Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jane Garrity

Second Advisor

Laura Winkiel

Third Advisor

Janice Ho

Fourth Advisor

Kelly Hurley

Fifth Advisor

Jan Whitt

Abstract

This dissertation highlights the historical intersections of mobile technologies, leisure, and British literature of the period between the two world wars. During this time, Britain faced political turbulence in Europe, imperial unrest in India, and social and economic crises at home, but it also witnessed an unprecedented increase in mobility due to higher wages, greater leisure time, and expanded access to rail, bus, and automobile transport. This study explores the ways in which interwar texts respond to and are molded by a mobile and unsettled Britain. Applying the history and theories of transportation and human movement, this dissertation aims to pursue in literary studies what has been called the “mobility turn” in the social sciences. It examines such works as Arnold Bennett’s Accident, J. B. Priestley’s English Journey, George Orwell’s Coming Up for Air, Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, and Virginia Woolf’s The Waves to argue that modernist literature features “mobile texts” that are marked by shifting perspectives, anxious narratives, and generic blending. The first chapter treats authors who represent the railway as a trope for a conventionally linear model of narrative that is disturbed or modified during a time of social crises and rapid transport. The next chapter examines Woolf’s deployment of the railway as a figure for both linear progression and circulation in The Waves. This double mobility has implications for the characterizations, imperial and political shadings, and narrative structure of the novel. Chapter 3 analyzes shifting perspectives in travelogues and travel-themed novels that seek to recuperate or define Englishness in rural regions. Finally, the fourth chapter deals with interconnections of mobility, leisure, and housing in Greene’s fiction, which subverts the ideal home as it was imagined in interwar advertisements, town planning, and housing policies.

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