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Unseasonable

Youth
Modernisniy Colonialism, and the
Fiction of Development

Jed Esty

OXPORD
UNIVERSITY PRESS
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Esty, Joshua, 1967-
Unseasonable y o u th ; modernism, colonialism, and the fiction of development / Jed Esty
p. cm.(Modernist literature & culture)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-19-985796-8 (hardcover; alk. paper)
1. English fiction19th centuryHistory and criticism. 2. English fiction
20th centuryHistory and criticism. 3. Modernism (Literature)Great
Britain. 4. Bildungsromans, EnglishHistory and criticism. 5. Youth in
literature. 6. Adolescence in literature 7. Progress in literature. 8. Colonies in
literature. 9. Imperialism in literature. I. Title.
PR878.M63E77 2012
823.ioo9 dc22 2011021174

987654321

Printed in the United States of America


on acid-free paper
Contents

Foreword ix
Acknowledgments xiii

1. Introduction: Scattered SoulsThe Bildungsroman


and Colonial Modernity i
After the Novel o f Progress i
Kiplings Imperial Time 7
Genre, History, and the Trope of Youth 14
Modernist Subjectivity and the World-System 25

2. National-Historical Time from Goethe to George Eliot 39


Infinite Development versus National Form 41
Nationhood and Adulthood in The M ill on the Floss 53
After Eliot: Aging Forms and Globalized Provinces 64

3. Youth/Death: Schreiner and Conrad in the Contact Zone 71


Outpost without Progress: Olive Schreiners Story o f an African Farm 74
A free and wandering tale: Conrads Lord Jim 83 ^

4. Souls of Men under Capitalism: Wilde, Wells, and the Anti-Novel 101
Unripe Time: Dorian Gray and Metropolitan Youth 104
An unassimilable enormity of traffic: Commerce and Decay
in Tono-Bungay 115

vii
viii CONTENTS

5. Tropics o f Youth in Woolf and Joyce 127


The weight o f the world: W oolfs Colonial Adolescence 131
Elfin Preludes; Joyces Adolescent Colony 142

6. V irgins o f Empire; The A n tid evelop m en tal P lot in Rhys and B o w en 160
Gender and Colonialism in the Modernist Semi-Periphery 160
Endlessly Devolving: Jean Rhyss Voyage in the D ark 166
Querying Innocence: Elizabeth Bowens The L ast Septem ber 179

7. Conclusion: Alternative Modernity and Autonomous


Youth after 1945 1^5

Notes 215 Foreword


Works Cited 259
Index 275
Jed E st/s topic in Unseasonable Youth is simply stated - the novel of subject
formation in the Age of Empire - yet complexly explored. What happens to the
form of the novel, Esty asks, when the reciprocal allegories of nation-building and
self-making that underwrite the nineteenth-century bildungsroman, or novel of
education, no longer seem adequate to the representation o f life in an increas
ingly globalized world? Novels charting the individuals development from youth
td maturity tended to resolve, or at least to mitigate, the potential contradiction
between the necessity of closure and the potentially endless process of growing
up by positing an ideal of adulthood that was deeply entwined, Esty argues, with
the notion of national destiny. To become an adult was to complete the passage
from innocence - understood as a kind of ungroundedness - into citizenship, or
full integration into the national community. But as the seeming stability of the
nation as form is challenged by the less certain frame of reference produced by
an* emerging global system, what seemed the inevitable progress from youthful
ness to adulthood, from individual to national subject, begins to break down, and
the novel of development starts to fixate on a pathology that marks the perceived
obsolescence of the nation: the trope of frozen youth, the stunted individual who
caimot or will not grow up. Peter Pan may spring to mind, but think as well of the
dilated adolescence of Dorian Gray, Conrads Jim, W oolfs Rachel Vinrace, and
Stephen Dedalus.
Committed to investigating how literary form mediates historical forces, Esty
identifies the historical referent for the bildungsromans dialectic of youth and
maturity as the historical tension between the dynamic energy o f capitalist moder
nity and the binding power of national identity. The argument necessarily, then.
X FOREWORD FOREWORD xi

takes up not only metropolitan bildungsromane, such as The Picture o f Dorian Yet Estys commitment is not to experimentation per se. Rather, he values the
Gray and H, G. Wells Tono-Bungay, and modernist exemplars, such as A Por residual realism of high modernism as against the more radical anti-developmental
trait o f the A rtist as a Young M an and W oolfs The Voyage Out, but also colonial and counter-Hegelian modes of avant-gardist writing, for while the counterdis-
novels of development, such as Lord Jim and Olive Schreiners Story o f an African cursive strikes against the ideology of progress associated with, say. Surrealism or
Farm. Such novels are fundamental to the argument insofar as colonial moder Finnegans Wake, are too easily assimilated, commodified or dismissed, modernist
nity unsettled the progressive and stabilizing discomse of national culture by narratives dialectical engagement with developmental thinking - via scrambled
breaking up cherished continuities between a people and its language, territory, and distorted time schemes and ironic forms of arbitrary closure - more effectively
and polity Esty understands frozen youth as a defining feature of the core period challenges the hegemony of Eurocentric models of global development by refusing
o f European modernism, but l^is historical and geographical range also takes in to ignore the lived experience of temporality and the historical fact that we live in a
what he calls the modernist semi-periphery of Jean Rhys and Elizabeth Bowenj^ - world organized by modernization schemes that have outlived academic critiques
and, in his conclusion, Samuel Beckett and Flann OBrien, Mulk Raj Anand and of modernization theory
G. V. Desani, Vladimir Nabokov and Gunter Grass, Salman Rushdie and William Estys work is thus profoundly formalist and historical at once. As for Jameson,
Golding, Tahar Ben Jelloun and Ben Okri, Ian McEwan and Lad Lit. In addi form mediates history, and Esty shares Jamesons gift for recognizing structural
tion to this genealogy of post-1930s novels of arrested development, Esty offers a similarities and for grasping as homologies what otherwise might seem mere anal
d e t^ ed ^anim ation o f important nineteenth-century models: Wilhelm Meister, ogies, that is, as signs pointing to a shared historical logic. But Estys attention to
conventiqn^y thought to be literatures closest approximation to the mythic ori structure is also complemented by a sharp eye for matters of syntax, diction, and
gin of the bildungsroman, the granddaddy of them all, and The M ill on the Floss, a tone - of style at a more granular level than one often sees in arguments equally
Metorian ^tjcipation of modernisms more far-reaching critique of the form. attuned to broader narratives o f genre, periodization, and historical change.
Locating the historical specificity o f the modernist era . . . at the dialectical Moreover Esty himself writes with admirable stylistic panache. It is tempting to
switc^point between residual nineteenth-century narratives of global develop- indulge in a list of brilliant turns o f phrase, from H. G. Wellss gothic didacti
njentand emergent twentieth-century suspicion of such narratives as universalist cism to Stephen Dedaluss bluff and rivalrous jackass o f a father, or resonantly
and Eurocentric, Unseasonable Youths main contribution is to modernist stud metaphoric formifiations - modernist novels of stalled development peel away
ies. And yet Estys account o f the still unfolding dialectic between developmen the residua of romantic nationalism from the bildungsroman plot, compromising
tal thinking and the discourse of difference - between the lingering appeal (and its ability to turn the chronos of open-jawed modernity into the kairos of national
institutional power) of historicist metanarratives and the counterchallenge of destiny - but that would be an imnecessary exercise, given that readers o f this
alternative modernities - will also be o f great interest to postcolonial and sub- foreword should not be compelled to wait any longer before enjoying the pleasures
to theorists o f world literature. As one might expect of such a of Unseasonable Youth unburdened by Estys gratefully superfluous editors.
capacious argument, Esty is indebted to the work of Franco Moretti and Fredric
Jameson, as well as to one o f Jamesons intellectual heroes, Georg Luk^cs; at the Mark WoUaeger and Kevin J. H. Dettmar
same time, he also offers telling critiques of all three, unearthing the buried impor-
fance o f national form in Moretti, rescuing the critical force of Conrads style from
Jamesons, charge of ideological mystification, and most importantly, the value
of modernism more generally against Luk^icss imputation of quietism. Indeed,
enlisting Adorno, Esty makes a frank and refreshingly unapologetic case for the
power.of literary form as against propositional discourse and for modernist for
mal experimentation in particular as a valuable conceptual resource in continuing
to think our way through the central contradiction of modernity: modernity is
a state of permanept transition.
Acknowledgments

Thanks are due to many friends, colleagues, students, and institutions who sustained
this book through its own unseasonable youth and up to the time of publication.
I want to acknowledge, with gratitude, the American Council of Learned Societ
ies for a Charles Ryskamp fellowship that provided vital support at an early stage
of the project. The University o f Illinois also supported my research with great
institutional good will, with fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study and at
the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, and, most importantly, with
its fostering of a warm and lively community of scholars. I was fortunate to find
keen readers in Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, Jon Ebel, Stephanie Foote, Lau
ren Goodlad, Jim Hansen, Matt Hart, Michael Rothberg, and Zohreh Sullivan. Joe
Valente read most o f these pages and made all of them better.
More recently, at the University of Pennsylvania, I have enjoyed the intellectual
and professional company o f new friends and colleagues who set the bar high for
good and collaborative work. Among them, Rita Barnard, Nancy Bentley, Mar-
greta de Grazia, Jim English, Amy Kaplan, Suvir Kaul, Zack Lesser, Ania Loomba,
Heather Love, Jo Park, Jean-Michel Rabat^ Paul Saint-Amour, and Chi-ming
Yang all made valuable contributions to this project. Rita,, Jim, and Paul read the
last chapter drafts and gave me the final push I needed, with wise counsel and
sparkling insight. Zack, Ania, and Suvir have been valued friends and generous
colleagues, two times over. Thanks, too, to Chris Nichols and Tamara Walker of
the Race/Empire working group, and to Ariela Rosenberg, Shana Rusonis, and
Christina Walter for excellent research assistance.
Along the way, these generous scholars and good friends shared their time
and expertise with me: Nigel Alderman, Amanda Anderson, Dan Blanton, Ian

xii!
xiv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS XV

Baucom, Ericka Beckman, Richard Begam, Jessica Berman, Tim Bewes, Tobias in Modernism and Colonialism, eds. Richard Begam and Michael Valdez Moses,
Boes, Jim Buzard, Byron Caminero-Santangelo, Joe Cleary, Sarah Cole, Jay pps. 70-90. Copyright 2007; reprinted by permission o f Duke University Press.
Clayton, Tommy Davis, Jay Dickson, Greg Dobbins, Simon During, Jonathan Grateful acknowledgment is also given to Ohio State University Press for per
Eburne, Maria Fackler, Anne Fernald, Christine Froula, Nathan Hensley, Heather mission to reprint material from an essay in Narrative for Chapter 2; to Indiana
Hicks, Janice Ho, Emily Hyde, Pericles Lewis, Enrique Lima, David Lloyd, Maria University Press for permission to reprint material firom an essay in Victorian
Lima, Greg Londe, Colleen Lye, John Marx, Jesse Matz, Mike Mirabile, Michael Studies for Chapter 3; and to Johns Hopkins University Press for permission to
Moses, Carl Niekerk, Emer Nolan, John Plotz, Nicole Rizzuto, Urmila Seshagiri, reprint material from an essay in M odern Fiction Studies for Chapter 6.
Joey Slaughter, Pam Thurschwell, Rebecca Walkowitz, and Laura Winkiel. I am
grateful to all of them for questions and suggestions that helped me refine and
redefine the project. Franco Moretti provided the initial inspiration for this book-
and offered encouraging words at the outset; my debt is larger even than it appears
in these pages. I started thinking about this project in Eve Se3gwicks Victorian
novel seminar years ago; her generous pedagogy has guided me ever since. More
than they realize, Nancy Armstrong, Robert Caserio, Maria DiBattista, Luke
GibSoii'^, Michael Levenson, and Jahan Ramazani have offered invaluable advice
and eiicouragement. Janet Lyon and Doug Mao both asked the right questions at
the right times, and have been steadfast supporters along the way. Bruce Robbins
and^an anonymous reader of the manuscript provided remarkably detailed, timely,
and useful reviews, for which I am most grateful indeed.
Particular thanks are due, too, to Mark WoUaeger and Kevin Dettmar for their
editorial vision, speed, and sure-handedness; and to Shannon McLachlan and
Brendin O'Neill at Oxford for their expert guidance and their inspiring commit
ment fo'lhis work. I would also Uke to thank Molly Morrison at Newgen and copy
editor Stacey Hamilton for seeing the book through production with great profes
sionalism and swift hands.
M^ intellectual ahd personal debts go beyond even this long catalogue, o f course,
arid'extend to all the readers, writers, and scholars named in the text and footnotes
of these pages; to helpful interlocutors and audiences at Berkeley, Colorado, Johns
Hopkins, Kansas, Maryland, Montreal, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Penn State,
Princetoil, Reed, Santa Barbara, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, and Yale; and, especially,
to*aU the stfidents Ive taught in the last seven years, graduate and undergraduate
alike, at Illinois'and Penn.
Fiilhlly, t'o'Andfea, a partner for all seasons, this is for you.

A portion of Chapter i previously appeared in essay form under the title Global
Lukdcs, in JVbvfe/ 42.3, pps. 366-372. Copyright 2009, Novel, Inc; reprinted by per
mission of t)uke University Press. A portion o f Chapter 5 previously appeared
1. Introduction
Scattered SoulsThe Bildungsroman and Colonial
Modernity

The young man has become so homeless and doubts all concepts and all custom s. . . a lord in
the universal empire of history. If already as a boy he was "ripe, now he is over-ripe.

Nietzsche, Untimely M editations

The novel overcomes its bad infinity by recourse to the biographical form.

Lukics, The Theory o f the Novel

After the Novel of Progress

It is commonly observed that the bildungsroman, or novel of education, had its


heyday in the nineteenth century and that modernism tended to avoid its generic
dictates or to revise them out of recognition. Consider the landmark fictions of
international modernism: Kafkas Metamorphosis, which short-circuits and hid
eously travesties the development of its young protagonist; Prousts Remembrance
o f Things Past, which not only displaces the plot of development with the story of
recollection, but also distends its temporal frame over hundreds o f pages; Manns
The Magic Mountain, which describes Hans Castorp wasting away and, unbecom
ing himself in an Alpine sanatorium; Musils The M an without Qualities, which
empties rather than fills the vessel of novelistic character; and Wildes The Picture
o f Dorian Gray, which converts the aging process into a long and lurid adolescence.
2 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
INTRODUCTION 3

\ / Metamorphosis, dilation, consumption, evacuation, inversion: these stories


and Jean Rhys, whose English fictions cast doubt on the ideology of progress
spectacularly and conspicuously thwart the realist proportions of biographical
th r o u ^ the figure of stimted youth. Modernism exposes and disrupts the inher- A
time that had, from its inception, defined the bildungsroman. The range of great
ited tonventions of the bildimgsroman in order'to criticize bourgeois values and
novels centered on frozen youth almost defines this period, from Melvilles Billy
to reinvent the biographical novel, but also to explore the contradictions inherent
Budd in 1891 to Alain-Fourniers Le Grand Meaulnes in 1914 through to Gunter
Grasss The Tin D rum in 1959.' in mainstream developmental discourses of selfi'nation, andeiniprre.
This hypothesis first emerged not as a theoretical dedncHonTBut as an empirical
And this is not even to mention the stylized alternation between compression
observation. Teaching a course called Fictions of Empire several years ago,
and expansion in the work of such definitive Anglophone modernists as Conrad,
I prepared some remarks about the bildungsroman as a way to introduce, first,
Woolf, and Joyce. In their fictions, characterization does not unfold in smooth
"Schreiners Story o f an African Farm, then Kim, then Lord Jim . But each week I
biographical time but in projeptic fits and retroactive starts, epiphanic bursts and
realized that the novels in question did not narrate the passage into adulthood.
impressionistic mental inventories, in accidents, in obliquity, in sudden lyric death
Ip fact all three seemed designed precisely to avoid it. It is not just thatas in so
and in languid semiconscious delay. In Lord Jim (1900), The Voyage O ut (1915),
many novels of the late Victorian erathere are few happy endmgs here, or even
and A Portrait o f the A rtist as a Young Man (1916), Conrad, Woolf, and Joyce,
' that we have a swerve into interiprity alongside a steepening arc o f social disillu
respectively, rework narrative time via youthful protagonists who conspicuously
sionment, but that the experimental novels and the so-called imperial romances
do not grow up. What is less often noted is that all o f these texts block or defer
of the epoch so purposefully break the temporality of the classical bildungsroman
the attainment of a mature social role through plots of colonial migration and
pl6t. In open and sustained violation of the developmental paradigm that seemed
displacement. To put it another way, all three are antidevelopmental fictions set in
to govern nineteenth-century historical and fictional forms, such novels'tend to
colonial contact zones, where uneven development is a conspicuous fact of both
personal and political life. present youthful protagonists who die young, remain suspended in time, eschew
vocational and sexual closure, refuse social adjustment, or estabUsh themselves as
This,observation suggests^a geographical and historical framework for the com
evergreen souls via the tender offices of the Kunstlerroman,^
monplace notion that m oderiusT raB n resists the tyranny oif plot7'One o f our
Many outcomes across many different kinds of novels, some less obviously
most stable definitions of international modernism rests on the idea that novels of
connected to metropole-colony relations than others: but from a structural per
the period find ingenious ways to cut and split what Forster called the tapeworm
spective, it is striking that all o f the novels in question so fully excise the connec
o f story. They reorganize narrative data into lyrical, pictorial, mythical, thematic,
tive tissue between youth and age, so systematically omit the process of maturation
aleatory, or elegiac shapes; they weave Freudian regression and Bergsonian flux
itself. At one level, perhaps it is not surprising that a group of colonial and impe
into the warp and woof of social realism; and they mount bohemian, queer, non
rial fictions from the period o f 1880 to 1920 shbuld put figures of unseasonable
white, and feminist challenges to the stale dictates of bourgeois socialization or the
youth in the foreground. Such a trope would^seem to conform nicely to the wish-
grooved contours of nineteenth-century characterization.^ The remapping I pro
fulfiUing aspects of imperial romance and adventurism in the era of Peter Pan
pose in this book begins in the novelistic heartland o f the European nation-state
(1904) and A Little Princess (1904)."* However, the novels I propose to examitie are
but moves outward to Conrads Asian straits, Woolfs South American riverway,
not simple wish-fulfilling romances nor mere documents in a banal national chch6
and Joyces Irish backwater. These are places where imperiahsmin its late and
of the British cult o f youth. Their antidevelopmental temporality suggests a more
bloated formunsettles the bildungsroman and its humanist ideals, producing
domplicated'dnd interesting story, one that casts colonial fiction as integral to the
jagged effects on both the pohtics and poetics of subject formation. Those early
emergence of the modernist art novel rather than as a middlebrow detour.
achievements of Conrad, Woolf, and Joyce exempUfy a central, yet surprisingly
This book proceeds fi'om the idea that a formal and historical analysis o f the
underexplored nexus between modernist aesthetics and modern colonialism:
bildungsroman at this turning point in literary history yields insights into the fate
the disruption o f developmental time in reciprocal allegories of self-making and
of developmental thinking more broadly during the breakdown of nineteenth-
nation-building. They make up the core of an argument that'extends to other novels
century positivist historicism and the massive but strained expansion of European
by Rudyard Kipling, Olive Schreiner, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, Elizabeth Bowen,
political hegemony. To pursue this hypothesis, we can begin with Franco Morettis
4 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH INTRODUCTION 5

