude towards exceptionally intense emotions, exceptional situations and exceptional personas. My analysis will look at some of Eliot’s early works through the lens of an underlying tension between the exceptional and the commonplace. The status of moral and artistic exception is coveted to the point of obsession, but it is also ridiculed and warned against; the commonplace is shunned and recoiled from, but it remains a crucial focus of Eliot’s writing techniques. I will look at three poles summarising Eliot’s treatment of, and relation to, exception: criticising, obsessing and trivialising. Eliot’s critical prose is concerned with setting the norms and methods of poetic exception. Exceptionality of some kind must be the end result of art (make it new!), but it is not a prerequisite for writing. In Tradition and the Individual Talent, Eliot specifies that the poet is not someone blessed or cursed with extraordinarily intense emotions in life; exceptional experiences are not necessarily the stuff of good poetry and should not be sought for themselves. The artist is not set apart by the exceptional nature of his emotions, but by his distinct awareness of them, and the outstanding precision of his language. And yet Eliot’s poems are obsessed with moral and emotional exceptionality. His poetry is replete with figures of saints and martyrs as well as more commonplace personas fixed upon mimicking those extraordinary models. They face moments of horror, revelation, resistance or surrender with a mixture of dread and longing. Their pursuits and attempts at self-definition, however, are systematically undermined and trivialised by the ironic recurrence of the commonplace. I will look in particular at Portrait of a Lady to identify the ways in which the poet both carefully builds up, and constantly strives to curb, this sense of desired exceptionality.


15h45 Nell Wasserstrom

Boston College/ENS Ulm

‘Re-figuring the Canon: Hope Mirrlees’s Paris: A Poem and the Modernist Epic Tradition’

In its quest-like structure through a modern metropolis, Hope Mirrlees’s Paris: A Poem (1919) offers a jarring conjunction of continental avant-garde aesthetics and classical traditions of epic form. Written and published between the appearance of Ezra Pound’s first three Cantos in 1917 and T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in 1922, and during Ulysses’s serialization, Paris is both representative of and excluded from the canonical high modernist epic tradition—precisely because of its “exceptionality.” Paris’s experimental verse draws on formal innovations of continental aesthetics of the 1910s, which Mirrlees had encountered while living in Paris, yet she would write nothing else like it. In 1928 she converted to Catholicism and her subsequent poetry took a conservative turn. This exquisite work, then, stands as an exception both to the modernist canon and within Mirrlees’s own oeuvre. Extending the recovery work done by scholars such as Julia Briggs, Cyrena Pondrom, and Peter Howarth, my paper reveals the way in which Paris is a microcosm of what I take to be the central theoretical concern of modernism: its own constitutive belatedness. Edward Said characterizes literary modernism as a “late-style phenomenon,” an unlikely collision of novelty and “ancient” forms. Paris emerges from modernism’s double bind of attempting to render the “just now” by compulsively returning to past forms. I contend, however, that Paris is an exceptional modernist work insofar as it does not register this weight of the past in terms of anxiety, but rather as a source of subversive potential. The poem invokes tropes of female idolatry only to dismantle them and the institutions that reinforce them. A female voice “wading” its way “waist-deep” in a tradition dominated by men, Paris’s lyric “I” enjoins these traditions with an irony that at once undoes phallocentric assumptions and reveals the liberatory potential of such figurative dismembering.




Atelier II

Vendredi 7 juin 2019, 9h-10h30


9h Leslie de Bont

Université de Nantes

‘Is May Sinclair an Exception?’

As her biographers observed, May Sinclair’s life (1863-1946) was indeed exceptionally dense. She joined the women’s suffrage movement (1907-1912); she was a founding member of the Medico-Psychological Clinic in London (1913) and published five psychoanalytical research papers. She joined a volunteer medical unit on the Belgian front in 1915 and was a friend and collaborator of Ford, Pound, Eliot, H.D. and Aldington, to name but a few. She also wrote two major philosophical essays on idealism and was the first female member of the Aristotelian Society. Last, she was an acclaimed literary critic who wrote seminal articles and prefaces on the stream of consciousness, the Brontë sisters and imagist poetry. Her fiction draws from these experiences and thoroughly explores many of the key questions of her time. Unsurprisingly, most studies on modernist fiction contain references to her name; yet, she rarely gets more than a mere mention and most of her fiction has been out of print for decades. So why is May Sinclair such a neglected author? Less ambitious later novels, her pro-war position, or the fact that she was indeed much older than most modernist figures (as George Johnson’s aptly-titled article, “Anachronistic Modernist”, suggests) are indeed interesting hypotheses. This paper will also investigate Sinclair’s perplexing stylistic and narrative experimentations with particular cases as a possible cause of her neglect. Contemporary reviewers were indeed puzzled by the unusual hybridity of her fiction, and referred to her novels as “studies”, “theses” or “documents”. As such, Sinclairian fiction stands out in the modernist canon. Through their dialogic and case-based approach that combines Sinclair’s many research interests, Sinclairian novels have indeed developed an experimental epistemology that relies on idiosyncratic articulations between fiction and non-fiction, between the exception and the model, or between the theoretical and the unknown.


