Elizabeth Bowen's Equivocal Modernism

Doug Battersby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This essay argues that the equivocal relation to modernist modes of narration exhibited by Elizabeth Bowen’s fiction provides a unique vantage point for revising critical understanding of modernism’s place in the history of the novel. Readings of The Last September (1929), To the North (1933), The House in Paris (1935), and The Death of the Heart (1938) show how these works both exploit stream of consciousness techniques and foreground the aspects of emotional life those techniques are poorly calibrated to capture. This growing scepticism of
modernist narration is notably accompanied by freer use of an explicitly philosophizing narrative voice, tacitly justified by the premise that the fullest depiction of a character’s feelings requires a working theory of emotional attachment. Bowen’s fiction ultimately helps us delineate the fundamental affordances—and limitations—of modernist forms for representing affect and emotion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101023501.


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