provocative argument that the European bildungsromans historical vocation was To lift out the somewhat buried rokjof national form in Moretti (and, beyond
to manage the effects ,of mpdernization by representing it within a safe narra that, in the narrative theory of Georg Lukdcs), I want to suggest th^t the tension
tive s(3ieme. i)uring 4he golden age<of European realism, Moretti suggests, youth between the open-ended temporahty of capitalism and the bounded, countertem-
was the, master trbpe of modernity itself, signifying the constant transformation porality of the nation plays out in fictional or symbolic form as a ^ ^ d jte u g g le ^
of industrial society and the growing interiority and mobility o f middle-class between yniitb and adulthoodand this wouIH"Beirformative con ation of both
subjects. However^ to become a form: the classic (national-era) and the nmc(ernist (^obal-era) bildungsromam From the
Beg^inrdng, of course, the concept of M d u n g evolved within the intellectual con
youth must be fendowed with a very different, almost opposite feature to
text of romantic nationalism; the genealogy of the term begins with Gothe, Schil
thosd already mentioned: the very simple and sHghtly philistine notion that
ler, Lessing, and Herder and the philosophical milieu of late eighteenth-centary
youth does not last forever. Youth is brief, or at any rate circumscribed, and
permany. This lineage establishes the genres roots in a burgeoning nationalism |
'this eiiables or rather forces the a priori establishment of a formd constraint
based on an ideal of organic cultme whose temporality and harmony could b e !
on the portrayal of modernity. Only by curbing its intrinsically boimdless
reflected in the developing personality at the core of the bildungsroman. A histori
dynamism, only by agreeing to betray to a cert^in^extent its very essence,
cally specific notion o f becoming enabled the formahzation o f Bildung as a literary
4 >nl/ thus, it seems, can modernity be represnt^.
device and defined culture as an ideal process: the aesthetic education o f the
{W ay 6)
subject (Schiller) and the emergence of the folk into the historically njeaningful
Ih e yoi|ng.protagonists open development is ultimately and rather artificially con- form of the nation (Herder).
tain^d'by Jhe, imposition o f a static state of adulthood. A Bildung is truly such, .M . M. Bakhtin codified the literary-critical adaptation of the Bildung concept to
y rites Mpretti, "only if, at a certain point, it can be seen as concluded', only if youth fiction when he claimed that a true (and thus truly modern) bildungspman pres
passes^foto maturity, an^ comes to a stdp'there {W ay 26).ln,Morettis model, the ents an image of man growing in national-historical time" (Ih e Bildungsrornan
bildungsroman reflects a deep counterrevolutionary impulse embodied in Goethe 25; his emphasis). For Bakhtin, a narrative that fuses individual experience and
and Janq Austen, \yhose works turn on their ability to reconcile narrativity and sociopolitical development requires a tacitly masculine and explicitly national form
closure, youth and adulthood, free self-making and social determination. In their o f emergence. These are the premises woven into Bakhtins taxonomic and teleo
originary h ^ d s, the genre both reflects and produces social consent, for it negoti logical account of the bildungsromans pride of pjace, in the history o f reaUsm:
ates a^exi^le and wily compromise between inner and outer directives in subject
Along with this predominant, mass type [the novel with the ready-made
formation.
hero], there is another incomparably rarer type o f novel that provides an
But if this standard novel of socialization figures modernitys endless revolution
image of man in the process o f becom ing.. . . The hero himself, his char
in the master .trope of youth, then wtiat is the historical referent for the countertrope
acter, becomes a variable in the formula of this type o f novel. Changes in
of adultlj9oti?,If capitalism never rests, what symbolic equivalence can explain the
the hero himself acquire p/of significance.. . . Time is introduced into man,
capacity udulthood to put the brakes on developmental time, preventing the bil-
enters into his very image, changing in a fundamental way the significance
dungsrpman from becoming a never-ending story? Here we arrive at a possibility
of all aspects of his destiny and life. This type o f novel can be designated
that remains jSomejvhat oblique in .Moretti: that the discourse o f the nation sup-
in the most general sense as the novel of human emergence -----Everytijing
pligs the realM bildungsroman with an emergent language of historical continuity
depends upon the degree of assimilation of real historical time.
orjo c ia l identity amid, the rapid and sweeping changes of industrlalization.*What (The Bildungsroman" 21)
Morettis njo^elleavef^nexplored is the crudglsym bolicfunction of nationhood,
v^ c h gives a finished form.to modern societies in the same way that adulfoood National-historical time allows the Goethean bildungsroman to reconcile the
subject. With this cen tal premise in place, unboimded time of capitalist modernity and the bounded or cychcal time of tradi
\ve can begin to track the changing nature of the soul-nation allegory as it faces tion. Only national time is, in that sense, for Bakhtin, real; hence his emphasis on
^i^tggjj?^I.^pbalized conditions afteri86o. the concrete perception of tfie locality foat undergirds Goethes deep historical
' _ !*

INTRODUCTION 7
6 UNREASONABLE YOUTH

vision (The Bildungsrotnan 34). Bakhtin specifically excludes from Goethes what happened was a shift in scale, where the thematics of uneven development
concrete &'d re^ stic historical imagination, and thus from the purview of the attached increasingly to metropole-coloi^relations w th m the global firame rather
bildungsrhman, the faraway realms of the exotic, the sublime, and the wild. thanto utban-rural relations within the national frame.^ As a matter of empirical
This rduridationaT gesture (and its logic of exclusion) allow us to sketch the literdfy history, the problem of uneven d evelop n ^ ^ became more conspicuous
defihmg Kistorical tension between the realism o f the bildungsroman (bounded and nlore colonially coded in the period^betvwen 1880 and 1920, and v i^ d lyjo in
by nation^'time) and the potentially unbormded forms of temporality associated fictions o f unseasonable youth.
Vith suprahation'al fbrces' that emerged in the era o f the French and Industrial "TKe'SgurrSfyouth, increasingly imtethered in the late Victorian era from the
revolutions. Thosfe expansionist and portable forceswhether ideiitified as politi- model and telos of adulthood, seems to symbolize the difeted/stunted adolescence
Cal'ratlohalify*6 economic l^^egemonythreatened the concept of culture itself o f a never-quite-modernized periphery, and thus to re^ste^ A e ^ o b d ^ s y m
Inso'far'as'thby threatened to spill outside the borders of the European nation-- triesCfcapitalism in terms of what Hannah Arendt caUs a permaneiit process
state.' In tfe British sphere, Burke and Coleridge consolidated this central opposi- \ ^ [ S h a s no end or aim but itself**^ (137). Unseasonable youth condenses into the
tion'bet^een a national culture (in which restrained or proportionate social and
pfersonal grov^h'can occur) and a multinational civilization (in which imrestrained capitalism. Modernist writers were not, of course, constrained by history to revise
g r o t ^ df modernization has no organic checks or balances). If the nation was the coming-of-age motif nor do modernisms experiments in the disruption of
the propel* cultural container for the bildungsromans allegory of development, Biidung need to be understood exclusively in terms of colonial allegories of failed
then moderimmperialism was a c^ure-diluting practice that violated national- development. After all, modernist writers were hardly the first to stretch of vex
historical time and'set capitalism loose across the ^obe in ways that w oufi coime the developmental plot (as a mere mention of Tristram Shandy reminds us), and
to disturbindeed still do distmrbour dreams of inevitable, and yet measured, the temporal logic of the bildungsroman has always been more stable in theory
hiitnan progress. than in practice. But the intertwined tropes of frozen youth and uneven develop
I am hypothesizing that the developnfental logic of the late bildungsroman ment represent something more than just a handy symbolic affinity. As motif^of
uilderwbnt substantial revision as the relatively stable temporal frames of national failed progress, they play a crucial role in the emergence of modernist fiction and
destiny gave way to a more conspicuously global, and therefore more uncertain, in the reimagination of colomarspS2far llic fiirdS'^tSclSTTo^b^glirfoldevelop the
frame o f social reference. W hat we conventionally understand as the transforma argument from a more empirical and inductive base, let us take up the glaring if
tion pf the bildungsroman into the naturalist fiction of disillusionment (with its somewhat anomalousexample o f Kiplings Kim, perhaps the most famous novel
social hierarchies, broken destinies, and compensatory but socially of imperial adolescence in the English canon.
e^cpptric artistic visions) may also have had a geopolitical dimension, one that is
especially visible in the British novel tradition. The imagined harmony between
culture and the state, taken as a way to mapage and to narrate the uneven devel
opment o f capitalism, came under pressure as a new phase of empire-building Kiplings Imperial Time
revealed modernization to be unpredictable and unending. Colonial modernity

y
^*l&SStis^.tfie.^ogressive and stabilizing discourse of national culture by break-
continuities between a people and its language, territory, and
polity. It is in this sense that empire throws the Goethean formula o f novels out
dTjfSittt, cracking the alignment between biographical and national-historical
time v^hile exposing both to the logic of historical paralysis and regression. But
Ftfm (1900) straddles the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the frontiers of child
hood and adulthood, the worlds of East and West, and the domains of modernist
and middlebrow fiction. As an imperial picaresque, Kiplings novel seems to join
the rowdy ranks of popular boys fiction o f the late Victorian period. One might
Well read it as a fantasy of perpetual boyhood, the projection of imperial inno-
the course'of'capitalist modernization never did run all that smoothly, and the xence onto a hero held forever at the threshold of sexual and social adulthood.
allegory of progress embedded in the bildungsroman was, in fact, unstable from However, like its contemporary Lord Jim (1899), Kim is a generically layered text
the beginmng (in Scott, in Dickens, in Balzac), so perhaps we should say that that explores the symbolic and political limits of the coming-of-age plot in the
INTRODUCTION 9
8 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

r n ln n ia l sphere. The absence o f a fixed destiny or moral arc for Kim has always experience in the coffers of the developing personality. Hucks story ends with a
raised questions about the end o f the novel: is there a genuine resolution or sim contrived paragraph in which lighting out for the territory seems to defer the
ply a stopping point? Is the novel driven and organized by the conflict-resolution ideological burdens of adulthood for Huck in much the same way that Kims prom
mqdel, common to modern realist fiction or is it pieced together as an end-to-end ise of endless motion thwarts the logic of closure. One of the costs of this picaresque
romp, its bravura scenic energy distracting us from pat ideological reconciliation contrivance is to produce an oddly static plot in both novels: what seems exciting
and psychological wish-fulfillment? becomes repetitive, then ends with a bit of a thud. Kims adventures, colorful as
, These are the questions still under dispute among Kipling critics and readers, they are at the level of dialogue and description, tend to bore readers who crave
whq continue to wonder whether Kims destiny lies in serving as Colonel Creigh P^chological nuance. When Kim changes in the novel, it is by dint o f stagecraft
tons spy iq the imperialist C^eat Game or as the lamas chela in a cross-cultural and spy craft; racial transvestism displaces inner development.
spiritual, quest. The debate about Kim runs from Cold War scholarship (Wilson," With an arrested hero and a static (but kaleidoscopic) representation of India,
HowCv Annan) to recent postcolonial approaches (Suleri, Said, Parry),*^suggest it would seem that Kim fulfills Bakhtins formula for the bildungsroman by inver
ing that ideological indeterminacy is an essential feature of the novels construc sion: neither the hero nor the nation emerges into history as a self-possessed
tion. Like so many other early twentieth-century novels, Kim refuses to clarify entity. Kiplings commitment to the imperial illusion o f permanence gives
the symbolic status of youth and maturity, refuses to make plot legible as a drive sjiape to a distended plot of adolescence, frozen at the moment o f Raj ascen
foward moral adulthood. To the running question, "Who is Kim?a question dancy, just as Twain gives us a freeze-frame o f pre-Civil War America." Such a
fraught with multiple markers (white or not-white? Western or Asiatic? Irish, reading accords with Edward Saids claim that Kim is more spectacle than nar
En|)ish, or Indian? boy or man? native or alien? teen-spy or acolyte?)the novel rative; Said argues that spatial plenitude breeds historical poverty in Kim, giving
gives no final, synthetic answer. u? a nostalgic and tendentiousthough not simply jingoisticview o f Anglo-
Looking back at the end o f Kim now, Kiplings method for avoiding sym Indian life."
bolic closure seems like a clunky bft o f misdirection. He shifts attention from But there is another, more critical side to the texts timelessness, one that
Kims fate to the lamas beatific vision: I saw all Hind . . . beyond the illusion becomes mor^ obvious when we read Kims imperial adolescence alongside other
of Time and Space and of Things (239). What Zohreh Sullivan calls the lumi- figures of recalcitrant youth in Wilde, Conrad, Joyce, and Woolf. Such a reconstel
pous ireeze-frame of this final scene dispels any hint o f social division from lation shifts the interpretive register away from Kiplings apparent political inten
the fantasy o f imperial adolescence (Sullivan 177). It recapitulates the technique tions and toward a consideration of the ideological dimensions of the novel s form.
central to the whole operation, the subsumption p f the narrative into a static The episodic and ahistorical structure might, in other words, be taken not just as
and spatial representation of India itself, a pan-subcontinental vision that an imperiaUst fantasy but also as an expose of the basic contradictions of Anglo-
is the ultimate end o f both the espionage plot and the religious quest. Kims India in 1900a society held on the brink of national self-possession. Along these
identification with the spectacle moots the question o f his political affiliation lines, Sara Suleri has suggested that Kims youth testifies to the ultimate futility of
and short-circuits his identity crisis. Presenting India as a knowable, navigable the imperial project, which must confront the necessary perpetuation of its ado
spacejs Kiplings tactk for managing the antagonisms to whichXfm, arid Kim, lescence in relation to its history (111). Suleri links the most obvious formal and
are heirs,,the perfect way to imply that P ^ Britannici'isTJirgijirantojErn^ the political features of the text:
enemy, o f Asian mulficulturalism. From start to finish, the conceit bOCim as a
Little Frieiid ofa!! the World makes imperial adolescence the master trope of Here imperial time demands to be interpreted less as a recognizable chro
conflict deferred. nology of historic events than as a contiguous chain of surprise effects:
Kiplings use of the boy hero echoes the nostalgic and racially placatory even as empire seeks to occupy a monolithic historic space, its temporal
devices central to Huckleberry Firm (an homage that makes sense given the yoimg ity is more accurately characterized as a disruptive sequence of a present
Kiplings devotion to Mark Twain). Like Kim, Huck is an Irish rogue who resists tense perpetually surprised, allowing for neither the precedent of the past
the entw ned imperatives of self-cultivation and wealth-accumulation, o f storing nor the anticipation of a future------Kiplings narrative internalization of
10 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH INTRODUCTION 11

the superficialityo f imperial time engenders both the adolescent energy Other novels examined in later chapters. Destiny becomes a sequence of mutually
o f his tales and in a text like K im the immanence o f tragic loss, o f an exclusive prophecies; education is compressed into a few scenes of schooling;
obsessively inlp^lled discourse that lacks any direction in which to go. ethical growth is displaced from the start by a fixed and spontaneous set of moral
instincts;, tl^e ideal of self-possession is estranged by the Buddhist concept of self
(113)
dispossession; and vocational and sexual closure is, as we have noted, perma
Even before Suleris,- traditional readings o f the novel had pointed to the link nently postponed.*
between Ariglo-lndias frozen present and Kims spectacular youth. In Origins These observations are made not simply to restate the limits or -virtues of
o f Totalitarianism (1951), for example, Hannah Arendt comments on the novels Kiplings present tense writing, but to suggest that the novel encourages readers
lack o f temporal dynamism. Since the essence of the imperial system is aimless To'see thdt adolescence cannot last forever, and that Kims fixed youth therefore
prctoessr Arehdt suggests,^!! is fitting that the novels spies and bureaucrats are - underwrites a narrative -with a surprisingly complex political charge. Kim repre
subsumed into the endless maneuvers o f the Great Game. The best Symbol of sents colonial India in terms of endless youth; it attaches its heros maturation to
that endless logic is the boy hero himself; after all, purposelessness is the very thesaihe receding horizon as Indias political modernization. Furthermore, Kims
charm o f Kims existence (216-17). Similarly, I^oel Annan, in his landmark i960 adolescenceheld in narrative abeyancedoes not just violate the time scheme
essay, ^Kiplings Place in the History o f Ideas, proposes that the broad realism of o f national emergence that is the trademark of the bildungsroman after Goethe,
Kim reflects the new sociological theories of the day (chiefly linked to Weber and but it also undoes with an almost diagrammatic clarity the formula of vocational/
Durkheim), which tended to depict order and equilibrium among social groups spiritual compromise lodged at the heart of the classic novel of socialization. Kims
^ rather than dynamic historical change or social transformation (Annan 326-27). non-choice between spy and chela at the end evokes the Goethean ethosthe
I The flattened temporality o f Kim whether understood as spatial form (Said), young hero must freely reconcile inner desires and outer demands, but postpones
! imperial time (Suleri), aimless process (Arendt), or static society (Annan)jibes with its fulfillment. Within the narrative frame, Kim never reconciles the competing
I a long-standing critical truism about Kipling, which is that he is a skilled storyteller logip o f commerce and culture; he cannot achieve the fundamental synthesis of
I but a flawed novelist, a writer who gives us the immediate journalistic spectacle of action (espionage) and contemplation (Buddhism) that was the hallmark o f the
Anglo-Indian life, but not the deep motive forces o f history.* Indeed, A n n a n .; origi bourgeois hero. Familiar plot points are thus present, but in an estranged and
nal insight continues to resonate now because it helps explain the depiction of race attenuated form.* As a literary device, then, Kim does not simply fall outside the
and caste in Kim not so much as barracks-room cliche, but as an effect of the novels generic conventions o f the bildungsroman, but he embodies their transformation
(Commitment to the present tense, so that difference is registered within a static socio in the age of empire.
logical or anthropological grid. Such a view helps accoimt for the somewhat unset The colonial arena seems to promise a space for Kim to restore the heroic
tling fett that Kipling seems both to relativize culture (native ways are as valuable and production of character per se, but the logic of symbohc reconciliation between
meaningfiil as Western ways) and to absolutize race ("No native training can quench soulmaking and rationahzed work fares no better in colonial precincts than
the white mans horror of the Serpent, 40). Since political and biographical criticism in the industrialized zones of high naturalism. In fact, it is not just the youth
of Kipling has tended, in the main, to define Kim as an imperialist novel, it is impor ful Kim but an entire roster of father figures in the novel who appear to struggle
tant to consider the possibility that the novels form exceeds the political limitations of with' the Goethean balance of action and contemplation. Each o f themthe late
its author and lays bare the motif of immaturity as a problem rather than a solution, a Sgt. OHara, Col. Creighton, Mahbub Ali, Hurree Babu, Father Bennett, Lurgan
self-confessing rather than a self-concealing ruse of the Raj imagination.*'' Sahib,* and the lamaseems either too rash or too passive. No wonder Kim cannot
Indeed the ahistorical or antidevelopmental logic of the text, manifested in choose a single mentor. Still less does he choose a home that would stabilize the
the central m otif o f immaturity, lays itself bare from the start. Kim operates as plotanother sharp departure from the classic Victorian orphan plot as typified
a set of generic modules, pieces of the narrative of development now isolated ,by, say, D avid Copperfield or Jane Eyre. In the place of social mobility imderstood
and objectified so that they are no longer connected or animated by the driv as a discrete, terminable process within a dynamic class society, Kipling presents
ing historical pulse o f the classic bildungsroman. In this, Kim anticipates the social mobility as a potentially endless yet entirely static process.*^
INTRODUCTION 13
12 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

o f the cultural divide represent quests-without-end in a world of sheer adolescent


WitKii^ this re^lotted (deplotte'd)'frame o f the bildungsroman, the m otif Who
is Kim? recurs, ostinato, from beginning to end. Adventures pile up, but Kim narrativity.
Little wonder, then, that the closural process seems strained and artificial.
never rM ly trades disorientation for self-possession. A- swooning identity cri
Kipling uses the logic of arrested development to shape the representation o f India
sis strikes-in chapter 7, recurs in chapter 11 (Who is KimKimKim?) and
as a nation perpetually coming o f political age, of the Great Game as an infinite
remains unresolVed through the final chapter. Even with his mission fulfilled, a
.fnode o f British rule, and of Kim as an open-ended hurilan project. In this con
feverish Kim cannot stably locate him self within the social machinery o f Anglo-
stantly shifting but never fundamentally changing political landscape, as Saids
India:
reading has reminded us, Indian nationalism is occluded. The novels fantasy of
All that while he felt, though he could not put it into words, that his soul imperial-adolescent time is predicated on the lack of national-historical time. And
was out of gear with its suiroimdingsa cog-wheel unconnected with any yet the fragility o f imperial time is finally, if slyly, exposed by the very impossibil
machinery, just like the idle cog-wheel of a cheap Beheea sugar-crusher ity o f an endless youth. After all, even when closure is eschewed, endings happen,
laid by in a corner . . . I am Kim. I am Kim. And what is Kim? His soul so long as novels come with a terminal period and a last page. This is not just
repeated it again and again. a mundane fact; it is a matter o f the novels inherited relationship to the narra-
(234 ) tivization of history itself. As I will suggest in more detail in later chapters, the
modernist bildungsroman in particular comes with specific closural stakes that are
Kipling then tries to reattach his subject-hero to the object-world:
invoked even when the closural plot of adulthood is banished from the text. Even
Roads were meant to be walked upon, houses to be lived in, cattle to be in Kiplings idealized vision of India, antidevelopmental or episodic time must find
driven, fields to be tilled, and men and women to be talked to. They were all a way to coexist with some quantum or concept of linear time. Kims story exposes
real and truesofidly planted upon the feet. a tension between developmental and antidevelopmental time that is as germane
( 234) to the world of the colonial periphery as to his own lingering youth. It is not so

The passage marks not so much a symbolic compromise between self and society much an antibildungsroman converting the linear plot of growth into its opposite

but a return to mere perception o f the ambient spectacle, a fact literahzed in the (the plot of degeneration) as it is a metabildungsroman laying bare the contingent

tautologies and passive grammatical constructions (to be . . . to be) on display. elements of a progressivist genre formed inside the framework of the nineteenth-