9h15 Ciara Thompson

Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3

‘An Exceptional Event: the Use of Deviance in Olive Moore’s Spleen

Between 1929 and 1934 Olive Moore published four experimental novels and then disappeared. Though little is known of her personal or professional life, the exceptional quality and subject matter of her oeuvres attest to an underestimated talent and artistic vision. Throughout her works, Moore’s novels express and evaluate the marginalized and muted voices of women in exile. Nowhere is this more apparent or textually developed than in Moore’s second novel Spleen, which explores the themes of exclusion, isolation, restriction and limitation through the spectacle of reproduction. Moore’s handling of pregnancy and motherhood, around which the novel is built, is an exception, being totally at odds with traditional conceptions of maternity. Normality is put into question as Moore challenges maternity and maternal instinct while simultaneously highlighting the minute details of the protagonist Ruth’s inner life and her connection to her unborn child. What would generally be considered a happy event is for Ruth an existential epiphany into her own interior being, an artistic endeavor to create “something new.” When her child is born crippled, Ruth’s self-imposed exile serves as a metaphoric and narrative trope in which Moore delivers a searing critique of female agency in post-Victorian Britain. Moore’s attention to exclusion and objection often cumulate around ideologies of societal norms and are challenged through forms of deviation. Through the use of deviant syntax, punctuation, temporality, form and dialogue Moore challenges and ultimately rejects normative narrative structures. The aim of this paper is to examine how Moore’s writing balances between the two poles of “exception” and how these often overlap; how her characters, narratives, language and themes oscillate between the exceptional and the excluded. In an effort to establish Moore’s place within the modernist corpus, we shall also strive to re-evaluate the role of Moore’s writing amongst other, more distinguished authors of modernism.


9h30 Clara Oropeza

Santa Barbara City College

‘Anais Nin: A Mythic Method of her Own’

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977) joined the Parisian literary scene in 1932 after the publication of her first book D. H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study. She was known in intimate literary circles as the author of novelettes set in surreal backdrops where female characters probe their internal worlds. By analyzing the mythic tropes of Nin’s early works, this paper argues that she created a mythic method of her own to rival that cherished by T. S. Eliot. Moreover, in the 1940s Nin wrote erotica wherein she insisted on writing about sexuality with the same freedom as her male counterparts. This experimentation marked her as merely an erotic writer and a halting literary figure. Throughout her life, she recorded an exceptional example of a literary diary, constructed over 60 years (1914-1974), exploring the depth and range of the ecology of the feminine self. In 1995 the posthumous publication of her unexpurgated diaries relegated her to the realm of scandal, cementing her exclusion from the canon. The first part of this paper argues the value of rethinking the history and scope of modernism to include late modernist writer Anaïs Nin. This re-visioning of modernism is essential, as Shari Benstock suggests in Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940: “once women Modernists are placed beside their male colleagues, the hegemony of masculine heterosexual values that have for so long underwritten our definitions of Modernism is put into question” (Benstock 6). Later I explore how Nin’s standing as a literary figure has shifted throughout the decades. Through archival research of her original diaries written in 1931-1934, I demonstrate the complexities surrounding the polemic that ensued after the posthumous publications, while provide context of emerging psychological theories. My research provides a new framework in which to read Nin’s posthumously published works. Nin is an exceptional modernist figure whose fight against androcentric ideologies reveals a critical context of her time.


9h45 Anthony Cordingley

Université Paris 8

‘Beckett’s Little Chits, or Modernism’s Retarded Infancy’

Samuel Beckett had such a dim view of the world that he refused to bring children into it. His fictional and theatrical worlds, however, contain a cast of minor characters that he subjects to various rites of passage to adulthood. In this paper, I will compare the function and place of Beckett’s children in his writing, and consider them in the context of current research into child figures in other modernist authors. I will argue, finally, that the child’s gaze in Beckett’s post-war writing refracts and subverts mid-century debates about child psychology and education in Freud, Klein, Merleau-Ponty and others.