New Writing: Modernism, Punctuation, and the Intermedial Text


This dissertation studies how punctuation marks serve as instruments and symbols of modernism's historical self-awareness and produce seams and ruptures between and within literary writing, music, and pictorial art. It concentrates on British, U.S., and European literary modernism and its theorization in prose by Theodor Adorno, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Andrei Bely, and F. T. Marinetti. Punctuation, it argues, plays a central but paradoxical role in the premise of "making it new" in the avant-garde and in the very idea of "modern"ism during the early twentieth century. <br/><br/> The initial chapter identifies the significance of punctuation marks and print materiality for intermedial writing experiments by Bely and writings on intermediality by Adorno. It reveals how for Adorno the compositorial elements of text emerge on equal footing with the traditional interartistic ideal of the musical composition. Writing's accidental status as a nonintentional, even dissonant language of its own ruptures the classical privileging of unity and essence, a move performed by modernist aesthetics more generally. The second chapter explores the perspectives of Adorno, Stein, Marinetti, and Woolf on the relationship between historical change and aesthetic revolt. It focuses on punctuation, which as a segmenting, periodizing tool, formally engages modernism's engagement with the idea of historical rupture. <br/><br/> Chapter three reads the foregrounding of textual accidentals and the near absence of quotation marks in Joyce's "Ulysses" against concepts of literary realism and linguistic experiment, literature and journalism, speech and print, and repetition and originality. In conjunction it examines the role of the accident/essence binary in the recurring example of Joyce in Adorno and Georg Luk√°cs' debate over the modern novel, realism, and reportage. The final chapter examines how parentheses and square brackets in Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" register temporal change in the space of its narrative and textual form. Through its conventional association with editorial deletion and visual continuity with the empty extended arms of Mr. Ramsay and Aeneas, the bracket performs this shared scene of loss and represents the novel's connection to the epic past as an absence that connects.
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2013)

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Solomon, Susan L., "New Writing: Modernism, Punctuation, and the Intermedial Text" (2013). Comparative Literature Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.