Abstract

This essay explores the ways in which the notion of “everyday life” helps us stage a theoretically productive encounter between modernism/modernity and utopia within the context of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary history. Taking Virginia Woolf’s critique of Edwardian writers as its starting point, it examines the hidden historical dimensions of the very idea of the everyday, its connection to modernity and, at the same time, to boredom as a specific symptom of that modernity. To illustrate the implications of this theoretical framework for literary study, I turn to two of the most emblematic texts of modernist and utopian aesthetics: James Joyce’s Ulysses and William Morris’s News from Nowhere. Whereas in Joyce, technical and formal experimentation becomes a means of capturing daily life (including utopian daydreaming) in terms of an oscillation between capitalist commodification and the restlessness of bored distraction, Morris grasps everyday life as both steeped in boredom and removed from the suffering and restlessness associated with it. Thus, utopia reverses the modernist logic of innovation, making “novelty” not a formal dimension of the literary text but one that pertains to its projected, anticipated content: life beyond the determinations of capitalist modernity.

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
2154-9648
Print ISSN
1045-991X
Pages
pp. 268-298
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-14
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.