"A Sudden Inexplicable Onrush of Affectionate Feeling": Subjectivity Beyond Limit in Cather, Larsen, Fitzgerald, and Woolf
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A Sudden Inexplicable Onrush of Affectionate Feeling: Subjectivity Beyond Limit in Cather, Larsen, Fitzgerald, and Woolf explores reconceptualizations of subjectivity beyond the discursive limits of realism in Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Virginia Woolf. Relying on Gilles Deleuzes concepts of virtuality and potential, this study examines disruptions to realist novels production of subjects: the self-centred Bildungsroman, the sexually normative marriage plot, and the reader that narrators call forth. From Henri Bergson to recent queer theory that links narrative linearity to narratives of social reproduction, these disruptions subvert conventional realist storytelling, a central function of modernist fiction. This dissertation reads eleven novels closely to find moments of queer potential, which often surface through characters encounters with same-sex desire. Chapter One considers Cathers O Pioneers!, My ntonia, and Death Comes for the Archbishop. The first two novels invent reading practices by staging nostalgia through ironic narrators. This tension gives way to transgressive sexuality in Deaths Latour and Vaillant, whose relationship valorizes impurity. Chapter Two examines Larsens Quicksand and Passing and the Harlem Renaissance debates about black representation. The novels ambivalence about black middle-class aspirations links bourgeois propriety to the conventions of realist fiction. Passings Clare Kendry fails as a mimetic sign, becoming a resource for the African-American novel and a site of non-identitarian blackness. Chapter Three considers queer productions of subjectivity in three Fitzgerald novels. In This Side of Paradise, same-sex desire interrupts Amory Blaines heteronormative self-actualization. Similarly, in The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraways silences conceal an affective register of desire. To apprehend this register, Tender Is the Night proposes an affective discernment in Dick Divers decline, a movement away from realist charactericity. Finally, Chapter Four argues that Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves present a model of subjectivity based on shared desire rather than discursive identification. The first two novels move away from treating characters as psychologically coherent subjects. The Waves conceives of womanly reading as the capacity to hold multiple perspectives simultaneously, forming the basis for new forms of community. The political consequences of such ideas emerge in the Conclusion as a latent anti-fascism.