The world of Kim is essentially given, not made and not transformable. The pile of century European nation-state.
infinitives in the passage ratifies the untensed quality o f the whole text and of the The meta-generic effect o f Kim does not, in other words, utterly explode the

closing scene in particular, which becomes a kind of phenomenological paroxysm historical and biographical emplotment devices of classic realist fiction, but rather

shared* by chela and lama, lovely in its timeless verity but emptied of historical disrupts the naturalized relationship between souls and nations understood as
co-subjects of an allegory o f progress. That disruption of the soul-nation allegory
depth.
All'along, Kim is tutored in the art of self-negation by the lama, who cam runs through all the novels to be examined here, though each has its own idio

paigns against the ego-centered model of development. It is hard to miss the con syncratic relation to colonial politics and to modernist style. The convergence on

trast between the lamas holy Wheel and the linear imperative of self-cultivation fc 'fig u te of frozen youth by writers as dissimilar as Kipling, Schreiner, Conrad,

enshrined in Bildung. The lama fosters the eternal adolescent in Kim, teaching Wilde, Wells, Woolf, Jcfyce, Rhys, and Bowen reveds, then, an interlocking set of

him to strip away not just the accoutrements of whiteness and Britishness, but the effects: in this cluster of texts, the perpetuation of adolescence displaces the plot

impedimenta of subjectivity and desire (162).' Even Kims European mentors o f growth; the inability to make a fortune or stabilize an adult ego displaces the

though they fnay seek to reattach him to his racial (and sexual) privilege as a self fulfilled vocationd and sexud destiny; the mode of s'ociologicd or anthropologi-
with an individual destinyserve a Great Game whose defining quality is its end c d redism (ci la Annan) displaces evolutionary historicism; the static, regressive,
lessness. Thus the contest over Kim between Eastern and Western father figures is and mixed time schemes of the colonid sphere displace the plot o f nationd prog
finally less significant than the fact that Kipling builds the novel so that both sides ress as a normative story of modernization; and the making strange of uneven
INTRODUCTION 15
14 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

development as a stubborn problem o f global or colonial relations replaces its by feminist and queer experience? Even within the restricted domain o f British/
customary naturalization as a feature o f national life in industrializing Europe.^ Anglophone fiction, can the varieties of frozen and failed adolescence (some tragic,
To'put 4 concretely, Kiplings antidevelopmental bildungsromanspatial, epi some not; some male, some female) be referred to the same Hterary-historical
sodic, picturesque, above all, adolescentliteralizes the problem o f colonialism accoupt?
as failed or pos^oned modernization, giving an aesthetic form to what, Dipesh 4)The Soul-Nation Allegory: Are the novels examined here describing a break-
Chakrabarty calls the endless not yet (the permanent deferral o f self-rule and dov*hi in the allegorical function of the coming-of-age plot itself or are they extend
s,elf-possession) of imperial history and Western historicism (8). And Kiplings ing its allegorical function into an era of globally uneven development, wherein
storyis pnly the beginning o f a larger one; as it turns out, many canonical works progress is no longer symbolically safeguarded by the promises of organic nation
of the late Victorian and modbrnist period feature colonial themes o f backward alism? What, in other words, does it look like to allegorize uneven development in
ness, anachronism, and uneven development that provide the symbolic basis for a world-system rather than in a national container?
^,anti-teleological model o f subject formation. This is the very model otscC i^
delay and narrative distension that will, in the hands of Conrad, Joyce, and Woolf,
open up space for the novel of consciousness and thereby become the hallmark of
The Politics of Genre
modernist style.
Tb begin to answer the first set of questions, let us take Kim as both an exemplary
and dn anomalous case. Unlike many of the youthful protagonists at the center of
this study, Kim is a mbced-race character. Neither he nor his author (an Anglo-

Genre, History, and the Trope of Youth Indian) fits neatly into a colonizer-colonized binary. As Kim roams freely over the
subcontinent, one can attribute the authors command of detail either to an arrogant

The case of Kim sets in place interpretive strategies used in the rest o f this study colonialist sense of possession or to a naturalized sense of belonging. In this sense,

and raises methodological questions that need to be addressed at some level of Kipling seems an odd case, the arch-imperialist who is also a colonial native.*' Yet

generalization. Let me enumerate four areas for initial reflection: most of the writers examined in this book also resist the interpretive schema of
colonizer-colonized, particularly if one takes into account the variety not just of
i) The Politics of Genre: What does it mean to argue that changes in liter national origins but also of apparent political attitudes toward the British Empire.
ary form and style register or reflect broader or deeper changes in history? How
In the-chapters that follow, we will find the narrative logic of arrested develop
does the trope of frozen youthin Kim or any other noveladdress the shape of ment in works by semi-English imperialists (Kiphng), English anti-imperialists
uneven development within the colonial world-system? If we grant that the bil- (Woolf), E n g lis h semi-imperialists (Wells), non-English anti-imperialists (Jean
dungsroman was already a complex and ambiguous form even in its so-called clas Rhys),non-English semi-imperialists (Olive Schreiner), non-English part-time
sic phase, is the shift in scale from national to international development enough anti-imperialists (Conrad), as well as in Catholic Irish and Anglo-Irish writers of
to trigger a reorganization of the genre? disparate backgrounds, views, and temperaments (Wilde, Joyce, Bowen).
z) Questions of Periodization: Is it plausible and productive to isolate a short The trope of unseasonable youth runs across the colonial divide, though its
phase within the longer narrative o f European colonialism? By what critical method meaning and function vary according to the particular experience of empire
can we meaningfully link the age o f empire to the complex literary-historical described or represented. For example, Joyces brand of social critique is shaped
phenomenon of modernism? How exactly, beyond historical coincidence, do the by an Irish history of colonial domination in a way that W oolfs surely is not, but
crisis of European reahsm and the shifting temporal contours of the bildungsro- Joyce and Woolf nevertheless share a suspicion of imperial patriarchy rooted in
man intersect with the rise of the new imperialism? British power. In Kim, as we have noted, the temporal logic o f deferral and dilation
3) Sexuality and Gender: How are the traditional closural plots o f the bildung- structures the entire text; it is not ascribed to people or social relations on one side
sroman, particularly heterosexual coupling and marriage, affected and inflected or the other of the Anglo-Indian line. The versatility of the trope of adolescence
INTRODUCTION 17
l6 UNSEAS6n ABLE YOUTH

Eurocentric aptness the tropical tempo that manifests a fateful simultaneity


m the cblonial contact zone makes historical as well as symbolic sense. As many
o f ^ r i ^ a n d autumn (qtd: m Marshall B e fm ^ 22). Turned loose in modernist
confmentators have noted, imperialism generally casts its subject peoples not as
texts, the trope of autonomous youth reveals the contingent, even fragile, logic of
radically difFereht, but as an underdeveloped or youthful version of their rulers,
the old bildungsroman in which soul and nation grow together, then stop. Once
not quite ready for self-government. But imperialism also casts its own agency as
thatTormula is destabilized, it becomes difficult to distinguish between no change
youthful and rejuvenating; its beneficiaries are rendered young outside the finite
and constant change. So, for example, Kiphngs India does not assume the form of
markets and social constraints o f the Old World. Perhaps especially in the British
anorganic nation pegged to teleological time, but rather an endlessly morphing
sphere, colonialism involves not just the Hegelian dehistoricization o f the colo
ftiulticultural state with no clear or final political form. Everything is always chang-
nized as backward or timeless |jut also the dehistoricization of the European sub
in g ln th is game, but the game itself does not diange. This is the quality of impe
ject as juvenescent. Hannah Arendt describes the sociology of imperial youth with
rial time that stands behind both Francis Hutchinss illusion of permanence and
particular regard to the English experience: ,
Frantz Fanons description of the immobility to which the native is condemned,
Only those who had never been able to outgrow their boyhood ideals and piaiited in a motionless Manicheistic world, a world of statues-(si).^ My guid
therefore had enlisted in the colonial services were fit for the task. Imperial ing thesis, then, is that coloniaHsm introduces into the historicist frame of the
ism to them was nothing but an accidental opportunity to escape a society bildilngsroman the form-fraying possibility that capitalism cannot be moralized
in which a man had to forget his youth if he wanted to grow up . . . the into the progressive time of the nation.
colonial services took them away from England and prevented, so to speak, The case of Kim suggests some o f the wider implications o f this argument:
their converting the ideals o f their boyhood into the mature ideas of men. thfe novel seems, on the one hand, to express a pro-British fantasy of endless rule
Strange and curious lands attracted the best of Englands youth since the and benign interculturation packaged in the marketable story of a shape-shifting,
end o f the nineteenth century, deprived her society of the most honest and code-switching, eternally boyish hero. On the other hand, Kim discloses the basic
the most dangerous elements, and guaranteed, in addition to this bliss, a temporal contradiction of the Raj: It wants to go on forever but cannot. It encodes
certain conservation, or perhaps petrification, o f boyhood noblesse which both'an imperialist fantasy about the immature colonial world and a counter-
preserved and infantilized Western moral standards. vaihng critical insight into the temporal paradox of empire. Because these two
(z ii) substrates o f the text coexist, and particularly in view of Kiplings fallen reputation,
it makes sense to adopt a formal approach to the text rather than an identitarian or
This petrified boyhood noblesse no doubt forms a crucial and visible part o f the
intentionalist approach to its author, characters, or readers.^
ruUng ideology propagated among elite institutions in Victorian Britain. Empire
A formalist approach immediately raises the question of definition: what
was, after all, the raison detre o f the character factory of the British educated
stabUizes the term bildungsroman across eras of literary history and across different
classes: its neotraditional notion of soulmaking offered a cover story for the grub
national traditions? The genre can be loosened to include almost any novel where
bier work of imperial rule (Rosenthal). One can also see the logic o f petrification
expetience trumps innocence or tightened to a fine point where no novel fits. If we
writ large in the influential formulations of the historians.Tom Nairn and Perry
follow the latter, stricter impulse, we will look in vain for a true bildungsroman,
Anderson, who have argued that empire retarded the political and cultural m od
tumbling quickly backward through literary history from Rushdie and Morrison,
ernization of Britain altogether (Nairn 57; Anderson 24).
to'Woolf and Joyce, to Hardy and Eliot, to Dickens and Bronte and Balzac, to Aus
In Kim, of course, it is Indias modernization that appears stuck while the Great
ten and Scott and Fielding, and, finally, even to Goethe himself, whose Wilhelrh
Game cycles on, promising constant activity and no structural change. For this
Meister, most Germanists now agree, appears to violate most of the generic rules
reason, Kiplings Great Game stands as a peculiarly apt motif to introduce the lit
invoked in its honor. The fact that the genre is both ubiquitous and missing has
erary crux of my analyses: the fact that endless youth signifies both absent change
been well estabUshed by Jeffrey Sammons and further explored in a superb book
(no growth) and constant change (continuous transformation). Uiisea'sohfl)nitv in
by Marc Redfield, who argues that the bildungsroman is a phantom formation^
m ^ o o k fs title refSsTo y o u th o u T ^ o in temftesslyadble^ or suddenly aged,
Redfields poststructuralist ghosting of the genre makes sense, but the concept
sophomoric or progeriac, su^ ect to what Nietzsche called with almost uncanny
I
l8 UNSEASONABI-E YOUTH INTRODUCTION 19

of Bildung has. shaped literary criticism and practice for generationsa fact not consciousness as well as to modernisms owQ;;^ejudicid account of the Victorian
altered by its nonfulfillment in any given text.' Indeed, genres are almost always m in d as slavishly historical. But even if we recognize the extent to which modern
empty'sets that sh ^ e literary history by their negation, deviation, variation, and ist studies continues even now to require a transcended Victorian/realist other, it
mutation. Such deviations can themselves be tracked, grouped, and historicized.'^ is nonetheless worth stating that modernisms own anxiety of Victorian influence
Although, the bildungsromans unmaking is always coeval* with its making (in seems to have activated new and splendid possibilities for the English novel. And
literary history, writ large as well as in individual texts), it remains worthwhile we can use genre history to identify the special capacity of modernist texts to give
to t ^ to see patt,erns in the process o f its unmaking and evenat a metacritical literary form to the collapse of progressive historicism as an organizing idea of
levelto explain why a phantom genre is such a recurrent object of literary and European modernity and therefore of the European novel.
theoretical desire. ^ This project takes shape at a moment of resurgent interest in the bildimgsro-
For A e purposes of ipy larger argument, then, I take the bildungsroman as nian, particularly within twentieth-century studies, where sch6l^lrs have been
a g?ijeri id^al more than an empirical object or set in literary historyi,theugh I concerned to think about its history as both a Western and non-Western genre.'
dp not reject the positivist genre history o f Bakhtin-Lukacs altogether. After aU, iFranco Moretti has written a new conclusion to The Way o f the World, covering the
even copiplex and internally self-divided genres age over time, ^ d it is the aging early phases of modernism. Gregory Castle, too, has published a systematic study
o f A e bildungsroman through and past the era o f the emergent nation-state that of the bildungsroman, arguing for the renewed vitality of the genre in the early
motivates my inquiry. In what follows, the generic target encompasses texts with twentieth century. In a strong series of essays, Tobias Boes has begun to replot the
youthfi^jrotagonists whose growth is central and conspicuous, either as a nar- modern bildungsroman in German and English against a late nineteenth-century
rative presence or a genuinely marked absence. Thus, for example, Lord Jim fits crisis of historical experience. Working out o f the same German philosophical tra-
better than does H eart o f Darkness. In the traditional bildungsroman, youth drives I dition, Joseph Slaughter has tracked the enlightenment ideal of the individuals
qatrative momentum until adulthood arrives to fold youths dynamism into a con free and full development into both the contemporary postcolonial novel and
ceit o f uneventful middle age.' In the set of youth-fixated novels I have identified, the modern discourse o f human rights law (4). And in Fateful Beauty, Douglas
though} youth retains its grip on the center of the text, disorganizing and distend 'Mao offers an elegant historicization of the increasing, multidisciplinary interest
ing the plot. in the environmental shaping of young souls during the late Victorian period, with
J n that way, the belated and revisionary bildungsromane of modernism bring to many implications for the changing shape o f the coming-of-age novel after i860.
a logical extreme some o f the familiar contradictions o f the genre. One such hoary Maos work, building on Patricia Spackss classic account of literary youth,
contradiction stems from what Thomas Pfau calls (in the spirit o f Redfields argu establishes an intellectual and social-scientific context for the late Victorian novel
ment) the epigenetic quality of Bildung, its designation of what has been brought of development, in particular the newly codified concept of adolescence embodied
forth'qpd likewise what is in the process of being brought forth (141). Modernism, ih G. Stanley Halls 1904 compendium Adolescence.^ For Mao, the professional and
''perhaps because it is so obviously an epigenetic and self-begetting movement in scientific, medical and juridical languages of adolescence emergent in the period
its own right, seems to accentuate this contradiction in the bildungsroman. Mod- are strongly resonant with aesthetidst accounts of the environments shaping
V
ernist novels of unseasonable youth violate a progressive logic that they presume power over the young mind. In both kinds of discourse, every social input, every
to have existed, resist a linear historicism that is in part projected back onto Vic exquisite detail, counts in the subject-forming process:
torian realism by writers eager to assume the mantle of an experimental literary
We might say that the novel of formation had to reach a watershed when
future. Moreover, since this study confines itself largely to famous booksvisible
development became a matter of continuous shaping by the totality of ones
islands in a vast sea of unread novels, as much recent literary history and sociol
surroundings, of often silent and invisible molding by factors human, inhu
ogy has reminded usthe patterns of genre change apprehended here tell us as
man, and quasi-human. The traditional bildungsroman, with its depen
much about canon formation as about the empirical reading practices or distri
dence on crisis, example, reflection, and socialization, could hardly have
bution of texts in either the Victorian or modernist p,eriod. Canonical selection
seemed adequate to this understanding of growth.
j reveals our ongoing reinvention of modernism as a redress ^o Victorian historical
( 96 - 97)
INTRODUCTION 2t.
20 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

European ^ o f bourgeois realism rooted in the failure of the 1848 revolutions


Maos account, suggests fro|n*a different angle of analysis why the problem o f an
(85,174). lH ^ css account overlaps with Arendfs not just chronologically but m
endlessly Unfolding youth was so central to the late bildungsroman: It was coming
its explanatory logic, suggesting in broad terms that the crisis of realism m the
to seem a process withjput (narratable) bounds, either spatial or temporal.
noyel is coterminous with the end of the national-industrial phase o f European
The pojver of. reification and social determinism to reshape the discoiurse of
modernization. What mediates between his history of forms and her history o
self-development.is a central premise for Mao as it is for Moretti and for Cas-
socioeconomic structures is the faltering concept of progress driven by the middle
tle.5' All thref,xite the general rationalization and institutionalization of youth as
classes of the Western nations, a concept whose fictional incarnation was the bil-
a challenge tp the bildungsromans aesthetic viability.^^ But where Castle and Mao
dungsroman. *
emphasize the new and often ^ich narrative strategies imagined in response to these
- Arendt and Lukdcs also converge in their analysis of the imperial era as the
circumstances^ Moretti proposes a more Darwinian thesis, according to which
moment when a certain kind of racialized thinking became entrenched within
modernism h^d to abandon the bildungsroman and seek new formal possibilities'
European capitalism, with broad ideological repercussions that disrupt the middle-
for.the novel. For him, the genre no longer presides over the sym ^lic' adjustment
class commitment to social mobility. For Arendt-particularly in her analysis of
o f protagonists to their place in bourgeois society, nor does it sustain the master
colonial South A frica-and for Lukacs-particularly in his analysis of Darwiman
allegory of modernization that was so successfullyinscribed in the nineteenth-
and Nietzschean thought, the regressive logic of racialism, a biologized apotheosis
century bildungsroman. Youth looks now for its meaning within itself, suggests
of instrumental reason and social hierarchy, began in the later nineteenth century
Moretti, so that the relevant symbolic process is no longer growth but regression
to replace the progressive elements of the European bourgeoisies project of
(Way 231). In addition to the growing power of school, state, and mass media to
modernization (Arendt 159; Lukdcs, Historical Novel 175) . Lukdcs translates this
cut into the old Schillerian ideal of a self-cultivating aesthete, Moretti argues that
left-Uberal thesis about a rigidifying and regressive bourgeois ideology into Uter-
World War I finally shattered an already dying genre by destroying the febric of
aw history as a crisis in the novel, which was drained of its socially representative
intergenerational exchange and evacuating the residual heroic elements from the
protagonists, left without the dynamic plot of social mobility, and emptied of tiie
European concept of the rite of passage.
historical depth associated with classic realism. Many rightly view the Lukdcsian
story as schematic, and its provenance and chronology are clearly more continen
tal than Anglophone or global. Nonetheless, if we understand its effects to unfold
Questions of Periodization gradually in the several decades after 1850, it begins to resonate with what most
EngUsh-oriented literary historiaiis would see as the displacement of the realist
This book largely pivots on the year 1900 (the date of Kim's publication) with its
social novel by naturalist elements and, more specifically, the displacement of
core decades corresponding roughly to what Eric Hobsbawm calls the "age of
sociaUy integrative Victorian bildungsromane such as David Copperfield and Jane
empire (1875-1914). Hobsfeawm, like Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarian
Eyre by the plot of disillusionment and alienation.
ism, focuses on the quickening and formalizing of European colonialism in the
Arrested development is such a vital trope for modernist fiction because it
1870s and 1880sa global process for which the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885
travels across several inteUectual domains in the late Victorian period, from
stands as a concrete marker. Arendt defines high imperialism in terms of the
psychological theories of the subject to biopolitical theories of social antagonism
eclipse of national by international capitalism (135). The centuries-long history of
to economic theories o f industrial stagnation to anthropological theories of struc-
exploitative slave and colonial economies notwithstanding, Arendts characteriza
turalized difference to geoeconomic theories of colonial immiseration. The falter
tion o f this era as inaugurating a new phase of unrestrained capitalist relations out
ing developmental logic in these various realms or zones can be defined in terms
side the national boundaries and moral limits of middle-class progress proves, I
of.the historiographical crisis in the narrative of progress and the interlocking
think, quite telling for literary history in general and for the bildungsroman in par-
political crisis of imperial legitimacy. For the remainder of the book, I will use the
ticular.-* Arendts accounttaken alongside any number of literary studies such
phrase age of empire to signal this multipronged discursive model centered m
as Edward Saids Culture and Imperialism or Fredric Jamesons Modernism and
the 1880-1920 period. The 1880s also mark, of course, the beginning of the end of
Imperialismprovides a suggestive colonial gloss on what Lukdcs described as a
INTRODUCTION 23
22 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

empire, so-caUed immature subjects came to represent much larger problems of


"European expansion with the African scramble and the Berlin Conference. Only
three decadfes later, V. I. Lenin famdusly remarked that for the first time, the world uneven developinent:
is now divided up, so that in the future only re-divisions^are possible (70). We can The understanding of homosexuality as the marker of western decadence
thus'conceite"of this period not just as a fin de sifecle, but as a fin du globe, in which par excellence may also suggest ways in which the person laying claim to
imperial grovrth, whith had become by then the spatial confirmation of Western homosexual identity in an era of global capitalism can be made to carry
progress, reached its earthly limits.^ With no new territory to annex, the Euro the anxieties surrounding the social ruptures produced by economic
pean powers faced new pressure to cast the extant colonies as eternally adolescent, development.
always developing but never developed enough.

