"Hope" and "modernism" are two words that are not commonly linked. Moving from much-discussed negative affects to positive forms of feeling, Hope and Aesthetic Utility in Modernist Literature argues that they should be. This book contends that much of modernist writing and thought reveals a deeply held confidence about the future, one premised on the social power of art itself. In chapters ranging across a diverse array of canonical writers – Henry James, D.W. Griffith, H.D., Melvin Tolson, and Samuel Beckett – this text locates in their works an optimism linked by a common faith in the necessity of artistic practice for cultural survival. In this way, the famously self-attentive nature of modernism becomes a means, for its central thinkers and artists, of reflecting on what DeJong calls aesthetic utility: the unpredictable, ungovernable capacity of the work of art to shape the future even while envisioning it.

chapter |25 pages


The Contexts of Modernist Hope

chapter 1|27 pages

The Image in the Mirror

Aesthetic Utility in Late James

chapter 2|27 pages

Screened Anxieties

Hope and Fear in D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation

chapter 3|30 pages

Unpredictable Texts

H.D.’s Grammar of Creation

chapter 4|29 pages

Recovering Democracy

Unfashionable Hope in Melvin B. Tolson’s Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

chapter 5|30 pages

Refusing Silence

Art as Deferment in Waiting for Godot and Endgame

chapter |7 pages


Legacies of Modernist Hope: Poetic Unknowing and the Call to Wonder