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Bust the Roof off Everything: Private Space and Social Life in Modernist Literature


While Modernism is renowned for its depictions of the lonely individual navigating atomizing and alienating public space, a study of representations of private, domestic spaces in Modernist literature complements this focus by foregrounding the role of increased social consciousness and relationality in these authors’ understanding of modernity. This thesis examines the ways in which various Modernist writers, including Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, Walter Benjamin, André Breton and Anais Nin express their consciousness of the social conditions and challenges of their day through their depictions, structural and psychological, of interior living spaces. Arguing against the nineteenth- century conception of the enclosed, idyllic family home, these authors continue to center the importance of domestic space while reimagining its structure and significance.

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