If we combine Hoads analysis of arrested development and Heather Loves account


of historical backwardness with Michael Warners challenge to repro-narrativity
.Sexuality and Gender and Lee Edelmans brief for queer (non)futurity, we can adduce a composite model
of the queer figure who holds a position outside dominant discourses of prog
The intellectual contours of the larger crisis of progress sketched earher are well
ress at A e level of individual self-formation and of social reproduction. From this
documented in poHtical and cultural histories of the late Victorian period; Hterary
point o f view, the novels examined here comprise a colonially inflected subset of /
analysis allows us to examine them in relation to fine textual details and intimate
the larger modernist group in which the marriage plot is marginalized, and in
vocabularies o f identity. As we interpret the inner life of youthful characters in
which even heterosexual romance is queered so that it no longer stands as the
modernist writing, it helps to remember that arrested development discourse in
allegorical basis for reconciling social antagoriisms or projecting a national future. /
the period applied to a raft of social others, such as women, natives, and queer sub-
That larger set would include a number o f queer and belated coming-of-age novels
jecfs.3 These putatively immature subjects stand out in relief against residual but
by England-based writers such as Lawrence, Forster, Ford, H. D., Radclyffe Hall,
still normative progress narratives and resonate with emergent counternarratives
o f degeneration, decadence, and rebarbarization. In this volatile discmsive field, arid Sylvia Townsend Warner.'*'
Of course the troubling of the marriage plot was already a fixture of the female
queer and colonial versions of underdevelopment or backwardness intersect, as
bildungsroman in the nineteenth century. Woman-authored and woman-centered
a variety o f minority subjects-what we might call Europes internal and exter
texts, in the British canon often deviate from and disrupt the generic template,
nal othersare concatenated together in a more insistently global field of culture.
checkering the history of the bildungsroman. Several scholars have recounted that
Indeed the project of exploring ftiiled or frozen Bildung in the Anglophone novel
gendered history in rich detail: Rita Felski {Beyond Feminist Aesthetics), Susan
cbuld be pursued under the aegis of queer studies (or gender studies) as well as
Fraiman {Unbecoming Women), Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar {M adwoman
colonial discourse studies. Most o f the novels of colonial adolescence examined
in the Attic), Elaine Showalter (X Literature o f Their Own), Patricia Spacks {The
' here resist or forestall the traditional plot o f libidinal closure in the bildungsroman
Adolescent Idea), and the editors of the coUection The Voyage In (Elizabeth Abel,
(heterosexual coupling and reproduction) and feature instead story lines driven
Marianne Hirsch, and Ehzabeth Langland).*"Building on their work, my readings
by homoerbtic investment, sexual indifference, homosexual panic, and same-sex
e^plbre the ways in which a feminist critique of the representative soul becomes
desire. Sorted together, sexually dissident protagonists such as Lord Jim (Con
more conspicuous in the late Victorian period and takes on a more global dimen-
rad), Rachel Vinrace (Woolf), Lois Farquar (Bowen), Dorian Gray (Wilde), and
sionjn the age of empire. Many novels of rebeUious girlhood and fixed youth in
Stephen Dedalus (Joyce) suggest a deep epochal link between thmueer/adolescent
the period seem to be fheled by a joint critique o f patriarchal and imperial norms
and the colonial/native as twin subjects of arrested-development discourse.
of development. In the chapters to come, I foUow a trajectory from George Eliot
Nbville Hoad has examined that convergence in some detail, charting the
in i860 to Olive Schreiner in 1883 through to the early 1900s with modernists such
alignment between colonial discourses of the native/savage and sexological dis
as Jean Rhys, V ir g in ia Woolf, and Elizabeth Bowen, tracking a gendered logic of
courses o f the homosexual. Hoad zeroes in on the fact that, during the age of
provincial failure from its national to its international expression."*
24 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH INTRODUCTION 25

The Soul-Nation Allegory Organicist logic is also the central concern ^ K S i g Cheahs cbmpelling study
qf the bildungsroman as a global and postcolonklgenfet^th its origins in German
The great liovels o f that lineage of women writers expose the ideological under
idealism. Taken together, Pfau and Cheah establish a philosophical genealogy of
pinnings ofthe bildungsroman as a genre of male destiny and heroic moderniza
Bildung that clarifies the literary-historical trajectory of the bildungsroman as
tion. For pam ple,.in Schreiners African Farm and in Rhyss Voyage in the Dark,
it becomes an increasingly global fictional genre. Building on their insights, we
proyincial or colonial girls meditate on the implausibility of conceiving the indi
m ig h t say that modernism accentuates the inherent contradiction of anor^n^Lcist
vidual self as some kind of avatar for national destiny, their gendered suspicion
logic whose role was to stabilize (temporally and epistemologically) the course
of allegorization itself underscores a crucial dimension of this books larger argu
of history by representing it in terms o f the human biography or life story. Why,
ment, which is that there are two distinct strategies used to expose the conven
MprettiAvonders about the classic bildungsromar^ did modern Western civiliza
tional alignment between personal destiny and national eschatology: i) the broken
tion discard such a perfect narrative mechanism? {W ay 72). My hypothesis is that
allegory, in which the link between individual and collective is untethered and 1 ^ - -
the function of the national frame within that narrative mechanism wAs crucial,
bare rather than naturalized as a principle o f composition; and 2) the negative alle
but was also as time-limited as the German-idealist notion of self-cultivation. As
gory, in which individuals continue to represent collective or national destinies,
the national referent was increasingly embedded in the matrix of colonial moder
but not necessarily in the upward direction of moral or historical progress. The
nity, the destinies of persons, and the peoples they represent, had to include not
first explodes the very possibility o f allegory, the second preserves it but peels it
qnly the story of progress, but also stories o f stasis, regression, and hyperdevelop
away from the tenets of what David Lloyd calls developmental historicism {Irish
ment. Modernisms untimely youthsW oolfs Rachel Vinrace, Conrads Lord Jim, |
Times 75). In practice, o f course, the two strategies overlap. The bildungsromans
Joyces Stephen Dedalusregister the unsettling effects of the colonial encounter I
bio^aphical form was for generations yoked to a progressive concept o f n a t i o n a l
on humanist ideals of natiqnal culture that had always, from the time o f Goethe
destiny, so that to emplot a nonprogressive version of national-historical time is
and Schiller, determined the inner logic o f the bildungsroman. Separating ado- ^
almost automatically to trouble the inherited allegorical platform o f the genre.Tf
iescence from the dictates o f Bildung, modernist writing created an autonomous
hhe gmeric ideal implies, per Bakhtin, a plot o f masculine self-formation that both
V^ue for youth and cleared space for its own resistance to linear plots while regis^-
shapes and is shaped by national historical time, then a novel that disrupts prog
\)terip g lh e failure of imperialism as a discourse of global development. The:^ n r e -
ress also casts doubt on the basic symbolic adequacy of the individual life span to
^ n d i n ^ g i c of uneven developmentnever wholly absent from the genrethus
the representation o f (national) history. The novels to be examined in this study
Takes on a new and more intense form in modernism as it fixes its etiolated and
freely trade between these two strategies o f metageneric critique in order to high
broken allegories to the uncertain future o f a colonial world-system.
light the waning vitality or plausibility of the old bildungsroman formulae and
their organic conceptions o f self and nation.
As the genre transforms and adapts to new historical conditions, a central ques
tion is whether it still performs what Moretti sees as its two classic fimctions: to
make modernitys endless revolution narratable and to secure middle-class concert Modernist Subjectivity and the World-System
tiirough a r e ^ sto g r a tive of vocational-spiritual comjpromise. The modernist pres
sure on bildungsroman conventions goes beyond raising the possibility that the The types o f unseasonable youth in modernist fiction are as various as the novels
genre can no longer serve those functions; it also raises the possibility that it never themselves, and each novel to be considered in the chapters ahead reveals in its
did. This is the point driving Thomas Pfaus subtle approach to the genealogy of the turn a different facet of the formal and historical problematic outlined so far. In
Bildung concept in modern fiction. Pfeu isolates a cluster of modern German writ what remains of this introduction, I will present a critical overview of those dif
ers, including ^pengler and Mann, to argue that modernism effectively reverses ferent facets and conclude by contextualizing this research within debates about
^ e epigenetic ^ d developmental confidence of nineteenth-century narrative, Eurbcentrism, political formahsm, and the new modernist studies. To unfold the
bringing out the l6ng-repressed implications of Goethean organicism" (155). books larger argument requires a detailed account of how Bakhtins concept of
V INTRODUCTION 27
26 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

be said to circle around the specter of HegeUan bad infinity? Hegel develops the
if natiortal-*historical time works as a matter o f emplotment in both nineteenth- and
concept of the spurious infinite {schlecht Unendlichkeit) in his Science o f Logic.
twentiefli-cfen^ury fiction. I develop that argument in chapter 2 by stepping back
The essence of his point is that a spurious infinity is one defined in direct and
in my timHine to investigate a major Victorian novel, George Ehots M ill on the
full contradistinction to the finite, so that it could be exemplified by a numerical
Floss (i860). Because Eliot is often taken to mark the end o f the bildungsromans
seriestKSf g o ^ o n forever or, indeed, by a temporally blank conception of history
classic phase and because she is also a key disseminator of German thought into
as moments unfolding into the future without end. This technical discussion in
British letters, I concentrate on her work, but briefly consider other Victorian nov
Hegeibecomes more relevant in Marx, who assigns to capitalism itself something
els by, for example, Dickens and ^ a rlo tte Bronte.
of the nature of spurious infinitude.' Still more relevant is Lukacss adaptation
I h e central premise that emerges from that return to the Victorian period, and
of th e ^ n cep t in The Theory o f the Novel, he argues that,the novel lacks the self-
that organizes much o f the subsequent interpretive work on modernist-era texts,
sufficient and organic enclosure of the epic and so must lean on the biographical
is that a national-cultural system in the emergent phase of European industrializa-
form pr individual life story to create a finite span as a hedge against the poten
tipn (jould mediate between unevenly developed^ggipps (e.g., city and country)
tial endlessness of modern secular narrative. In the passage taken as this chapters
in v^j^'that, during a later phase, neither .a jnultinstional imperiafstate.nor.a
epigraph, Lukdcs summarizes his point: The novel overcomes its bad in fin it/
<:apitalist3[orld-sy;stgn,copld.'' By anchoring the bildungsrbman in a Goethe-
by recourse to the biographical form (8i). This maneuver underlies what Moretti
Schiller origin story, we do not simply rehearse shopworn genealbgies, but remind
descrijigs as the basic counterrevolutionary impulse o f texts that find a way to
ourselves that the history of the novel enfolds and overlaps with the emergent
arres^ the revolutionary energies of nascent capitalism and political democracy
power of national culture to manage the symbolic relations between otherwise
in pi;der to secure and stabilize bourgeois society. More specifically still, we might
antagonistic regions and classes. Nations contain and naturalize the problem of
say th^it the classic realist novel used the organic finitude of biographical form and
uneven development by appeal to a common culture, language, and destiny; their
national form alike to enclose the bad infinity of a narrative that would otherwise
or^anicist claims underlie a reciprocal allegory o f development with the represen
have no objective Umits. Such a formulation gives some political grounding to the
tative soul. As I suggest in the chapters that follow, such claims cannot really be
philosophical formalism of Lukdcss Theory o f the Novel, and thereby gives us a
sustained by the inorganic entities of the modern state, the baggy empire, or the
way to extend the Lukdcsian models (including Morettis) into the era of globaliza
acultural world-system.
tion/modernism. The trope o f unseasonable youth defines modernisms historical
The return to George Eliot (or Dickens) also supplies a critical test case for my
,encounter with the problem of bad infinity at the existential and geopohtical lev
hypothesis that the national referent was, however tacitly at the level of content or
els, establishing the conditions for a provisional aesthetic solutionthe metabil-
theme, vital to the nineteenth-century bildungsromans ability to bring its story to
dungsroman, which encodes the impossibility of representing global capitalisms
closure. Adulthood and nationhood were the twin symbolic termini for the end
nevfer-ending story via the offices of finite biographical form.^*
less and originless processes of self-formation and social transformation. To kick
T oT reeze and stylize youth is to w rite th e n ovel o f m odernity_aiLE.ermanent
'that formula into historical motion, then: If the chronotope of national Bildung
r e v o lu tto n T ir S v M T n e w justice to th e op en m etanarrative o f
loses force as a symbolic device toward the end of the Victorian age, what kind of iWrInfill >iiiy III Ml I Iiiii

gloljalization; put otherwise, it announces the growing obsolescence ^ national


closural plot becomes operative, particularly in the face o f an open-ended process
of socioeconomic modernization spreading ever wider on the planet? Naturalist
historW^ Without the moralizing time of the soul-nation allegory, the bildung-
fate is one grim solution to the narrative problem. The modernist figure of unsea
sroman becomes the story of modernitys unfiru^Jied project condensed into the
sonable youth is another, one that keeps secular historicism at the core of the m od
trope of endless youth. As the example of Kim would indicate, frozen youth (no^
ern novel yet unsettles the protocols of a genre that can no longer restrict the story
change) is often narr^ e l y isonaorphic with endlgssj;;OT^' ( c o n s ^ ^ c ^
of progress to the symbolic confines o f the nation-state.
Bo4Treiuse*ffi?bS3ungsroman ideal of smooth progress to w ^ ^ a ^ i^ , integrated
Without the national frame securely in place, modernist novels confront afresh
state. So to o ^ T th T le v H '^ tia a '^ S isT o m the temporal frame
the challenge of circumscribing an unbounded capitalist modernity. The inter
of nationhood, collective change cannot be grasped in a stable epistemological
locking narrative and geopolitical problems of the late bildungsroman can thus
28 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH INTRODUCTION 29

context (so long,% at is, as historiographical knowledge continues to be shaped pfoblem of arrested development as a marker of modernist selfhood thus cuts
by its Ehlightfeilmenf roots). In the readings that follow, the problem of static or two ways: It denotes a certain kind of metropolitan privilege, but it also denotes
insuffident development thus mirrors and is entailed by the problem o f constant a> split subjectivity unable to integrate or reconcile opposing forces. Colonial
of nyper-d^vdopmdnt. plots o f frozen youth reflect and intensify the fissile logic of high modernism, in
The problem of uneven development troped as unseasonable youth is made which subject formation is simultaneously more and less free than ever b e fo r e -
concreteTn novels b f the new global frontier such as The Story o f an African beholden at once to a Proustian logic of deep interiority and a Kafkaesquelogic of
Farm and Xord Jim, which I examine in chapter 3. The two novels are separated cbld objectivity
^by a gehdered logic featuring the colonial w o m ^ and imperial man a.s the failed The trope of frozen youth guides us into modernist fictions of failed devel-
i subjects, respectively, of provihcialism and cosmopolitanism. Yet both describe "dpnent in both colonial contact zones and metropolitki core*'territories of the
Iprbtagbnists who cannot age, and whose fatal immaturity seems to align with^a- - vtrld-systeih. In the cases o f Schreiner and Conrad, the'noh-accumulation of
f demdralized, nonprogressive temporality. In this pairing of novels, w e see that wealth at the colonial periphery provides an obvious analogue for stalled Bildung,
both local traditionalism and global capitalism, without the nifeJiating political but in the novels of Oscar Wilde {The Picture o f Dorian Gray, 1891) and H. G. Wells
ahd symbolic force of nationality, can seem like parallel versions o f historyless- {Tono-Bungay, 1909), we find new economic phenomenahigh consumerism,
n6ss. Once cut free from its embedded teleologies, the trope of adolescence reveals rabid marketing, and financial speciilationspooling out of aU proportion to any
the cruel lesson, made vivid in Schreiners African Farm, that endless youth is stable narrative of production or of self-j>roduction. In these two London-based
merely the obverse of sudden death. Without ageor, to be more precise, without nbvels, plots of exorbitant immaturity play out against the backdrop of a spectacu
agihgyouth mutates from a figure o f vitality into the very sign o f lifdessness. For lar new phase in imperial-finance capitalism. By framing the metabildungsromane
Lord Jim, too, languishing unmoored in the extranational tropics, life is a sentence of Wilde and Wells within the problematic of bad infinity, we can see the dis
of bad infinities: either all youth (the narrative never ends) or sudden death (the placement of aesthetic education and self-cultivation in the Goethean tradition by
harrative only ends). uneven processes of consumption and commodificationprocesses that are, even
In Lord Jim, the traditional protagonist who embodies a progressive or linear in their metropolitan contexts, clearly linked to both the endless imperial expan
model o f history is eclipsed by a protagonist who registers the contradictions of sion of capitalist markets and the endless cycles of new consumer desires. Both
an*era split in to multiple^i^gnflictingtemporahtiesofjjMer-^ ^ Dorian Grays hollow consumption and George Ponderevos spurious production
ment.Jim is an ^dward Waverley for the early twentieth century: not the national require a global frame of economic reference.
hero, but the postnational anti-hero, the overripe lord identified by Nietzsche in The somewhat unusual pairing of Wilde with Wells in chapter 4 expands,
the epigraph to this chapter."^ In what is a dichotomy rather than a dialectic of I think, the standard approach to Dorian Gray, which tends to refer the novels
youth-and-age, Marlow has assimilated the endlessness of imperial capitalism in supernatural conceit to the symbolic demands of bohemian, aestheticist, cosmo
the form of salty pragmatism, always alfeady mature, and Jim has assimilated that politan, and queer subject formation.The protomodernist Wilde and semimod-
same endlessness in the form o f saccharine ideahsm, forever immature. qrnist Wells represent diiferent angles of remove from the nineteenth-century
For the protagonists o f Story o f an African Farm and Lord Jim, situated at the bildungsroman: Neither Wildes residually aristocratic values nor Wellss emergent
colonial frontier and on the early cusp of modernism, the problem of vocational , lower-middle-class values quite fit into the story line of the realist coming-of-age
failuit translates into a narrative short-circuit from youth to death. The split plot; and neither Wildes aphoristic and lurid neogothic tale nor Wellss prolix and
between empire disguised as a higher calling and empire exposed as capitahsm didactic anti-novel coiiformstothe tonal discipline of classic or Jamesian reahsm.
in'the'raw exacerbates the main contradiction papered over by the old Goethean Both writers self-consciously take apart the narrative pieces of the bildungsroman
spiritual-vbcational compromise, revealing that soulmaking and wage-earning (education, courtship, apprenticeship, disillusionment, adventure, journey, self
are no easier to reconcile abroad than at home. Whether they end with a frozen doubt, bankruptcy). Both describe crippled egos who are disintegrated into mere
cbrpse or a frozen youth (or both) at their center, these novels conspicuously evade functions rather than integrated into a harmonious personality. These plots of
^^^Psural plot of adulthood and the harmonic social integration it implies. The slow decay and sudden overdevelopment give us an unusually clear glimpse of the
30 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH INTRODUCTION 31 v. !

bildungsroman in the process o f mutating from a genre of middle-class consent to Storyteller, which casts the war as the definitive event that broke the chain of
a genre of unreconciled social contradictions. Wilde and Wells embed the m otif eiqierience q^ried by stories across generational lines." Peter Osborne summa
of broken Bijdung in a wider story of the disjunction between capitalist dynamism rizes Benjamins point:
(consumerist lust, rampant financial speculation, bottomless energy needs) and
R elations betw een generations are n o longer the m ed iu m o f historical c o n
national tradition. At the thematic level, they activate the tension that was always
tin u ity here, b u t o f crisis, rupture and m isunderstanding. Youth is n o longer
latent in the ^ildungsroman between youth-as-plot and adulthood-as-closure. At
a sign o f apprenticeship, Or even h op e, b u t o f an em p ty in finitv o f p o ssibili-
the allegorical level, they activate a similarly latent tension between modernization
^ties, d is o r ie n g tion and-Pjgtfintialdespair.
processes.that never stop and national discoiurses that posit origins and ends.*
* (135)
Ih p paring of works by Wilde arid Wells cuts across the Anglo-Irish line, as does
the subs^uent pairing ojf Woolf ^ d Joyce in chapter 5. The early fictions of Woolf No doubt the war and its traumatic aftermath form a crucial part o f the crisis
and Joyce bring us to the eve of World War I, one o f several key moments we cSn o f the bildungsroman (Morettis term), but for Woolf and Joyce working in the
use to punctuate this history of the late bildungsroman. At the threshold o f high prewar decade, the genres inherited conventions were already strained. In The
mcyiefiiism, we find not just the bristhng, blustery emergence of the poetic men Voyage O ut and Portrait o f the Artist, moreover, the problem of failed or frozen
of.1914, but also a strikingly high concentration o f major novelists pubhshing sto developmentand the motif of adolescencesubsist within the less cataclysmic
ries o f unseasonable or doomed youth, all in the same three-year span: Proust (Du and more global context of the late British empire. This pairing of texts allows us
c d tid e chez Swann, 19:3), Lawrence {Sons and Lovers, 1913), Alain-Fournier ( le to (insider the unseasonable youth of an English girlhood and Irish boyhood in
Gfc^nd Meaulnes in 1913), Woolf {Voyage Out, 1915), Maugham {O f Human Bond- ^ e same analytical frame, as differently refracted aspects of a formal and historical
1915)) Kafka {Die Verwandlung, 1915). Ford {The Good Soldier, 1915), and Joyce problen\ native to this epoch of colonial modernity..
{Pprtrait o f the Artist, 1916).' To this list we might add Freuds Totem and Taboo Both Joyce and Woolf position their texts within a dialectic of national and
(1913) and Lukacss The Theory o f the Novel (written 1914-1915), both of which con global forces, casting the journey o f expatriatism or exile as a provisional line of
cern the question of developmental narrative as well as the regression and adoles escape from national closure. However, both indicate that breaking free of social
cence o f the metropolitan subject, as if to foretoken the outbreak o f the Great War and novelistic conventions, especially those associated with developmental time,
that would demystify the European tradition of heroic youth." can be.only a partial or Pyrrhic victory. If Rachel Vinrace occupies a kind of null
Most accounts of the cultural history o f World War I emphasize the profound A c t io n in Voyage Out, Stephen Dedalus raids the symbolic center o f the bildung
destruction it visited upon young bodies and on the intergenerational transmis sroman with an almost opposite strategy: Where she evacuates the concept of des
sion of European culturein particular, on the humanizing, spirituahzing images tiny, he overfills it. Where she deflates the plot of becoming, he supercharges it;
o f education so central to the canonical novel o f youth.5 Moretti remarks of the where she feels blocked by her lack of access to a proper education, he becomes
postwar literary world: IT' paralyzed by the insights of his elite training. Just as important as these differences,
'f r f

