Passing Figures: Fashion and the Formation of Modernist Identity in the American Novel
AuthorGradisek, Amanda R.
AdvisorDryden, Edgar A.
Committee ChairDryden, Edgar A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation considers the way in which the figure of fashion expands and complicates the field of literary modernism. My project treats "fashion" as more than just clothing and other bodily adornment, broadening it to include certain spaces, locations, and objects organized by social hierarchies of performance and display. I focus on the way in which characters--often in the texts of authors on the margins of mainstream modernism--use fashionable dress and the manipulation of social spaces to defy constraining social positions. I argue that fashionable expression allows characters to revise personal history and represent a self in opposition to externally imposed perceptions of identity.The readings of fashionable "moments" I consider show how fashion, like the modernist aesthetic itself, allows authors to fragment and remake conceptions of self and persona, meaning and value, and past and present, all categories scholars now argue were at the heart of the aesthetics of modernism. In chapters on Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Nella Larsen, and William Faulkner, I explore the production of womanhood as anti-modern, the generation of personhood through new relations to things, the relations of the signs of race to the more general fashion system, and the relation between the domestic, modernity, and the American South. Examining texts through the lens of fashion reveals the ways in which modernist moments are produced by characters, subjects and authors often considered to be outside the boundaries of the modernist movement through an engagement with concepts of the fashionable, and the remaking of the self it allows. Building on the history of scholarship on modernist aesthetics, and on recent work on the role fashion played in the production and growth of the spirit of modernity, I show how, at the fringes of the American aesthetic, the frictions that brought literature in contact with the fashion system allow us to rethink the history of the early twentieth century.