Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fellow
I obtained my BA in English from Princeton University and a MA in Cultural Production from Brandeis University; I have been a graduate student in the Department of English at Berkeley since 2011.
My dissertation, Artless: Ignorance in the Novel and the Making of Modern Character, examines the British novel in the wake of the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which for the first time made education compulsory and created an enormous class of newly literate readers. Modernism’s signature style has long been read as an elitist strategy on the part of well-educated modernist writers to alienate the newly literate masses by eliminating novelistic tropes—such as relatable characters—that inexperienced readers supposedly favored. Artless, however, argues that Henry James, Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, and even the supposedly rarefied aesthetes of the Bloomsbury group, from Lytton Strachey and John Maynard Keynes to Virginia Woolf, instead developed a method of characterization committed to what I call “artlessness”—a condition through which characters could unlearn the educations that have constituted them. Such works challenged the tendency of mass education to iron out one’s individual self; many of modernism’s formal hallmarks (from stream of consciousness narration to the elliptical depiction of the First World War) were thereby developed not to obscure, but to animate an incremental divestment from social authority. By watching this process unfold, readers of these works were themselves invited to unlearn, and to apprehend novels as alternatives to education in their own right.
No recent courses taught.