-v though, is the fact that from opposite directions and from either side, as it were,
The trauma introduced discontinuity within novelistic temporality,
of the colonial divide, both fixate on stalled personal and socioeconomic develop
generating centrifugal tendencies toward the short story and the lyric; it
ment. And yet, as we will see, neither Woolf nor Joyce can expunge the temporal
disrupted the unity of the Ego, putting the language of selfconsciousness
imperatiyes^fbiogmphical (organic) time, o f narrative closure, or, finally, of colo-^
out o f work-----In the end, nothing was left of the form of the Bildungsro
nial modernity. This facet of the larger problemhow even an antidevelopmental
man: a phase o f Western socialization had come to an end, a phase the
bildungsroman still confronts the temporality of closurebecomes increasingly
Bildungsroman had both represented and contributed to.
important as we move from colonial and pre-World War I contexts to the postco-
{W ay 244)
Iqnial and devolutionary contexts of interwar modernism.
In addition to Morettis claim that World War I dealt a death blow to a genre To assess this interwar period, I turn in chapter 6 to two semicanonical, semi
already moribund by the 1890s, we have Walter Benjamins influential essay The peripheral modernists, Jean Rhys and EUzabeth Bowen. The protagonists o f their
32 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH INTRODUCTION 33

influential early novels Voyage in the D ark and The Last September are exiled girls This account of the modernist bildungsroman thus helps explain the partial
who cannot reach maturity; they carry the symbolic weight o f two different plan displacement o f nineteenth-century historical concepts of progress by twentieth-
tation Masses that cannot realize their own modernity. Long histories of colonial century anthropological concepts of difference as the major frame o f reference
disppssessipn inform the failed processes of self-possession in Rhys, as in 3 owen. for* the" novel.What replaces the historical metanarratives of the Victorian era
The texture and style o f their novels are quite distinct, and there are obvious dif (with their evolutionary and developmental time firames) seems to be a more static
ference^ between the Caribbean and Irish histories evoked in their texts. Yet Rhys anthropological grid of cultural differences. As James Clifford puts it:
and Bowen come to the predicament o f the Anglophone plantocracy at the end
An intellectual historian o f the year 2010, if such a person is imaginable,
of empire, and to the aesthetic problem of the novel at the end of Victorian social
may . . . look back on the first two-thirds of our century and observe that
realism, armed with certain overlapping perspectives. Both delve into the vulnera
this was a time when Western intellectuals were preoccupied with grounds
ble social'situation of the belated offspring of the colonial plantocracyorphaned
of meaning and identity they called culture and language (much the way
ahd disinherited children with a precarious foothold in a class that itselflias a
\ye ,now look at the nineteenth century and perceive there a problematic
precarious foothold in history.
concern with evolutionary history and progress).
The novels o f Rhys and Bowen bring to the fore a fecet of the late bildungsro-
( 95 )
man not emphasized in previous readings. In them; the logic o f cultiural difference
seems increasingly to structure antidevelopmental plots at the level of both i^^di- Since I'am myself writing in Cliffords imagined future year 2010, it seems fitting
vidual and collective destiny; indeed Voyage in the D ark and Last September upend to take'^his cue and investigate the (relative, gradual) displacement o f historical-
the old bildungsroman story o f upward social mobility. Reading them together as progressive thinking by anthropological-structural thinking in modernist fiction,
contact-zone fictions highUghts the features of generic modulation, from devel where the figure of youth seems less and less to symbolize history and progress
opmental to antidevelopmental plots, which in turn indexes a broader shift in the andmore to refer to the messy conceptual overlapping of developmental histori-
modernist era as social antagonisms are increasingly coded in terms o f cultural* cism Mth a- or anti-historicist logics of cultural difference.*
(especially racial) difference.^ To set this kind of general context for the novel of unseasonable youth, I have
Broadly speaking, fictions centered on entrenched modes o f cultural or bio sketched an aUgnment of several strands of fin de-si^de intellectual history:
logical difference cut against older, hiunanist models not just of development as the historiographical critique of progress, the anthropological critique of social
a narrative device, but of development as an ideological principle implying fixed evolution, the colonial critique of Eurocentrism, the philosophical critique of the
or universal standards. The instance o f Rhyss Voyage requires us, I think, to con sovereign subject, the psychoanalytical critique o f the integrated egoall taken
sider an incipiently posthumanist and indeed a biopohtical modernism (in which as intertwining challenges to nineteenth-century developmental thinking. Such
the key conflicts turn on the play o f racial and sexual difference); the instance tectonic shifts never happen neatly or instantly of course, and part of the special
of Bowens Last September requires us to consider a devolutionary and increas power of literary genres is to record, in what Fredric Jameson has memorably
ingly anthropological modernism (in which essentiahzed cultural differences help described as a kindo f formal sedimentation, the presence of earlier epistemes even
define social boundaries in the post-World War I world). Taken together, they as'they adumbrate new intellectual dispensations, new social conjunctures, and
highlight the pressmre put on realist fiction by late Victorian professional and sci new aesthetic possibilities. The novels examined here carry the tenets of their genre
entific discourses of race, sex, and identity that tended to delegitimate, or at least forwafd into the twentieth century, recirculating its sticky ideological content even
to deromanticize, middle-class progress narratives.* The colonial setting may pro as they interrogate and revise that content. The signature topoi o f modernist fic
vide a particularly cle^ sense of the historical forces behind this processand the tion-stream of consciousness, epiphany, delayed decoding, and ekphrastic inter
trope o f frozen youth a particularly visible sign of its narratological entailments lude, for exampleare signs not of a wall-to-wall triumph of antinarrative form,
but there are many kinds o f modernist text that encode this broader translation but of a reorganized novel framework that can bracket or marginalize, but never
of' difference into the increasingly rigid race-culture-nationalism language of fully purge, the progressive flow of narrative or existential time. More particu-
twentieth-century devolution. larly, since a specific kind of national-historical time was knitted into the primal
34 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
INTRODUCTION 35

generic/genetic origins of the bildungsroman, it was o f course extremely difficult


period; in chapter 7, 1therefore consider the fate of the genre after 1945. A number
to deactivate, all of the temporal and allegorical traces o f its presence. Nonetheless,
Jf,.as Mor^tti .suggests, the classic bildungsroman brings us the triumph of mean of interesting genealogies of autonomous or frozen youth emerge in the period,
crossing between both Western and non-Western literary zones, rxmning from
ing over time, the novel o f unseasonable youth brings us to a stalemate between
Beckett toTshiguro, Lessing to Dangarembga, Grass to Rushdie.
n?eamng.and time (W ay 55). Times raw power as chronos is no longer so easily
channeled into the shapely bounds of kairos.^' Given what I have suggested about the splintering of developmental discomses
emanating from Enlightenment Europe, perhaps the most pressing qugrtjm abffiftt j.
The ideological substrata o f the modernist bildungsroman are mixed; so too are
Its spatial bases and origins. It is difficult, then, to separate the canonical and cen the contemporary b .^ g s r a j B g a ^ w h e M ^^^ how it fonction^, p o s ^ ^ s .
a viiSr^ l ^ ' imthe.J'new.nations of the postcolonial world. Do the Bakhtinian |
tra texts o f modernism from its so-called peripheral and minor texts, at least not
prineipfesTif realist emergence at the biographical and national levels hold in the
without forcing rigid core/pe^iphery distinctions onto a fluid set of cultural and
post-, anti- and neocolonial territories of the novel in the global South? The ques-
historical relationships that were, increasingly, integrated at the level of the world-
tion*of>ens up a large research agenda beyond the scope of this study, but scholars
system. To take the example of Rhys, a transatlantic migrant writer claimed for
such as Rheng Cheah and Joseph Slaughter have begun to assess the afterlife of
both modernist and postcolonial canons: Clearly our interpretNe'models of center
the European bildungsroman in postcolonial literature of the last several decades.
and margin, or colonizer and colonized, cannot contain or explain her work. Bet
Cheah considers Asian and African writers such as Pramoedya and Ngugl in order
ter to conceive of aesthetic experiments in European modernism as crosshatched
to assess the contemporary uses and limits of German-idealist thought, particu
by global uneven development than to divide center and margin, even in the name
larly itsorganicist substrate, for national cultural and literary projects; Slaughter
of marginal or insurgent new modernisms. Literary histories that aim to minimize
adduces number of contemporary novelists, including, for example, Marjorie
inherited Eurocentric habits can inadvertently produce, in other words, an exoti-
dzing effect by reifying the concept o f Western core and non-Western periphery Oludhe Macgoye and Michael Ondaatje, as he examines the role of the bildungsro-
mans developmental ideals in the formation of a putatively universal language of
as if these two had constituted ftiUy separate cultural zones. If we instead compare
human rights.
Western and non-Western modernisms together in the same cultural system it
It is notable in this connection that Cheah and Slaughfer both start from an
m ay be easier to explore what Jahan Ramazani calls the mutually transforma-
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German philosophical base, explore the wid
tiy s j:d a fis a s ;ib e tw e e ^ ^ It is n ^ T to th ^ B H high
ening European influence of the Bildung concept, then turn to postcolonial writing
modernism was European until the new modernisms came along to challenge
of the later twentieth century, where that concept ii generally adapted to critical or
and reshape it: The old high modernism was always a formation shaped globally
counterdiscursive purposes. These compelling narratives share a common feature:
and by forces that induded, from the start, the economics o f colonialism and the
politics o f anticolonialism.^ They leapfrog over the modernist period an3 therefore miss what I see as a crucial
mediating generation (in both literature and philosophy) and a fascinating set of
This book examines the Anglophone novel fi-om a metropolitan and formalist
mddiatmg textsthe modernist novels under examination here, in wTKIch neither
perspective, but it is worth remembering that at the material core o f this genre
history lies the chaUenge raised by colonial difference.^J We should not the older developmentalist ideals of BiWung nor the newer, post-Hegelian rejec
tions of B ildunghold M sway. One way to conceptualize the historical specificity
that Western culture had all of its autocritical and anti-imperial resources in place
of modernism itself, in fact, is to locate it at the dialectical switchpoint between
before the anticolonial movements (and later postcolonial studies) came along to
residual nineteenth-century narratives of global development and emergent
challenge European power/knowledge effects, but neither should we imagine that
twentieth-century critiques of imiversalist and evolutionist thought.
modernist literature was M y or easily conscripted into Western triumphalism
Because its formal and stylistic registersdown to the most intimate devices of
and ethnocentrism. One aim o f my research is to say something specific about the
language and meaning of British-sphere modernism within a wider global history characterizationare shot through with this specific historical predicament, the

o f the novel in general and the bildungsroman in particular. But one might easily modernist novel stands as a rich resource for getting us beyond what may now be
a theoretical impasse between development and difference. In the humanities and
extend-some of the lines of inquiry opened here into the postwar, postcolonial
social sciences of the last decade, one can sense the development/difference binary
T /

INTRODUCTION 37
36 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

mapping onj-QAiairly^Bei-Yasive and entrenched ^chotoiny that.pita, a s i n g ^ moderni;sation from a national frame^of reference to ^glpbal-oner diminishing
moidarni^^^ai^atmultiple or dternative modernities.^ int^*process the operative symbolic power of L u y c sian or liberal norms of
Ip chapter 7 ,1 return to this debate as"ah mtellertual context for current inter im ivjrsd ^ o g p i ^ ^ the "specific form of the metabildungsroman (m i x ^
pretive work in glojjal modernist studies. There I propose a provisional coimec- an^developmental and developmental narrative units), the modernist novel
tion between the politics of time in avant-garde aesthetics and postcolonial theory, epcodes the objective conditions of a world-system based on endless capitalist
and identify the risk of a temporal or narrative repression in the more obviously i n ^ ^ n y erstiUinformeaimaTea'ffiffim^^ ideology of devel
spatial (in the sense o f alternative territories) or antidevelopmental (in the opmental histo^sm T ^M T H e'sem coU apse o f the"uhiviefsaiisrand'evolutioni*st
sense pf counter-Hegelian temporalities) forms of both. That complex genealogy discourses o f the Western Enlightenment, with the faltering of historical positiv
o f anti-Hegelian art and thought, even when drastically telescoped, as it is here, ism, withdncreased political recognition o f anticolonial struggle, with the obvi
helps explain the feet that the novels o f Woolf, Conrad, Joyce, and other Anglo ously strained resources of European hegemony in the tropics, and with the rise
phone modernists retain their artistic fascination and political relevance even of anthropological concepts of difference, it becomes difficult to imagine, at the j
npw.* These texts are not just counters in a Bomdieu-style gam ^ofihodernist turn o f the twentieth century, a realism that could in any straightforward way!
prestige, but engaged narrative experiments that throw into questionwithout conform to evolutionary or teleological models of world history. But it is not!
seeking fully to banish or destroylinear time as the organizing principle of form, impcjssiblejtpjmagine a critical realismcall it modernismthat registers a het
biography, and history. Wi(h their mixed and vexed time schemes, modernist nov erochronic model o f world-historical temporality, one that combines underdevel
els offer, I think, a better and more dialectical rejoinder to the Hegelian develop opment, uneven development, and hyperdevelopment across the global system.^
mental imperative than have the more fiercely iconoclastic modes of the historical Modernist novels o f unseasonable youth project the narrative of modernization
and theoretical avant-garde, whose counterdiscursive strikes against the ideology understood as constant revolution without or despite the symbolic backstop of
of progress have been in the long run assimilated as encapsulated outbursts at the national tradition. As eminently historical texts, they represent global capitalism,
margin or, perhaps worse, commodified into radical chic. with special fidelity, as an apparently permanent process which has no end or
To put the same point another y^y, modernist plots of stalled and/or acceler aim but itself (Arendt 137).
ated Bildung generate an inside-out critique of, rather than a frontal attack on, From the perspective of normative Marxist narrative theory, such novels mark
deyelopmental historicism (taken as the time scheme o f imperiahst thought). The the end of the bildungsroman proper as they fixate on youth and defer, distort, or
novels in question activate the negative fantasy o f frozen youth to symbolize failed distend the essentially progressive resources o f reahst fiction. Although I have for
or incpmpletemodernization, but do n o ^ rojec^^. premature,or a permanent the purposes of argument here adduced a positivist notion of the genre derived
e^c^e r o i ^ ! S 5 n B e*Saferial effects o f modernization theory as (neo)colopial from that critical tradition, my reading breaks from the Lukdcs lineage in one
discourse. Viewed in this way, m od eim snorm rdo not serve as a Mnd o f direct crucial respect. I read novels like Lord Jim and The Voyage O ut as something more
counterdiscourse to imperial metanarratives o f modernity (the West civilizes the than the disjecta of a postrealist age in which the bourgeois novel, folded in on its
rest), nor as their docile, apologetic partner, but expose modernitys temporal con own subjectivity, could no longer synthesize the inner and outer world, no lon
tradictions, particularly in zones of colonial encounter. The trope o f adolescence, ger project the true shape of history. These dilatory, adolescent novels manage
once conceived of as entailing the telos of maturity (and, by allegorical extension, to encode. antidevtlOEtnental tim e jnto the very langua.ge oidiuman-interigrity
the telos of modernization), comes to refer both to that developmental process and and^o o ^ ectify.the dee^ tru ctu ral ^allegory bmding the devqlopmt_fsoifis
to its multiple sites of failure or incompleteness. a n d n a t^ s . Thgy staged as theji^rative art of an era in which state forms and
If Balzac, Tolstoy, and Scott capture the concrete crises of emergent nation capitdistllows spilled out of their national-cultural borders in increasingly global-
hood in the world-system o f the nineteenth century, then Conrad, Joyce, and iz^^andliSSepiendeitit ways, an era in which the time of modernization seemed
W oolf capture the concrete crises o f residual nationhood in the world-system both hyper ^(Lzeffo, futurist and barbaric. Where the classical novel of educa
o f the twentieth. From this perspective, it is possible to argue that th^ bourgeois tion was shaped by the esAatolbgy of nineteenth-century industrialization and
iiOTel of the modernist period finallj (belatedly) transfers the narrative <Sfuneven nation-building, the modernist version assimilates the temporality of an imperial
38 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

era when the accderating' yet uneven pace of development seemed to have
unsettled all narratives of progress, on the ground and in the mind. In this sense,
unseasonable youth manages, in fact, and against all odds, to fulfill the original
aesthetic function assigned to the bildungsroman by Bakhtin; the assimilation of
real historical time.

2. National-Historical Time
from Goethe to George Eliot
The novel must proceed slowly and the feelings of the hero must, in some way or other, restrain
the tendency of the whole to its development.

Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Book V

For, the happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history.

Eliot, The M ill on the Floss

Pne cpntral premise of the previous chapter was that the classic or nineteenth-
cenfury bildungsroman in Europe aligned nationhood and adulthood in order to
cresyt? a manageable narrative about modernization. According to this premise,
adulthood and nationhood served as, mutually reinforcing versions of stable iden
tity; tfe y were the fixed states of being that gave form and meaning to an otherwise
chaotic and unending (or unnarratable) set of personal and social transformations.
Such,a line of analysis isolates the tacit historical logic of Lukacsian novel theory in
Franco Morettis Way o f the World and allows us to extend and elaborate that logic
iptq thq age of empire, where the national bildungsroman modulates into modern
ist and colonial fictions of youth. In this chapter, I propose to explore these open
ing premises more fully, moving back into the nineteenth-century novel in order
to investigate the allegorical co-implication of nationhood and adulthood in the
biographical novel. A detailed reading o f George Efiots The M ill on the Floss will
anchor an otherwise brisk genealogical survey of the bildungsroman centering
V

