Aspects of Intimacy: Authority and Integrity in the Modernist Novel
In the following thesis I strive to offer renewed ways of construing “one’s own,” authority, integrity, and intimacy as literary themes, and appropriate form, provisional tonality, and approximate, inexhaustible address as formal aspects of literary works or methodological tools for literary scholars. Part One involves a consideration of contexts for our current understanding of the self, identity/integrity, theology, tradition, and intimacy, which I cast in a fresh light through critical readings of Nietzsche, Freud, Charles Taylor, Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, Thomas Mann, H.-G. Gadamer, Jaroslav Pelikan, Vladimir Lossky, and others. Part Two contains my development of these ideas, in tandem with passages from Bakhtin, as they lead to and are augmented by my own original considerations of prosaic form, tradition, integrity, intimacy. Part Three is devoted to close readings of novels by Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence. I have deliberately chosen to address these two central authors whose work has proved defining in significant ways for modernist literature and its legacy. As I am working to fundamentally reconsider aspects of modernity and our comprehension of it, I focus on the prosaic centre of its English literature, so to speak. Beginning with Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925), I consider how friendship (friendly intimacy) is conditioned by social and individual ethics, the effect of the weight of political (civil) tradition on the individual’s comportment, and how heightened “moments of being” alter a person and translate into grounds for individual character and activity. Second, in Lawrence’s Women in Love (1920), I consider how eros (erotic intimacy) is conditioned and threatened by cultural traditions, how the weight of assumed aesthetic and ontological forms challenge individual freedom, and how certain habitual absolutes by which a person may live can take an abstract, “deathly” form. In both cases, I am interested in how the novelist depicts the struggles between absolutes and temporal forms of authority and specific characters, how this confrontation and struggle is conditioned by the intimate spheres of the characters’ lives, and how this shared, relational intimate sphere becomes the arena for the process of integration, which in turn allows the character (and reader) to make sense of their own self and helps to determine their relationships with other characters in the work.