Illegitimate Freedom: Informality in Modernist Literature, 1900 - 1940 is the first study of informality in modernist literature. Differentiating informality from intimacy in its introduction, the book discusses the informal in relation with sensory experience, aesthetic presentation, ethical deliberation or action, and social attitudes within modernist works. It examines these works for particular nuances of the word "informality" in each of its chapters in the following thematic sequence: informality that offers humour, interpretive freedom, and promiscuity as counters to self-absorption in works by Virginia Woolf; rebuttals to male priorities in liberalism through "feminine informality" in several short stories by Katherine Mansfield; contempt for colloquialism and intimacy, tinged with class-anxieties and crises of attitude, in T. S. Eliot’s poetry; resistance to disgust in James Joyce’s novels; and the fusion of irreverence, protest, and praise in W. H. Auden’s writings before 1940. The book’s conclusion considers the risks of informality through a discussion of what it calls "inverted dignity." The theoretical aspects of the book offer insights into Lockean liberalism, the ethical dimensions of what Hélène Cixous termed "feminine writing," relations of sublimity and domesticity, Sigmund Freud’s arguments on humour and melancholia, and recent affect theory’s—as well as Immanuel Kant’s and Friedrich Nietzsche’s—views on disgust, linking these with modernism. This wide range of engagement makes this study relevant for those interested in literary studies, critical theory, and philosophy.

chapter |27 pages


Informality as Illegitimate Freedom

chapter 1|26 pages

“Intoxicated Sense”

Humour and Promiscuity in To the Lighthouse and Orlando

chapter 2|24 pages

Marking Absence

Mansfield's Feminine Informality vs. Lockean Liberalism

chapter 3|21 pages

Eliotic Contempt

chapter 4|23 pages

Joyce's Challenges to Disgust

chapter 5|23 pages

“Inverted Hypocrisy”

Auden's Informal Pedagogy

chapter |10 pages


Openness to Misreading: The Risks of Informality