40 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH '"NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 41

on its ideal of bounded progress as, first, a German philosophical concept and, of youth, the ideological fantasy of bounded growthof restive youth bent to the
second, a British Uterary practice. asymptote o f stable adulthoodbecomes more conspicuous as a problem and
The progressive ideals under examination here took classic or canonical thus becomes subject to dramatic estrangement and startling revision. Its more
shape within a historical context o f emergent nationhood, romantic histori- unrealistic elementssudden tragic death, natural disaster, deus ex machina, mul
cism, and early industrialization. They were forged in and of the contradiction tiple. faijry-tale couplings, pure social reconciliationare gradually exposed and
between the endless transformations o f market capitalism on the one hand and textually Isolated as the genres own age begins to show after i860. And in more
the cultural politics of origins-and-ends nationalism on the other. These two obviously, global fictions of development, we often find the trope o f youth run
metanarratives o f modernityone imbounded (capitalization) and one bounded ning, wifhowf the countertrope of adulthood; as a consequence, young protagonists
(nationalization)were not always at odds; in feet, they were functionally coar copje^orembody not the compromise of national destiny and capitalist dynamism,
ticulated in both the literary and philosophical discourses of the Enhghtenment. but tlte contradiction between them. From the belated perspective o f modern
Early capitalism worked within the national frames o f eighteenth-century Europe ism, the form o f the classic bildungsromanwith adulthood synched to nation-
and, to a cerjain degree, reinforced them.' From the age of Goethe Into the early hpodis a dialectical precursor calling out not just for distant appreciation, but
nineteenth century, the novel could both describe and facilitate the transition for close reinvestigation.
from feudal to modern social relations, and could subsist on biographical narra
tives o f the representative individual and organic national culture, without fiilly
confronting the bad infinities o f capitalist modernity (to invoke the Hegelian Infinite Development versus National Form
terms outlined in chapter i),*
But the period o f the classic bildungsroman, as Morettis account o f the Goethe retains his mystique as a canonical genius of European and even o f world
genre implies, was a brief and a special onea short season in Europes political, hterature because his writing registers both the thrilling crisis of m odernit/s infinite
economic, and literary history between the ancien regimes and the age of mass and ifiternational horizons (in a work like Faust)'and the historical shapeliness of
culture. Its core decades fall during the post-French revolutionary era, the age thfe'nation-state as a cultural container (in a work like Italian Journey). Viewed
of Scott and Austen, Goethe and Stendhal, in which the soul-nation allegory of from either angleas the prophet of open horizons or of national formsGoethe
emergence could function, at a socially symbolic level, as a metanarrative o f the stands in literary history, and particularly in the tradition of materialist narrative
bourgeoisies rise to maturity. In its prime (1790-1860), the bildungsroman was thiory, as the master technician of developmental discourse. Lukdcs cites Goethes
a supple and synthetic form, able to narrate and produce middle-class consent inves.tment in the free and full development o f the human personality (Goethe
by presenting the cold dictates of socialization as if they were the warm inner 39) as a central concept o f German idealism.'* Bakhtin, too, insists on the centrality
lirbmptings o f the souls subjective growth (Moretti, Way 233). The Victorian of Goethean models of development to the German Enlightenment and to modern
dnd mbdernist afterlives of this novel type suggest, however, that it did not simply coiiceptions o f historicism more generally. In Goethe, Bakhtin celebrates the true
wither on the vine of high naturalism, but transformed itself into a story o f frozen adne of the artistic -visualization o f historical time- t h e very essence o f modern
or- fetal colonial adolescence. That story, centered on the years 1860-1930, begins art ^ d literature as the capacity to think and render the shape of linear, modern,
Mth the recognition that the genres formal adaptation to the age of revolution l|is1;orical time in concrete, sensuous, and spatial terms (Bildungsroman" 27).
requirfed reorganization, not abandonment, in the age of empire. Both Lukdcs and Bakhtin emphasize Goethes apparently limitless attraction to the
In its original form, the bildungsroman stabihzes the protagonists aging pro inner life of developmental processes, be they botanical, geological, anatomical, or
cess within and against the backdrop o f the modern nation. However, since stable sociohistorical. But, as Bakhtin observes, Goethes capacity to see history realisti-
national frames and endlessly transforming societies do not always consort in c^ y, is anchored and rendered lucid by spatial schemes rooted, as per his Italian
harmony, this core imaginative devicethe plot o f national closurewas a frag Journey, in emergent, intra-European national distinctions.
ile one. The conflict between youth and adulthood was often put to rest in final More recently, Franco Moretti has also addressed Goethes oeuvre as central to
chapters that now seem arbitrary, artificial, or pat. In later iterations o f the ifovel the story of modernization from both international and national perspectives, in
\ 'NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 43
42 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

epistemological and cultural frame for a theory of the novel: The second half of
the open-ended worldliness o f Faust (in M odern Epic), and in the closed circle of
the eighteenth century in England and Germany is characterized, Bakhtin writes,
Wilhelm Meister (in Way o f the World). Returning to Wilhelm M eisters Appren
by ai}. increased interest in folklore, inspiring, a new, powerful, and extremely
ticeship, we can see that it manages to banish infinityto anticipate as it were
productive wave of national-historical time that exerted an immense influence on
the diabolical immortality of Faustby circumscribing its heros life in the frame
the development of the historical outlook in general and on the development of A e
of the emergent German nation. This early biographical type of the realist novel,
historical novel in particular (52). Likewise for the concept o f aesAetic education
unlike *the tragic and epic dimensions o f Faust, uses the national chronotope to
developed by Schiller m rough parallel to A e GoeAean prototype of A e novel of
give sKape to its social content. When Wilhelm self-inflates with passion and
development: If it was directed formally at a universal human race, it nonetheless
possibility, Goethe gives his aspirations solid form by resorting to national terms.
depended for its coherence on national-cultural institutions and frameworks.^
In a single paragraph, Wilhelm soars in loftier regions, into a world filled with
The developmental Ainking associated w iA A e GoeAean bildimgsroman
vistas o f endless delight, tu t converts those diffuse energies into the romantic- ""
and w iA Schillerian education emerged wiA m A e context, in oAer words, of
agenda of becoming founder of a future National Theater (16-17). In'the ensu
A e, Herderian Revolution, w h iA estabhshed a necessary,link between nation
ing struggle between theatrical hopes and bourgeois necessities, both culture and
'and language (Casanova 75). Of course, Aere are deeper roots for A e novel of
commerce seem to be, for the most part, national concerns. And when, toward the
national-historical time Aan just Herders volksgeist. One such root runs in the
end o f the novel, the wider world beckons in the form of Jarnos proposal to take
4irection of Vico, whose N ew Science proposed an ideal eternal history traversed
Wilhelm with him to America, a national imperative once again takes precedence.
in time by A e history of every nation in its rise, development, maturity, dedine
Jarno describes the colonial development of the Tower Society as a way to manage
ahd fall (qtd. m Jay 34). Even wiAin A e German mAeu, a detailed genealogi
the balance between national and international investment:
cal Recount of national time as the basis for A e modern novel of development
We have therefore worked out a new plan: from our ancient Tower a Society would need to account for A e influence of WiAelm von Humboldt as well as
shall emerge, which will extend into every corner of the globe, and people Herder. It was Hiunboldt who insisted A at individualism is not merely a matter
from all over the world will be allowed to join it. We will cooperate in safe of autonomous self-development, but an expression of harmonic relations wiA
guarding our means o f existence, in case some pohtical revolution should humanity and its collectivesof w h iA Herders national culture is but one (Lov-
displace one of our members from the land he owns. lie, Mortensen, and Nordenbo 32). Gregory Castle has argued A at Humboldt in
(345) e^ect paved A e way for the reorientation of Bildung from a rarefied process of
aqsAetic education plotted by GoeAe and Schiller mto a more socially pragmatic
At this point, Wilhelm inchnes to the American adventure, but fate intervenes in
account of socialization dominant m the English and French realist novels of the
the fornd of a marchese who needs a German interpreter to escort him around
nineteenA century (39-47)-
the'country. Jarno reflects: It'will be a great advantage for him to get to know
Even w iA Aeir variations m philosophical emphasis, Goethe, Schiller, Herder,
Germany in such good company and under such favorable conditions. He who
and Humboldt helped form a discourse of national development integral to mod-
does not know his own country has no yardstick with which to measure others
ern.historical consciousness itself, a turn Aat becomes still more clear in the work
(347). The last phase o f the plot appears to demand what Moretti calls a closed
of Fichte and Hegel. For Fichte and Hegd, collective historical life implied boA
circle of life and o f love, but also, o f political geography. Wilhelm finds a vocation,
national traAtion and A e state form. Of A e two, Fichte offers the more mten-
a partner (Natalie), and a homeland in one fell turn; just as the global dimen
sive focus on a unified, organic national culture; for.Hegel, states can be multicul-
sions o f a possible future are glimpsed, Wilhelms open journey is converted into a
Aral and polyglot. However, as Pheng Cheah suggests in his detailed and pointed
circumscribed national one.
genealogy of the bildungsroman as a national form, Hegel provides A e more sys
Goethes realist aesthetic thus entails the measured chronotope o f national
tematic philosophical infrastructure for the nineteenA-century novel of develop-
development as opposed to the older chronotope o f cyclical time, and as opposed
ipent: The universal which emerges and becomes conscious wiAin A e state, the
to a more global chronotope of endless futurity. It is the Goethe of national time
form to w hiA everyAing in it is assimilated, is what we call in general A e nations
that Lukacs and Bakhtin enshrine as modern and realist. Nationalism becomes the
"NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME" FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 45
44 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

an education that wUl cultivate in the individual those moral principles that
Bildung {Lectures on the Philosophy o f World History, qtd. in Cheah 171). Cheahs
major argument is tKat an organismic ontology imdeflies this entire German are the repetition in the finite individual of the eternal principles of the

tradition (in both its nationai and cosmopolitan iterations), thus embedding into ** * divine essence of life, or, on yet another level, a repetition in the individual

the substrata of the bUdungsroman a conceptual ruse that conflates biological and of the national spirit, which in himself he represents. The whole man, the
man of integrity, becomes thus the man who is integrated with and repro
pblitical lifd (2)." Thomas Pfau, too, reads the inner logic of Bildung as an attempt
to givfe stable and'organic life to an irreducibly contingent and volatile world duces the spirit of his nation.
( 70 )
to which huinaris never had a biologically stabilized, organic relationship (152).
Che'ah traces the organismic metaphor that runs through so much modern politi
--This is the moral-allegorical logic of the national subject as a philosophical ideal.
cal theory dnd that organises the narrative presentation of time-as-development in
When, however, that ideal is translated into fiction, in the shift from Bildung
the form that I have called the soul-nation allegory.'" '
to* bjidungsroman. the huried conflict between universal processes o f cultiva
With'that symbolic infrastructure in place, novels of national-emergence can
tion or education (set in cosmopolitan modernity) and bounded histories of
firiesse the pfoblem of mortality or finitude, but they immediately face an embed
self-formation (set by national origins and ends) takes shape as a formal tension
ded and corollary problem: They must register the raw historical nature of souls
between narrativity and closure. The national novel requires biographical closure;
and Societies (always changing), yet also arrive at the formal stasis implied, in the
it cannot project (as in, say, the epic o f Goethes Faust) a global or universal story.
end, by nationhood and adulthood. The bUdungsroman is thus a special kind of
To achieve the temporal stabilization of national closure, then, novels of youth
titne machine that organizes personal and historical experience into the loaded
reqqirqthe bounded time of adulthood to arrest development. Along these lines,
m otif of bounded growth. In the mainstream bUdungsroman, the existential fixity
Simon Gikandi has analyzed the signal importance of national time in the history
6f the mature individual and the modern nation are not just analogies for each
of the novel:
other, but mutuaUy reinforcing ideological constructions. Their symbolic exchange
gites the nation the organic coherence of a person and gives the individual the The relative stability we seem to detect in the great realistic narratives of
apparently objective continuity of a nation. This is German idealisms legacy for the nineteenth century arises from the writers confidence in the stability
the bUdungsroman: a core device that enshrines cultural development (national- of the world they represent, its sense of time, and its cartography; this style
historical time) as against older cycUcal concepts of time, but one whose assimUa- is predicated on the hope that the crisis of culture and consciousness trig
fion o f progressive historicism requires it always to confront a set of open-jawed or gered by radical historical change can be redetermined in narrative form.
bad infinities, that is, the demoralized, empty, and acultural temporalities of the And thus, until colonialism enters the period o f crisis. . . [i.e., circa 1880], no
rationalized society, the hegemonic state, and the free market- one doubts what England signifies and what its relation to the rest of the
In the developmental discourse o f kultur-bildung originating in German ide world is.
alism, then, the representative man embodies a imiversal and potentiaUy infinite (172-73; emphasis added)
prbcess that requires boundaries provided by national history. Translated from
phUosophical and speciUative discourse into realist fiction, this means that if youth Gikandis redetermination in narrative form of unmediated historical time is

was, as Isioretti claims, a master metaphor for modernization in the European novel, another name for the function I identify here with the phrase national closure,

it was a trope of always-incomplete modernization, of modernization processes cut and, hke Gikandi, I think it faces new and different historical pressures in the age

at both the syftibolic and political levels by the continuity-discourses of national o f empire.'^ The term national closure helps us apprehend the shift in the late Vic

dSstiny. In a series of studies on this problematic, David Lloyd has described aes torian period when the novelistic formula of bounded nationhood (embodied in

thetic ciUture as a foundational concept for narratives of the representative man the adulthood that transcends youth) reorganizes itself in response to global forces

ahd fbr aUegories of both European nation-state formation and imperial hegemony. (embodied in endless or autonomous youth).
In NationUlism and M inor Literature, for example, Lloyd observes that nationalist Such a periodizing claim should not be surprising since we are still, in liter

rhetoric in early nineteenth-century Europe tended to promote ary studies, operating under the influential framework o f Benedict Andersons
'NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 47
46 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

The original premise of The Theory o f the Novel holds that the bounded world
Imagined Communities w iA its essential linkage between realist fiction and
of epic gets displaced in the modern novel by a peculiar openness to history, to
n^rativenot to mention Homi Bhabhas later exploratiop of colonial
the. eyer-unfolding dynamism of the Hegelian historical process itself. What gives
discoirrse as a disruptive force brought to bear on both. Surveying the intertwin
closure to this post-epic form, the signatiure genre of modernity, is the nation
ing of personal,and national narratives beginning in the age of Goethe, Anderson
state, though Lukacs does not elaborate the point in much detail. The nation-state
notes the basic asymmetry between the organicism of human existence and the
stabilizes the bourgeois revolution into a narratable form. Think of the impos-
pseudo-organicism o f the nation:
sible,.never-ending story of modernization without the mythogenip power o f the
As with modern persons, so it is with nations. Awareness of being nation undergirded by the administrative power of the state.'* That is a crucial but
imbedded in secular, serial time, with all its implications o f continuity, l^^ly-taeit Hegelian premise of The Theory o f the Novel, and it allows us to grasp
yet of forgetting the ^xperience of this continuityproduct o f the rup why Lukdcss historical fiction would be challenged by the increasingly, multina
tures of the late eighteenth centuryengenders the need for a narrative of- ' tional and supra-state forces at work in the later nineteenth and early twentieth
identity. . . . Yet between narratives of person and nation there is a central
centuries.
difference of employment. In the secular story of the person there is a Th>eproblem of national closure persists in Franco Morettis The Way o f the World.
beginning and an end. In tlie .classical hildungsroman, Moretti observes, just as in space it is essential to
(205) build a homeland for the individual, it is ako indispensable for time to stop at a
privileged moment (26). Moretti uncovers two countervailing motifs of national
Modern novels inherit a narrative problem as well as a narrative solution: Repre
time and imperial untimeliness in his brief discussion of Robinson Crusoe. Defoe
senting the continuous transformations of societies and selves, they use artificially
must abolish the problematic of temporality in the end of the Crusoe series,
complete concepts of nationhood and adulthood to create discrete narrative spans
maldng for an arbitrary closural device brought down on the potentially endless
o f time.*"'
sequelae of a novel dedicated to the open chronotope of colonial capitalism. This
This contradiction embedded in novel history explains why Lukdcss studies of
is why Moretti describes Goethes hildungsroman as an Anti-Robinson Crusoe :
Goethe in particular and of the novel in generalalert as they are to the besetting
It resolves the problem of growth into the logic of the soul-nation allegory in a way
problem o f narrative infinitude for realist fictioncenter so consistently, if implic
that Defoes novel of capitalism cannot (26).'^ Moretti establishes an opposition
itly, on the national frame for the modern novel. In the mainstream of Lukdcss
here between national citizen and cosmopolitan merchant; the former reflects, in
thought, a specific model of European national-industrial emergence shapes the
his happiness and proportionate growth, the bounded time of the nation. Work
moving forces of history into the humanist idiom that he calls critical realism.
ing on the classic hildungsroman, Moretti rightly restricts the question of national
The nation acts as the social referent for the modern novel as a genre of collective
time IP the Goethean idiom of the homeland: To reach the conclusive synthesis of
destinywhether Russian or French, British or Italian. In The Historical Novel,
maturity he writes, the protagonist must learn first and foremost, like Wilhelm,
he states that historical thinking depends on the awakening of national sensibil
to direct the plot of [his own] life so that each moment strengthens ones sense of
ity (25). Walter Scott, the key figure o f that book, characteristically addresses a
belonging to a wider community. Time must be used to find a homeland (19). This
given,^, concrete . . . crisis of national history; so, too, Manzonis love story in
idea of homelandit would be a bit anachronistic to call it a nation in Goethes
I Promessi Sposi rises to the level of great historical reaUsm when it squarely rep
c^sebecomes increasingly nationalized in nineteenth-century literature, first in
resents the Ttalign peoples state o f national degradation and fragmentation (70).
btitish and French, then in US. and Russian realism. By this I mean that the kairos
And in 37ie Theory o f the Novel, centered in a German intellectual tradition, the
of national-historical time becomes the semivisible guarantor that the chronos of
historical idiom of Lukdcss Romantic anticapitalism is, as Gareth Stedman Jones
modernity can be made meaningful in the bildungsromans grammar of plot.
has noted, a distinctly national one (30). One might in fact refine Lukdcss terms by
Jhe nations role as spatial and political container for developmental histori-
describing the historical novel as a distinct subset of the larger category European
cism, already observable in Goethe, becomes more visible and expUcit as German
realism; the former type of novel makes the national frame explicit, the latter keeps
concepts migrate into British cultural life in the nineteenth century. If there is one
it relatively tacit (though no less necessary to the narrative organization).'
NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME" FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 49
48 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

th in W who represents the adaptation o f the kultur-bildung concept to the British


opposed more universalist traditions such as German metaphysics or French

sphere, particularly as an intellectual hedge against the revolutionary force of


political rationality. British culturaUst discourse in the nineteenth centmry thus

political and economic modernization, it is Edmund Burke. For Biurke, both revo
qualifies and modifies the forces of rampant modernization with the chronotope of

lution and empirfe threaten to produce the wrong kind of development, the kind
natibfihl time, and establishes a shaping intellectual context for the production and
unchecked'by tradition and traditional forms o f identity.' Burke helps estabhsh a
deception of the novel of youth. Carlyles translation of Wilhelm M eisters Appren
British philosophical and humanist line o f thought that poses the bounded and
ticeship 1824 marks an early landmark in that process, as do Scotts Waverley

harmonic'fhodel o f national growth against a more revolutionary chronotope; he


fictions,* with their intertwined plots of personal and national emergence. In Scott,
p u th arid nationalism are partially eclipsed, partiaUy recuperated by the advance
replresents'the possibility that cultural discourse can absorb and temper the blunt
force of modernizationa,belief analyzed at large in studies such as Raymond of the multinational Anglophone empire.
W illia m ss Culture and Society and Martin Wieners English Culture and the DecUne
The'movement of the Bildung concept from England and Germany was not just
an international migration of a philosophical ideal, but an ongoing modulation of
o f theIndustrial Spirit.
For Moretti, Burke sets the tone for a conservative strej^c in the British novel, one
that idfeal into a mainstream EngUsh narrative practice. In the Waverley model, a

that resists the more radical and radically modern uriplications of Enlightenment
folkloric or Herderian discourse of the nation infuses the developmental form of
and Revolution alike. In keeping with the Nairn-Anderson thesis that Britain expe
the bildungsroman, and this combination continues to influence the British novel of

riences a long developmental delay in the modernization of its poUtios and society,
education well into the mid-Victorian work of Dickens, Thackeray, and the Brontes.

