Writing Life

Early Twentieth-Century Autobiographies of the Artist-Hero

Mhairi Pooler

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ISBN: 9781781381977

Publication: December 1, 2015

Series: English Association Monographs 4

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Writers’ lives are endlessly fascinating for the reading public and literary scholars alike. By examining the self-representation of authors across the schism between Victorianism and Modernism via the First World War, this study offers a new way of evaluating biographical context and experience in the individual creative process at a crucial point in world and literary history. Writing Life explores how and why a select group of early twentieth-century writers, including Edmund Gosse, Henry James, Siegfried Sassoon and Dorothy Richardson, adapted the model of the German Romantic Künstlerroman, or artist narrative, for their autobiographical writing. Instead of (mis)reading these autobiographies as historical documentation, Pooler examines how these authors conduct a Romantic-style conversation about literature through literature as a means of reconfirming the role of the artist in the face of shifting values and the cataclysm of the Great War.

Mhairi Pooler is a Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen.


Introduction: ‘The Very Complexion of the Mirror’
 i. The Historical Horizon
 ii. Creative Autobiography
1. The Writer Reading
 i. Tradition and Inheritance: The Künstlerroman
 ii. ‘Influence (Inflowing)’
2. The Anxiety of Inheritance: Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son
 i. Victorian and Modern
 ii. Religion and Literature
3. The Art of Life: Henry James’s A Small Boy and Others and Notes of a Son and Brother
 i. Making a Scene
 ii. The Fostered Imagination
 iii. ‘Convert, convert, convert!’
4. A Twofold Experiment with Time: Siegfried Sassoon’s The Old Century, The Weald of Youth and Siegfried’s Journey
 i. ‘Fictionalized Reality, Essayized Autobiography’
 ii. ‘Nostalgic and Breezy Reminiscences’
 iii. ‘England’s Young Soldier-Poet’
5. An Investigation of Reality: Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage
 i. The Art of Fiction
 ii. Pilgrimage’s Progress
 iii. Of Language, of Meaning, of Mr Henry James
Conclusion: Reading the Writer


Format: Hardback

Size: 239 × 163 mm

224 Pages

ISBN: 9781781381977

Publication: December 1, 2015

Series: English Association Monographs 4

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