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Elizabeth BowenTheory, Thought and Things$
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Jessica Gildersleeve and Patricia Juliana Smith

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474458641

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474458641.001.0001

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Elizabeth Bowen: Surrealist

Elizabeth Bowen: Surrealist

(p.28) Chapter 2 Elizabeth Bowen: Surrealist
Elizabeth Bowen

Keri Walsh

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter approaches the emerging notion of Irish surrealism in a seemingly unlikely corner: Bowen’s fiction. Seldom considered in the context of a modernist avant-garde, Bowen's work has been read within the history of the novel of manners, and as a chronicler of Anglo-Irish anxiety and ambivalence. Underrepresented until recently, however, are the specifically modernist commitments of her art. Bowen's career-long attention to the effects of new technologies on consciousness; her willingness to revise older forms of fiction and to experiment with techniques influenced by painting, cinema, and radio; as well as her depictions of women struggling to resist inherited Victorian roles and fulfil their desires for autonomy, education, travel, and love align her with a modernist tradition. Yet rather than classifying her with such innovators, even those critics attending to her modernist style and technique figure such experiments as idiosyncrasies. Where her prose subverts expectations of realist fiction, Bowen is more often described as an eccentric writer than one participating in modernism. Uncovering Bowen's dialogue with surrealism allows us to see her ‘strangeness’ in a new light, as part of her intermodernist (drawing on Kristin Bluemel’s term) engagement with avant-garde, continental discourses.

Keywords:   Elizabeth Bowen, Surrealism, Modernism, Avant-garde, Women

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