Moretti frames the British variant of the bildungsroman' as particularly given to


Although it oddly neglects Sdott, Susanne Howes 1930 study Wilhelm Meister and
His English Kinsmen estabUshed the British bildungsroman as a recognizable sub
static rather than transformative social plots {W ay 181-228). Intellectual histori
ans such as Raymond Williams and Francis Mulhern (in Culture/Metaculture) have
genre of modern realism. Howes original corpus included Carlyle, Bulwer-Lytton,

charted the larger idea that a national-cultural discourse of bounded and tempered
DisfdeU, and, later in the nineteenth century, Meredith. Her book paved the way
modernization tended to diffuse revolutionary energies in English society during for Jerome Buckleys equally influential Season o f Youth (1974). which ranges from
the nineteenth century. Tracking the absorption of the German kultur-bildung dis
Didtens to the mid-twentieth century. Both Howe and Buckley have been signifi

course into the bloodstream of British letters, Williams and Mulhern follow English
cantly revised in the last few decades by critics who have doubted the genres sta
culturaUst t h in k i n g from Burke and Coleridge through Mill and Carlyle to Arnold bility and centrahty as a Victorian practice. Susan Fraiman, for example, not only
challenges the positivist definition of bildungsroman but offers a feminist and
and Eliot. As I suggested in chapter 1, this Burke-Coleridge lineage consolidates*
a ruiming opposition between a national culture (in which restrained or propor- iftetacritical account of its tendentious canonization in US. academic criticism.
tioflate social and personal growth can occur) and a multinational civilization (in
As Fraiman notes, Howes book solidifies the Goethe origin story, produc

which imrestrained growth or modernization has no organic checks or balances).


ing a critical myth centered on male narratives of self-determination as against
both feudal and capitalist determinations of vocation and labor (3-5). But choice,
Coleridge, for example, imagined that national forms could mediate between Per
manence and "Progression (xi). His interest, moreover, in noninstrumental prac
mobility, interioritythe sacred motifs of masculine coming-of-agewere all
tices o f education and cultivation for the clerisy domesticated the Schiller ideal and exposed as sheer fictions by powerful practitioners of the female novel of youth
in the English n i n e te e n th century. Fraiman (and other feminist scholars such as
depended quite explicitly on national institutions.
The concept of national development codified by the German ideahsts gives
Showalter and Gilbert and Gubar) use the marginalization of Victorian women
both a conceptual language and, in Goethe at least, a literary plot for what would
from narratives of masculine/national destiny to lay bare thfe ideological strains
become an E n g lis h cultural project o f wrestling imperial and industrial moder written into the classic bildungsromanin particular its ability to stage the para
nity into shapely form. As Wilhams and Mulhern suggest, the discourse o f cul
digmatic compromise between inner desires and social conventions. Following
ture gains prestige in the Victorian age not just because of its ultimately universal their lines of analysis forward, I suggested in chapter 1 that novels of unseasonable
aspiration^, but alsoand perhaps preeminentlybecause of its restricted ethn- p iith after i860 use colonial plots to tease out the abiding generic tension between
ohational dimensions. In thinkers Uke Matthew Arnold, the discourse o f cultmre shapely national progress and untimely modernization.
50 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME" FROMGOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 51

Even more than the feminist argument outlined by Fraiman, the colonial with.the rficonsolidation of the national boundaries. The process unfolds in two
argument a d v ic e d here requires a specifically British frame of reference within steps irr D avid Copperfield. First, the Micawbers have to clear the national space:
the Iqrger history of the bildungsroman. Ih e novels of colonial adolescence that Youare going out, Micawber, to this distant dim e [Australia] to strengthen, not to
anchor subsequent chapters o f this study represent an intensification, perhaps weaken, the connexion between yourself and Albion, says Mrs. Micawber (879).
even a transvaluation, of what Franco Moretti sees as the English difference all Second,the hero himself stabilizes his long cycle of slow growth and punctual
along {W ay 181). For Moretti, the peculiarity of the British novel, compared espe trauma by leaving the English cirde and then returning to it; His maj or plot inverts
cially to its Frfnqh counterpart, was that it was always transfixed by the possibil the Micawbers minor plot (885-87). I went away from England, he reports, to
ity of a wish-fulfilling romance that ignored the contradictions o f capitahsm. The overcome loss. However, his recovery and social reconciliation remain fully bound
British tradition o f the bildrmgsroman in particular seemed to privatize politics Up*fn his'return to the stable frame of the nation, fusing Copperfield back into
apdextend the legacy of Goethean compromise to the point where the dynam isni,^ - England, and the law (894)- Jane Eyre, too, engages in a long process of trau
of youth became a fantasy of liberal innocence. In Morettis terms, thismahifests matic purification, transforming the protagonist and equipping her to close out
itself in the English bildungsromans addiction to stability;,its story of fairy-tale the .novel with full symbolic reconciliation in a nationally-rfepresentative space.
heroes Vijth a childlike moral or juridical structure,, designed to sacrifice youth Along the way, Bronte describes a banishing of non-English elements even more
to adulthood, freedom to happiness. The governing themes of the present study, clearly than does Dickens: The dangers of wandering and delirium, the purging of
em pheapd youth, are so prevalent in late Victorian Britain that their convergence thlreats from both imperial man (St. John Rivers) and colonial woman (Bertha),
in canonical fictions of colonial adolescence appears to confirm their historical the trials by fire, and the symbolic castration o f Rochester all pave the way for the
role as modernist foils to that inherited doublet o f closural motifs, nationhood ultimate insertion of Jane into a stabihzed and socially sanctioned English con
aijd adulthood. tainer at Thornfield Hall. As Buzard observes of Jane Eyre, The framework of
The national closure hypothesis runs in two directions. If closure happens in the the Universal and colonial must die so the national culture can live (165). Like
forpi of adulthood and social reconciliation, it tends to proceed at both thematic Scbtt, though without the folk-cultural theme o f nationalism at the fore, Dickens
and symbolic levels as an interlocking alignment between soul and nation. Alter and Bronte show the nation as mediating between various regions o f under- and
nately, if traditional closure is deferred or blocked, it tends to happen in relation overdevelopment. In urban and rural registers, respectively, they develop a model
to denationalized global or commercial space lacking the moralized features of in which narrative obstacles are cleared, and modernization plots arrested, via the
national-historical time. Even Edward Saids strong rereading o f Austens M ans protagonists reconciliation to national time and space.*"*
field Park in terms of the economic and political significance of overseas wealth, or Moving forward to 1860-1861, to Dickenss Great Expectations and George
Gayatri Spivaks rereading of Jane Eyre in terms o f the cultural and allegorical cen Eliots The M ill on the Floss, we find another urban-rural pairing of English bil-
trality of the colonial madwoman in the attic (or, for that matter, Fredric Jamesons dun^sromane in which the classic Stendhal-Balzac plot of the provincial youths
reading of the dark Irish sources of capitalist and libidinal energy embodied in the migfation toward the capital receives something of a twist: a tragicomic reversal
Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights) do not change the national reframing and recon (Dickens) or a tragic undoing (Eliot). Patricia Spacks:
taining that occur in the closural process of the novels in question. In the novels of
Austen or the Brontes, the colonial substrate may well be narratively present and Ehot and Dickens . . . both demonstrated clear awareness of societys cor
historically fascinating, but the texts closural process drives home the underly ruptions without accepting the corollary that adolescence should triumph.
ing idea that animating conflicts (at the thematic level) and contradictions (at the The wisdom their protagonists acquire in transcending their adolescent
socio-symbolic level) are resolved through an alignment between the protagonists state does not enable them to lead viable lives; neither does it enable them
end-narrative in time and the nations boundary-limit in space.* to avoid, or even consciously to wish to avoid, the responsibilities of adult
Consider in light of this claim D avid Copperfield (1850) and Jane Eyre (1847), hood. Eliot and Dickens, consequently, like Scott, and for some o f the same
perhaps the two most exemplary and canonical instances of the high Victorian reasons, had trouble with their endings.
bildungsroman. In both, the fulfillment of the protagonists maturity interlocks (2 0 4 )
NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 53
52 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

In Great Expectations M ill on the Floss, we can see the signs o f generic aging; of nafionhood-adulthood. Such strdn is even more apparent in the historicd

the soul-nation allegory that had defined the core ideology of the classic bildung- frame o i M ill on the Floss, where Maggie TMivers story is embedded in a td e of

sroman begins tp fray ai^^ unravel. As i860 texts, they mark what for many critics socid and economic reorganization that takes us, in a single narrative, from the

is ^already a late stage in the bildungsromans dominance as a realist subgenre.^ pre-Reform Bill agrarian world of St. Oggs to the frontiers of globd traffic and

qth 'S|j,ow. tjie residual power o f the national closure plot, but signal that it is commerce. Provincid growth, so long embodied in the hero or heroine of the bil-

beginning to disintegrate. Eliots deUberately failed bildungsroman in particular dungstoman, shifts, in this later phase of the Victorian period, firom a nationd to

stan4s as a good transitional or precursor text for any discussiop o f the modernist- an internationd frame. Plots no longer simply slough off extra bodies or finished

era, bilduqgsromannot just becajise its heroine dies rather than truly comes of adults,into the extranationd territory o f out-migration, but d so assimilate an

age,, but because the impossibility of her aging process is so thoroughly framed increasingly globd logic of economic transformation mto the very texture o f the

in, terms o f the symbolic unpertainties associated with expanding geographical protagonists emergence. This forcesor proceeds apace witha reconception of

scales^ earlier, principles of composition and novel construction that were embedded in

.For Dickens and Eliot (as, I think, for Thackeray in Vanity Fair), overseas empire the nationd bildungsroman. To examine that reconception in textud detail, we

serves as,a plot function (a possible source o f wealth or opportunity for feckless carl turn to Eliots The M ill on the Floss.
men, for example). But it also begins to make deeper inroads into the terrain of
national closure. The Magwitch plot in Great Expectations seems to distend and
retard Pips growth and in this sense to foreshadow modernist novels of new-im- Nationhood and Adulthood in The M ill on the Floss
perid capitalism such as Tonp-Bungay. But even with its wider geographicd frame
o f empi,re,. Great Expectations still reaches find resolution through an alignment George Eliot is not in any simple way a writer of bildungsromane, though a

l^etween Pip and an English destiny. The Magwitch plot admits to England a source number o f her books have titles that imply the old biographicd plot (A dam Bede,

of,outside capitd, and Pips emergence into adulthood is deferred by the conceit of Silas M arner, Felix Holt, D aniel D eronda). Her works are generally multiplot fic

Miss Havisham as shadow-patron screening his (and our) awareness o f Magwitchs tions based on secularized and modernized networks of socid relations rather

money. Havisham, as the not-Magwitch, represents a principle o f stopped time than, single-protagonist narratives of emergence. However, Eliot was a key trans

(tWs arrest of everything, this standing still [60]) in direct counterpoint to Mag late!; into EngUsh of German historicd concepts that were centrd to the intellec-

witch, who embodies the principle of ruthless progress and unstopped time. In the tud cpntext of the bildungsroman in theory and practice. Eliot and G. H. Lewes

end, Magwitch has to be cleared from nationd space; as in D avid Copperfield this (her longtime companion) were two important transfer agents for German

i^ o t h a legd and a symbolic requirement o f the nationd closure plot.' cqncepts into Victorian hterature.^ Eliot translated Feuerbachs The Essence o f

Magwitchs crash landing into, and later willing expulsion firom, the novels Q iristjianity [Das Wesen des Christentums] in 1854; Lewes published his Life o f

English force field defines Pips ability to reach socid reconciliation: The elements Goethe a year later. Both were strongly influenced by German thinkers such as

of danger, of wedth, of unpredictability that Magwitch representsthese have to Goethe, Schiller, and Fichte, especially in the second half of the 1850s. Written at

be introduced into and then jettisoned from the nationd contdner. As a figure, the end o f that decade. The M ill on the Floss examines the generic inheritance of

Magwitch underscores the structurd dependence of the Victorian middle class the novel of devdopment frotq the ironic point of view of an educated woman;

(or yjctdrian redist fiction) on colonid wedth, but d so the symbolic dependence elements o f classic German Bildung are present dong with a critique that is not

o f tiiehiographicd plot on the relatively artificid borders of the nation-state. Even only squarely feminist, but incipiently late Victorian in its attunement to the

at the end, Pip must go abroad to seek fortune, and his bildungsroman o f restless problem o f nationd-historicd time. The novel affords us an archeologicd view

grojvth and transformation can only come to an end when he returns, when the of tjie dlegoricd forms and organic rhetorics with which a leading Victorian

ckculation of hero and capitd is renationdized (Great 480-81). writer tried to make narrative sense o f endless capitdist transformation. Seen

The attenuated and compressed narration of the find few pages of Great Expec- in this light. The M ill on the Floss offers new perspectives about the recuperative

tqtions, though, indicate that Dickens himself senses the strdn in the twin plot work done by nationaUsm during Englands industrid period and new insights
" n a tio n a l-h isto r ic a l TIME FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 55
54 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

about the way that novels of education have always been entangled with the 1830s ^ d 1840s as a result of enclosures and other concentrations of land and
eschaitologies o f national myth. capital (W illia m s , Country 97-100). This economic transformation, a fait accompli
It is one of Georg^'Eliots most distinctive achievements that her novels seem to for EUofs readers, can barely be glimpsed by the characters in the novel. Faced
cbmbine liberalmeliorism and romantic nostalgiaand to represent the combi with inevitable modernization, the St. Oggs families are constituted. . . a race by
nation of these strands o f Victorian historicism (one progressivist, one not) within dinf of their archaic economic habits (188). Eliot attributes a quaint mercantilist
the emergent Secular nationalism of her own epoch. Bathed in Eliots sympathy, understanding of commerce to the village merchants, who share the precapitalist
English communities like Middlemarch reach tragically mixed conclusions: a sad assuiription that trade is a zero-sum game in which the participants dicker face to
loss of grandeur paired with a gentle recuperation of value. In her fiction, develop face,. The in h a b ita n ts of St. Oggs do not fully understand'the abstract, anonymous,
ment happSis according'to the familiar if paradoxical logic whereby individual Tegal-financial capitalism that is overtaking them. Mr. Tullivers loss o f Dorlcote
and social essences remain constant despite deep and drastic changes. Yet injnany Mill to lawyer Wakemthe crisis that triggers the novels plotis a paradigmatic
ways. M ilt challenges the model of historical and psychological contfriuity that we instance of the yeoman fallen prey to modernization.
btherwise associate with Eliot. It stands out among Eliots works as an unusual Modernization in this novel kills off central characters and social practices,
caseprickly, undigested, immature (as F. R. LeaviS dismissively called it in The m ak in g them victims ripe for historical obscurity. While Eliots general position
Great Tradition [46]). Its resistance to historical, generic, and psychological con on historical commemoration certainly allows for recovery of the past, this par
ventions of development is what defines the novels intractability, its portion of ticular novel demands the recognition that some losses are absolute. The narrator
radical discontent (Fraiman 123). Eliot does not simply cast doubt on the idea admits to a cruel conviction that the Dodsons and TuUivers will be sfvept into
that societies or individuals improve over time, but asks the more radical question the same oblivion with the generations of ants arid beavers (362). The Dodsons
of whether societies or individuals can be said to possess any kind of continuous and TuUivers may be irrelevant to, or at least drasticaUy discontinuous from, the
identity over time. modern world of her readers. By proposing that elements of the past become radi-
By choosing to set the novels action back into the 1820s, Eliot no doubt fol- caUy unavaUable to the present. The M ill on the Floss pays tribute to an unbUnking
l6ws autobiographical promptings, but the decision also locates Maggie Tulliver historicism that cuts deep into the connective tissue of national myth.
in the breach between two societies with competing value systems. The narrator For Eliot, one of the chief differences between Victorian England and premod
quickly establishes and rigorously maintains a fault line between the premodern ern St. Oggs is historical consciousness itself: The mind of St. Oggs did not look
village life of St. Oggs and the modern conditions of mid-Victorian England. extensively before or after. It inherited a long past without thinking o f it (184).
Rather than narrate the continuous development of Victorian capitahsm out of a Mill'is a novel about people who hkve no need for historical novels. Eliot makes an

traditional agricultural and trading economy, Eliot implies the dramatic difference impUcit comparison between the village arid her own society, which, rather than
between the two.* By describing drastic changes (not smooth transitions), the text enjoy a tacit assumption of shared origins, must construct its coUective (national)
unsettles recuperative, organic versions o f English history wherein the land and past. Moreover, the narrator takes pains to suggest that St. Oggs cannot in any sim
the folk remain mystically constant despite the complete reorganization o f then- ple way be imagined as the inner chUd of modern England. Rather than describe
economy. Of course, Eliot is ambiguous on this point: Victorian readers are asked an eternal connection between land and ethnos, EUots local history teUs a story
to recognize that they are on the near side of a historical divide from the rural of colonization and cultural intermingling among Romans and Saxons, Normans
'English past, but they are also invited to feel a symbolic connection to the villagers and Danes (i8i).'And when Eliot does evoke the national myth of the yeoman, she
o f St. Oggs. Sraws attention to its fictive and conventional qualitywarning offliteral-minded
The novels setting, Dorlcote Mill, constitutes a locus classicus o f English readers who might take St. Oggs as the essence of modern England.
yeomanry. Owned by the economically autonomous Tulliver family, the mill is Throughout the novel, the narrators self-consciously modern voice brims
both a domestic and a productive site. Uncle Glegg, a wool stapler, and Uncle with authority about a rural existence that is nonetheless distant from it and
Pullet, a prosperous farmer, also belong to the yeoman class. But the early agrar its metropolitan audience. In regard to its pro-vincial subjects, the novel adopts
ian Capitalism that gave rise to such yeomen changed dramatically during the an ethnographic tone that reflects the difference between modernized observer
NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME" FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 57
56 UNSEASONABLE.YOUTH

and premodern object. But the narrator is no naive tourist; in fact, Eliot, often are dissplved into endless revolution); and the mediating, reconciling chronotope
recognized for her excellence as a domestic historian, might also be considered a of the nation (in which harmonious growth is projected as the normative tem
prescient anthropological theorist. She notes, for example, that a modern writer poral mode for both subjects and societies). In Lord Jim, for example, England
needs irony in order to describe unfashionable families. Moreover, she identifies figures for Marlow as a residual spatiotemporal mean between the bad finitude
irony as the product of a national life imagined in explicitly metropolitan-rural of Jims tropical entrepot and the bad infinity of global commerce. As Jims eter
jerms. In. a fascinating passage, Efiot recognizes that the nation, predicated on nal adolescence, suggests in vivid and concrete ways, both colony and empire are
economic injustice and the inclusion o f unfashionable rustics, supports both the spdces of relative historylessness marked respectively by the torpid absence of
material and representational needs o f good society. As a political container for progress and by the brutal eternalization o f change. By contrast, national time
regiopal and class heterogeneity, the nation allows for the gossamer wings of Is shapely because it moves forward, but not forever and ever. Ehots bildung
lighUrony that leaven the Victorian novelists treatment of her archaic cqyntry sroman represents, I think, a transitional point in this history o f residual and
cousins (385). emergent forms. It still honors the logic of the soul-nation allegory as the heart
At such moments, Eliot acknowledges that metropolitan representations of the of the^epre, but presents it in etiolated and ultimately negative form, subjecting
ru^al often depend on a rhetoric o f nationhood that yokes together diverse pop it-^^png with everything elseto the quietly devastating logic o f a historicism
ulations otherwise separated by class and religion as well as by space and time. without recuperation.
She undermines romantic nativism by insisting on the historical incommensu It only makes sense, then, that Eliot represents the passage from childhood
rability between 1820s St. Oggs and the modern industrial nation of i860. Eliots to giulthood as more disjunctiye than additive. For example, although the nar
strong commitment to historicismthe idea that different epochs are irreducibly rator,describes memories of youth as the mother tongue qf our imagination,
differentrequires the novel to execute a complicated double maneuver. First, this'Wordsworthian sentiment quickly gives way to the recognition that childhood
the text shows that modernization generates absolute losses both materially and experiences are in fact frustratingly inaccessible (94). Memories of youth carry
epistemologically: There are objects, documents, people, values, experiences, and such (^astically different emotional value from the original experiences that they
knowledge that can neither be preserved nor re-collected from the past. Second, the spem almost to belong to another person. Just as the novel implies a lack of self-
jipvel exposes and challenges the recuperative rhetoric of nationalism that seeks to pre^?nce in the modern nation, it also casts doubt on the mature selfs supposed
deny-those losses and to emphasize the survival of a rural English core. This double relationship of identity to its childhood incarnation.
movementwhich is integral to the novels representation of social historyalso Historical and individual nostalgia recurs throughout the novel, each cast by
informs its representation of Maggie 'Mlivers coming-of-age plot. The process Elip( m terms of the other. In the Wordsworthian passage cited earUer, for instance,
of maturation generates absolute losses for Maggie: There are moods, sensations, the narrator describes personal memory in ethno-linguistic terms ( mother
relationships, and experiences that cannot survive into adulthood. And the novel tongue of our imagination) and indicates the unsatisfactory quality of recollected
challenges the rhetoric of development that seeks to deny those losses and to posit youth by declaring that no tropic palms" could thrill the same fibers as a May
instead a continuous self that remembers, preserves, and endures it all. day in England (94). Conjuring images of the colonies, this passage establishes an
The novel challenges, in other words, the organicist logic of the bildungsro- analogy whereby the far-flung empire represents a lapsed national adulthood, no
m ^ th,at I have identified as the soul-nation allegory. What this novel and others longer even imaginable as connected to the native setting of its English childhood.
to follow in this study suggest, when read synoptically, is that the bildungsroman This figurative hint about the eroding logic of self-continuity under the pressure of
can and usually does project an array of overlapping chronotopic possibilities: scalar expansion (region to nation to empire) recurs in the text.^' Quite a bit later,
the local, bounded space o f tradition (in which historical time is displaced by a for example, Eliot addresses the metropolitan reader whose experience of home
more static scheme featuring the time o f frozen youth and the space of provincial cannot match that of the legendary yeoman:
or colonial life); the radically open and unbounded space-time of empire and
globalization (glimpsed at the horizon by Eliot, in which capitalism is constantly Our instructed vagrancy which has hardly time to linger by the hedgerows.
transforming the social world, and in which collective and individual identities but runs away early to the tropics . . . [and] which . . . stretches the theatre
NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME FROM GOETHETO GEORGE ELIOT 59
58 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

