Modernity and imperialism: A critique of literary modernism

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Steven Mailloux


E. M. Forster, Marxism, Modernism

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles


The dissertation develops a model of symptomatic reading as a postmodern marxist hermeneutic capable of carrying out the functions of ideology critique by elaborating a theory of discourse as the materiality of ideology and of narrative as interdiscourse. Symptomatic reading involves the tracing and critique of the discursive mechanisms by which ideology does its work of furthering capitalist, patriarchal, and neo(imperialist) interests in narratives. The dissertation then proceeds to offer a symptomatic reading of influential articulations of the modernist aesthetic to demonstrate the work of ideological crisis containment carried out by modernist discourse and to make visible the specific historical forces that precipitate the crisis and necessitate its containment. To investigate the collusion between modernist and orientalist discourses, the dissertation then provides a symptomatic reading of E. M. Forster's A Passage to India that demonstrates the availability of modernist strategies for the reconfiguration of British imperialism that became necessary with mounting nationalist resistance in India after World War I. Finally, the dissertation investigates the articulation of postmodernism with postcoloniality in Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses to explore the extent and limit of the supersession of imperialist ideology by postmodernism.


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