Adjectives and the Work of Modernism in an Age of Celebrity

This essay compares the uses and abuses of the authorial adjective (i.e., "Jamesian," "Joycean," etc.), tracing an emergent economy of literary reputation to the critical wings of modernism. It argues that the modes of criticism inaugurated by T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound and elaborated by I.A. Richards and F.R. Leavis were predicated on certain influential assumptions about the scarcity of elite literary reputation. Further, many of these assumptions--in particular, the impersonality of critical method and autonomy of critical objects--disguise deep resemblances between public literary persona and the ideal, magisterial author presupposed in modernist theories of literary production.