ABSTRACT

This introduction defines modernist informality, its differences from the widely theorized concept of “intimacy,” and some broad tendencies in literary manifestations of informality. To sketch a model for such modernist attitudes, this introduction discusses Virginia Woolf’s endorsement of “illegitimate freedom” in “The Mark on the Wall.” Linking this notion to Michel Foucault’s theorization of parrhesia (“free-speaking”), I trace a dual nineteenth-century intellectual genealogy for modernist candour: first, discursive prohibitions from dominant Victorian cultural critics such as Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, and John Ruskin and, then, the more affirmative half of the genealogy—the legacies of Thomas Hardy, Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, and some versions of socialism. The introduction closes with descriptions of the chapters to follow.