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Anti-Nazi Modernism

The Challenges of Resistance in 1930s Fiction

Mia Spiro

Publication Year: 2012

Mia Spiro's Anti-Nazi Modernism marks a major step forward in the critical debates over the relationship between modernist art and politics. Spiro analyzes the antifascist, and particularly anti-Nazi, narrative methods used by key British and American fiction writers in the 1930s. Focusing on works by Djuna Barnes, Christopher Isherwood, and Virginia Woolf, Spiro illustrates how these writers use an "anti-Nazi aesthetic" to target and expose Nazism’s murderous discourse of exclusion. The three writers challenge the illusion of harmony and unity promoted by the Nazi spectacle in parades, film, rallies, and propaganda. Spiro illustrates how their writings, seldom read in this way, resonate with the psychological and social theories of the period and warn against Nazism’s suppression of individuality. Her approach also demonstrates how historical and cultural contexts complicate the works, often reinforcing the oppressive discourses they aim to attack. This book explores the textual ambivalences toward the "Others" in society—most prominently the Modern Woman, the homosexual, and the Jew. By doing so, Spiro uncovers important clues to the sexual and racial politics that were widespread in Europe and the United States in the years leading up to World War II.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Contents

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p. vii-vii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

In the Talmud there is a wise Jewish saying: “Provide yourself with a teacher and get yourself a friend; and judge every person towards merit.” I have been so fortunate in receiving unsurpassed guidance, mentorship, and encouragement from teachers and friends as I embarked on this scholarly journey. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to ...

List of Abbreviations

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p. xi-xi

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Introduction

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pp. 3-21

In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf suggests that writers need to “find out new ways of approaching ‘the public’; single it into separate people instead of massing it into one monster, gross in body, feeble in mind” (117). The burden for many politically engaged writers in the 1930s was how to warn the “public” to resist the harmful and alienating effects of ...

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Chapter 1. Spectacular Nazism and Subversive Performances

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pp. 23-79

In Eric Rentschler’s 1996 collection of essays on German cinema, filmmaker Wim Wenders comments, “Never before and in no other country have images and language been abused so unscrupulously as here, never before and nowhere else have they been debased so deeply as vehicles to transmit lies” (Ministry of Illusion, 128).1 In the past two ...

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Chapter 2. Vamps, Tramps, and Nazis: Representations of Spectacular Female Characters

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pp. 81-137

In Between the Acts, two paintings hang opposite a window: one is an image of a woman, “bought by Oliver because he liked the picture”; the other, a painting of a man, “an ancestor” (BTA, 33). The man “had a name.” The woman did not. The uncanny silence and emptiness surrounding the image with no history and no story points to the stark reality ...

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Chapter 3. Seeing Jewish or Seeing “the Jew”? The Spectral Jewish Other

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pp. 139-197

A joke circulated in the 1930s about a Jewish man who meets his friend Isaac sitting on a park bench reading Der Stürmer (a rabidly antisemitic Nazi newspaper).1 “Have you gone crazy?” the man asks his friend. “Why are you reading that antisemitic trash?” “Well,” Isaac answers, “when I read our newspapers I hear about Jews getting harassed and ...

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Chapter 4. Eventually We’re All Queer: Fascism, Nazism, and Homosexuality

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pp. 199-242

“Eventually we’re all queer,” drawls Christopher’s friend Fritz as he and the narrator sit in a bar watching a drag show toward the end of Goodbye to Berlin (238). In this way, the text positions characters and readers alike as “queer” outsiders, observing the Nazi spectacle through the inverted lens of the camera obscura that is the text. The idea that “we’re all ...

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Conclusion: Can Fiction Make a Difference? Writing and Reading Resistance

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pp. 243-247

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf concedes, “How unpleasant it is to be locked out; [but] it is worse perhaps to be locked in” (24). Upon fi nishing a draft of Between the Acts, Woolf, ill with depression and no doubt affected by the war’s general devastation and the destruction of her London home during the Blitz, committed suicide by drowning herself ...

Notes

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pp. 249-277

Works Cited

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pp. 279-296

Index

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pp. 297-308

Back Cover

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p. 322-322


E-ISBN-13: 9780810166370
E-ISBN-10: 0810166372
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810128637
Print-ISBN-10: 0810128632

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: Cultural Expressions
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Woolf, Virginia, -- 1882-1941 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Barnes, Djuna -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Isherwood, Christopher, 1904-1986 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • American fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • English fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism
  • Modernism (Literature) -- History and criticism.
  • Anti-Nazi movement in literature.
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