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Portable ModernismsThe Art of Travelling Light$
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Emily Ridge

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474419598

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474419598.001.0001

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‘Have you anything to declare?’: Portable Selves on Trial

‘Have you anything to declare?’: Portable Selves on Trial

(p.144) 4 ‘Have you anything to declare?’: Portable Selves on Trial
Portable Modernisms

Emily Ridge

Edinburgh University Press

The final chapter of the book directs attention to questions of identity and selfhood. If modernism witnessed the rise of a culture of portability, what did this mean for understandings of literary character, and how did such understandings alter over the course of the interwar period? This chapter documents the development of late modernist suspicion of portable otherness as this is conveyed through interrogative appraisals of portable property. Such a development coincides with the sudden pervasiveness of the literary figure of the customs official from the late 1920s. This is a figure shown to share the psychoanalyst’s eye for the repressed contraband: ‘Have you anything to declare?’ As the chapter shows, this question of self-declaration becomes a critical one in conceptions and re-conceptions of character from modernism to late modernism. The chapter culminates with a reading of Henry Green’s autobiographical Pack My Bag (1940) in conjunction with his fictional Party Going (1939), both published around the outbreak of the Second World War.

Keywords:   character, contraband, customs official, declaration, Henry Green, identity, late modernism, suspicion

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