limitations of power within modern nations. Modernization reorganizes the


6f its imagination to the Zambesi can hardly get a dim notion of what an cultureyjf St. Oggs, converting yeomen into wage-earners and dividing domes
-old-fashioned man like TuUiver felt for this spot where all his memories tic' fromproductive space. These conversions, along with the rise o f professions
' centred. and bureaucracies, move normative power from the local community to national
(352 ) institutions. They also transfer such power from women to men. In old St. Oggs,
women Uke the Dodson sisters enforce the rules of conduct, which, though rooted
The modern economy of industry and empire has forced England to develop into in .domestic life, are not limited to household matters. Although the viUage is no
something quite different from what romantic nationalism identified as its core.
femhiist utopia, Eliots account of the Dodson Aunts as policiires des moeurs shows
The political entity Britain was never really coextensive with its founding ethnos, thft d istinct powers accrued to women in the kinship systems of rural England.
but it was increasingly removed from that national mythic core as it extended itself Aunt Gleggs expertise in matters of tradition gives her sway over an extended fam-
globally; the extent of that distance or discontinuity is measured here metaphori- Uy that includes the TuUivers. But with power relocated in the male-rqn nuclear
callyhy the psychological rupture between child and adult. farqily Glegg wUl have considerably less influence.^" By registering tl^ potential
The maturation of the protagonist and the modernization o f the nation unfold losses for women when male institutions replace female-regulated customs, EUot
as parallel narrativesa convention that Eliot both observes and objectifies as she
gives special relevance to the obscurity of a generation of ants [aunts].
breaks its progressivist assumptions. Indeed, the novels deviation from bildung- As for Maggie TuUiver, she lives in the liminal zone between traditional and
sroman formulae depends on the thematic power of Eliot s turn on these reciprocal modern arrangements of gender and power. Local customs, regulated by Glegg
allegories of growth and her corresponding commitment to motifs of disjimction
of St, Oggs, are the binding force at the center of young Maggies life-signaled
and of loss. But modernization is not only a figurative parallel to maturation: The itiwoifid seem by the Anglo-Saxon velar stop (gg) at the.center of her name. But
two stories also intersect causally. Englands economic changes play a direct role in she does try to break away from that social network at various points in the novel.
arresting the development of Maggie (and Tom) Tblhver. The economic transfor One early escape attemptMaggies flight to the gypsiesserves as a good exam
mations that Eliot documents (including, for example, the loss of Dorlcote Mill) ple of how EUot coordinates gender and national identity. In the scene, Maggie
leave Maggie stranded in the historical gap between old St. Oggs and modern rebels against the prospect of sexual and economic development processes that
p.nglanH M ill disrupts the soul-nation allegory so that a narrative of historical
threaten to alienate her from brother Tom and to replace her Edenic chUdhood at
change impedes, and ultimately prevents, the adjustment of Maggie Tblliver. Dorlcote MiU with a M en modern/adult world. When Tom and his cousin Lucy
Modernization in The M ill on the Floss has different effects on women than I^eane form a bond that excludes her, Maggie flees the constraints of her tribe and
on men and creates different narrative problems for Maggie TuUiver than for her
joins the gypsies. At this point, Tom conforms to the kinship rules and customary
brother Tom. It is the novels female hero who, for the most part, reveals Bildung expectations of St. Oggs in a way that Maggie cannot. Discovering that life as a
to be a disjunctive and tragic process. At one point, quoted in this chapters epi reformist queen of the gypsies is not possible, however, Maggie returns home and
graph, the narrator acknowledges that there would be neither reason nor means signal ..; acceptance of her identity by evincing a new attachment to a girlish bonnet
for tilling Maggie TuUivers story were Maggie not trapped in the class and pro she had earlier spurned. She pays the price in a gender adjustment for the reassur
vincial margins of pre-Victorian England, for the happiest women, like the hap
ance of belonging to a familiar, if constraining, community.
piest nations, have no history (494). Maggie and her society operate in paraUel to The gypsy episode prefigures Maggies attempt to escape down the river Floss
iUustrate the idea that narrative itself is an index of unhappiness. In Eliots post- with Stephen Guest, a journey that is equaUy abortive. After Maggie returns, the
lapsarian epigram, ideal or innocent states give way to historical awareness. After women of St. Oggs ostracize her for what is apparently a sexual transgression.
the faU, grown women, like modern societies, can only teU and reteU their histories
But the older women are not simply punishing a Ubidinal crime; they are also
in an impossible attempt to reinhabit imaginary, innocent sites like premodern St. reclaiming their power to regulate the behavior of viUage youths. By floating out
Oggs or the girUiood of Maggie TuUiver. of the sphere of St. Oggs on their way to estabUsh a nuclear family, Maggie and
if unhappy women are (in EUofs broad figurative sense) simUar to modern
Stephen threaten to erode the power of the kinship system. The consequences of
nations, they are also (in Eliots keen historical view) subject to certain new
^ NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 6l
6o UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

Hie absence of a marriage plot for Maggie is the most important index of the
this escape are more than just sexual, but so is Maggies interest in Stephen Guest.
novels break from bildungsroman conventions: Without a husband, she cannot
In fact, Maggies deMre for Stephen runs through channels that are created by her
be recognized as a fully formed woman. In at least one important way, Eliots
predicament as an unhappy provincial woman. Maggie cannot adjust to the values
uncoifipromising historical logic determines that neither Maggie nor Tom will
of old' St. Oggs (especially insofar as those values are losing historical viability),
be able to marry and reproduce. After aU, if modernization consigns the yeoman
buthfeither can she find a line of escape. Stephen seems to offer Maggie a poten
to historys ashcan, it makes sense that the yeoman classas represented by the
tial pathM y to a more modern existence not only through his familys capitalist
DddSon sisters and their familiescannot reproduce itself. Consider the statis
success, but also through his pedagogical wooing. As Mary Jacobus and Nancy
tics: Tlie Pullets and Gleggs are childless; the Tullivers and Deanes have only three
Miller have suggested, education represents all that Maggie cannot have; she is
-chiTdfen between them. The only famihes in the novel whose procreative pace
Recurrently and painfull'/ excluded from male-dominated chambers of culture.
exceed! zero population growth (the peasant Mosses and the capitalist Guests) fall
Thus When Stephen courts her as if he had been the snuffiest of old professms and
on'eithef side of the class zone staked out by the dwindling Dodson clan.
she a downy-lipped alumnus, he seems to answer Maggies fervent desire for intel
Tn keeping with Eliots ethnographic -viewpoint, we might think of St. Oggs as
lectual exchange (489). She acquiesces to the illicit journey with Stephen, making
an endogamous village whose viability is suddenly threatened by modernization.
a grab for modernity and for the metropolitan priidleges of literate culture. But the
The h*rator implies that, under ordinary circumstances, the tribe would ptoduce
attempt fails; Maggie does not and cannot escape from St. Oggs.
a mar'riage between Tom TuUiver and Lucy Deane. Economic changes, however,
Even if Maggie could surmount the constraints of her backward and provincial
forcethe yeoman class into retrenchment, a condition expressed by Eliot in her
circumstances, however, she would find herself in a metropolitan culture domi
extreme appHcation of the rules of endogamy to the TuUiver offspring, who end
nated by men. This is another ambiguity in the novel: Eliot seems to indicate that
up bound to each other. The loss of Dotlcote MiU causes an artificial and prema
Victorian Englishwomen have gained a certain amount of intellectual freedom
ture circumscription of the Tullivers, tutting them off from the larger Dodson
even if they have lost the customary powers enjoyed by Aunt Glegg. For example,
riari In a disastrous premature birth of the nuclear family, the TuUivers lose fheir
the narrator describes the 1820s as
status as members of an extended kinship system and become an economicaUy
a time when ignorance was much more comfortable than at present. . . a fra^ e, sociaUy independent unit. This crisisfin turn precipitates the imploding
time when cheap periodicals were not, and when country surgeons never faittijr romance whose outcome is the final union and death-embrace o f Tom and
thought of asking their female patients if they were fond o f reading but Maggie. The symbolic incest plot does more than simply thwart (by exaggerating)
simply took it for granted that they preferred gossip: a time when ladies in a heteronormative literary convention; it deUvers an appropriately'antidevelop-
rich silk gowns wore large pockets in which they carried a mutton bone to mental conclusion to the historical crisis facing old St. Oggs.
secure them against cramp. Toms development, like Maggies, is arrested by uneven modernization; he
(185) never passes through the conjugal and vocational rites that we expect in a bildung-*
sroirian. At first, Mr. TbUiver ships Tom out of the family circle and into the wide
Victorian women have at least been spared by their relative modernity from
world of letters and commerce. But the crisis of the Wakem lawsuit intervenes,
quackery and medical condescension. But, the passage also suggests with gentle
drawing a net of obligation and class insecurity tightly around the family. This turn
irony, advances in womens status have only really afforded them access to cheap
of-events initiates an odd trajectory for Tom, who begins moving toward a m od
periodicals. Does this compensate for the quarantining of middle-class women
ernized education, then succeeds in a capitalist-style trading venture, but finally
in the domestic space? Clearly, Victorian society does not represent a paradise
doubles back in a relentless drive to reinstate the economic Ufe of the yeoman and
for emancipated women any more than does old St. Oggs. Maggie thus inhabits
reinhabit Dorlcote Mill. In the process, Tom not only foils his fathers oedipally
a middle zone'between two almost equallyif not monolithicallyunattractive
drivfeft economic scheme to remove him from the scene of the mill, but he also
historical options for women of her region and class.
effectively bars himself from sexual or reproductive possibilities outside the fam
Marrying neither the local Philip Wakem nor the outsider Stephen Guest, Mag
ily. Facing a similar familial and historical trap as his sister, Tom has no access
gie is barred from entering into either traditional or modern gender arrangements.
ifATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 63
62 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

to the relatively unfettered character formation of the conventional bildungsheld. It is especially surprising for readers of the mature Eliot to consider M ill in
Ih e novels refusal of Bildung, largely organized by gendered factors particular to tiiis li^ t,. Where the exquisitely wrought narrative machinery o f Middlemarch

Maggie, crosses over into Toms narrative line. grinds out an accommodation between characters and their social environment,

When brother and sister are united in a final moment of hyper-endogamy, the this novel does not, finally, subject Maggie to her Victorian norms of class, gender,
novel accepts the implications of its unbUnking historicism. Given the figurative links region, ^ d religion. Other Eliot heroines grow up and make their peace with
between personal and social development, Eliot needs an outcome in which the losses social exigencies, but M ill represents Mi^gies childhood in and for itself, not as

suffered by a given class are also suffered by its particular representatives. Along the mere prelude to the demands of full Victorian womanhood. Mill refuses the social
s ^ e lines, Lukdcs praises Walter Scott for remaining feithful to the logic of histori ization plot in order to forestall the conversion of Maggie into a mature angel of
cal necessity by k illin g off syn^pathetic characters whose death represents the demise thefiouseT From this perspective, we can endorse F. R. Leaviss identification of the

of ail obsolescent way of life {Historical 55). The exogamous plot (Maggie marries novel as an immature work while reversing its valuation. The novels immaturity
Stephen Guest)or even the appropriately endogamous one (Tom marries Lucy is neither accident nor flaw, but the necessary formal premise and thematic goal
Deane)cannot occur because such marriages would provide ^ allegorical basis for of jts entire operation.
the yeoman community to mature smoothly into the social febric of modern Eng Of^course, given that Maggie dies in the novels climactic flood, readers may

land. Such an outcome would run coimter to the novels emphasis on the ruptures of legitimately wonder whether shesocially adjusted or notis an apt vehicle for

national history. The commitment to rupture is the marker of the kind of modern femfriist expression. Taken in the context o f the novels general critique o f devel
ization narrative I see as coming to definitive expression in the modemist/colonial opment, however, her watery death has formal justification. In the first place, it

novel, in which capitalist transformations become still less manageable via the offices seems.a fitting device given that Eliot so regularly deploys the language of hydrau

of organic nationalismand in which youth persists without age or aging as the pro lic currents and pressures. In fact, the flood confirms Eliots investment in a rich

gressive elements of the bildungsroman appear in a state of disintegration. figtprative system built around images of land and water, of Mill and Floss. The

But M ill is a transitional text; the force of the soul-nation ^legory is still a shap language of flows and currents dominates the novels representation of desire and

ing, force in the generic apparatus inherited by Eliot. The novel makes a belated becomes,quite literal when Maggie and Stephen drift downstream. The river Floss

concession to an integrative national history by hinting, in a kind o f epilogue, plays an .equally important role in the novels wider historical scheme, where it

at-the marriage between Stephen Guest and Lucy Deane (656). Such a marriage acts. qs.the conduit for economic modernity into St. Oggs. Merchant ships from

establishesthough to be sure only at the outer margins of the narrative arca beyond,the village borders open the gates to the capitalist economy and disrupt the

fim ily unit that provides the missing bourgeois resolution. The linkage of Lucy traditional yeoman world.
(the blond Dodson force of custom) with Stephen (the dark Guest force of capital Beaming the seeds o f economic change, the river runs like an epistemological

ism) creates a developmental pathway leading from old St. Oggs to m odem Eng fault line through St. Oggs. As Raymond Williams suggests, nineteenth-century

land..It is precisely the resolution Eliot refuses for Maggie and Tom Tulliver. And, capitalist dynamism tends to produce fractures in the knowable community and

omthe allegorical level, it is precisely the resolution whose synthetic and recupera to plqce strains on literary realism {Country 165). In this figurative scheme, the

tive version o f national history the novel otherwise eschews. flood serves as the ultimate figure for modernization itselffor the drastic trans
In discussing the historical factors th^t conditionMaggie Tullivers suspension on formations wrought by capitalism. The waterways of global trade and imperial

the threshold of womanhood and modernity, I have implied that her arrested devel expansion loom large in the modernist novels discussed later in this book, from

opment is an unfortunate narrative outcome. In a certain sense, however, it would be Conrad and H. G. Wells to Woolf and Joyce, all occupying a later alid more intense

Still more unfortunate to see Maggies energies, desires, and talents subordinated to stage o f global integration into the world-system.^^ Eliot depicts modernization as
the strictures of womanhood in either St. Oggs or Victorian England. Heroines like a rather brutal force that renders an entire cast of characters literally antediluvian.

Maggie challenge the norms o f Bildung because those norms so often imply a kind In a different novel, one whose historical logic were to conform more to our stereo
of social adjustment that restricts womens freedom. In The M ill on the Floss, Eliot types of Victorian liberalism, modernization might figure as a controlled form of
manages to short-circuit the generically ordained process of social adjustment. progress that gradually improves conditions for these provincial Britons. However,
64 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 65

inst^d of humanist and recuperative bourgeois realism, M ill on the Floss expresses male-oriented bildungsroman and of modern triumphalism in both its national-
th^'slerh fatalism of classical tragedy, with the flood as its deus ex machina. industrial and global-financial forms. As a woman surveying these transitions in
' M ill concludes with a final indication that, although nature and society can nineteenth-century England, Eliot occupies the same kind of tragic, nbnahgned
rebuild themselves after the flood, some losses are absolute: If there is a new growth, position that Lukacs ascribed to Walter Scott. According to Lukacs, Scotts per
th^ treesare not the same as the old, and the hills underneath their green vesture spective on the bourgeois revolution was unbiased because he knew that his class
Beat the'marks of the past rending. To the eyes that have dwelt on the past, there is (the prbvincial low aristocracy) was doomed no matter what the outcome. If M ill
no thorough repair (656). Critics of Eliots tendency to thwart female characters evinces an especially clear-eyed vision about the losses that result from ceaseless
have pointed out that Maggie TuUiver, to all appearances a fictional self-portrait, is modernization, perhaps it is because Eliot knew that women were unlikely to
denied the options enjoyed by George Eliot herself.^Despite the parallels between share etjually in the spoils of Victorian capitalism. The next four chapters extend
the fictional Maggie Tiilliver and the real Marian Evans, the latter gained access to tliis argtiment to later writers such as Olive Schreiner, Jean Rhys, and Elizabeth
metropolitan privileges denied the former: intellectual achievement, "escape from Bowenall of whom were in a way provincialized cosmopohtans, and all of whom
sexual and social conventions (the nonmarriage to G. H" Lewes), escape from ufed narratives of stunted girlhood or aborted adulthood to register suspicion of
national rootedness (the extended continental travels), and escape of a kind even rhaseuline destiny and national progress.^^
from assigned gender roles (the assumption of the male pseudonym). And yet, as Taking a long view of nineteenth- and twentieth-century fidtion centered on
the pseudonym cannot help but remind us, these advances for Eliot also entailed women'protagonists, Rita Felski has offered a useful way to distinguish between
a certain drastically self-alienating process, a process from which Maggie Tullivef two main types of female bildungsroman. The first, generally historical and
is spared by death.^ linear in structure, depicts a realist process of social adjustment and compro-
Eliots investment in Maggies girlhood runs athwart the generic ethos of matu mise'Th'e second, less linear, less reaUstic, and less progressively organized, works
rity and eschews the standard method for ending a bildungsroman. In the ordinary as a process of awakening to an already given mythic identity or inner self and
(male-centered) novel of sociaUzation, the protagonists achievement of maturity frequently occurs in nature or in a generalized symbolic realm from which the
provides the necessary symbolic closure,preventing the novel from becoming an coiitingent social world has been excluded {B eyond 126-27).fh c second type,
endless story of change. But the modernization process itself never reaches an Felski notes, does not narrate self-discovery as a historical process, but tends
endpointa fact that is ordinarily swept under the carpet by the bildungsromans instead toward visionary and individuated resolutions to the problem of alien-
symbolic foreclosure of youth into an Artificially static adulthood. By refusing the atioii 61 repression (142)-
genres telos of adulthood, Eliot fully and honestly assimilates the logic of capital Felskis general account tends to skip modernism itself and to draw most of its
ism and accords genuine power to modernization as a constant, ruthless process. examples from nineteenth-century classics (more realist) or from womens writing
The novel does not ratify adulthood as a final and static form, nor does it provide of thdiast sixty years (more visionary). To give a clear model of the emergence of
an allegorical basis for believing that English society had or has arrived at its final. the feminist bildungsroman in the contemporary period, she organizes her thesis
Stable form. Just as moral and psychological change proceed without regard to around the possibility of a mediating female community {B eyon d 138-39). Most
received ideas about the mature self, social and economic change proceed with of th'e womens novels at the center of the modernist traditiondespite the context
out regard to romantic illusions about national permanence. o f suffrage and sexual liberalizationtend not to feature that mediating female
com m u n ity. They tend rather to operate in the form of critique or negation, to
point to the absence of such a community. In a sense, the modernist novels histor-
After Eliot: Aging Forms and Globalized Provinces icd importance is that it mixes modes between the Victorian novel of social com
promise or social foreclosure and the post-1945 novel of visionary or communal
The M ill on the Floss combines feminist complaint with conservative lament in feminist resolution. In the metabildungsroman of womens modernism, the prob
complex and paradoxical ways. Nostalgia for girlhood fuses with nostalgia for lem of arrested development indexes a symbolic and ideological refusal to endorse
traditional community in a joint rejection of the jJrogressivist assumptions of the either a dystopian or a utopian model of gender relations. What is more interesting
66 UNSEASONABLp YOUTH "kATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME" FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 67

Still (though in a sense qot surprising) is that so many of the key feminists in the of colonial encounter and to mix domestic-naturalist plots with picaresque and
wider British traditionfrom Schreiner, Woolf, Rhys, and Bowen to Doris Lessing adventure elements) and in their critical modes (unseasonable youth plots pre
and Janet Frameend up modeling the problem of uneven development in terms serving perhaps a higher index of dialecticalas opposed to purely antinomial
of the colonial world system. investment in the still-progressive elements of middle-class realism).
With that cluster o f novehsts in mind, the trope of frozen youth offers a specifi In the decades just after The M ill on the Floss, in fact, Eliots marking of the
cally colonial and feminist angle on the relation between modernist literary aes- bildungsroman as a fragile, contradictory, and possibly outmoded genre seems
thetic? and the modern world-system. As we will see in the following chapters, the to have converged with a number of aesthetic, literary, poUtical, and-philosophi
provincial woman protagonist, for whom progress and development themselves cal developments that were both signs and causes of morbidity in the novel of
arp framed in terms o f the integration o f the periphery into the advanced stages p r o ^ s 5 Late Victorian intellectuals of various stripes took account of the ebb
of finance-imperial capitalism, becomes a richly symbolic figure. We can track ing dynamism of bourgeois enterprise, and their discoiurse of decadent histori-
th^t figure from the nineteenth-century intranational scene of provincialityr typi cism filtered into the realist novel, shouldering aside narratives of progress and
fied here in Eliots Maggie Ihlliver, to the more international sites 6 f provinciality, emergehce once embodied in the national hero. Along these lines, Regenia Gag-
occupied, for example, by a Creole migrant such as JearuRhyss Anna Morgan. By nieit hr her detailed account o f economic historys shaping influence on'the late
framing this problem in terms of a gendered critique o f development immanent nineteenth-century novel, tracks the widespread displacement of ideas o f progress,
to the genres own traditions, a critique that is at least partially coextensive with which implied moral and political progress as well as economic growth, by ideas of
the broader problem of the underdeveloped and ahistorical hinterlands, we can development, which implied only dh inevitable trajectory toward high mass con
build the case from the Victorian precursor forward, gaining conceptual traction sumption (94; her emphasis) Gagnier examines influential economic thinkers
on what is both a general crisis in the discourse of progress and a generic crisis in of the 1870s and i88os such as August Bebel, who began to envision the eclipse of
the novel of progress. national interests by global markets (84)- She nOtfes: It seems clear now that the
After Eliot, the fissile logic of the bildungsroman becomes more and more great'age of literary realism was also that of industrial production and Malthusian
apparent as it breaks down and pulls apart the entwined narrative teli of personal reproduction (169). The realist novel of progress is part of a productive, industrial
maturity and social modernization. If we cite Eliot as a turning point in hterary izing,' and nationalizing phase of European history succeeded by a consumerist era
history, a mediating figure between Victorian and modernist epochs, though, we linked to imperial adventurism and speculative finance. Nineteenth-century ideals
have also to acknowledge the intervening wave of feminist social and cultural of worldwide development and historical progress came up against stubborn signs
revolt associated with the figure o f the New Woman (a movement in which Olive of underdevelopment and uneven development in and beyond Europe, just at the
Schreiner, to whom we will next turn, played a direct and significant role dur same moment that post-Darwinian racial sciences and proto-Freudian sexological
ing the 1880S and 1890s). And we have to recognize changing literary styles and discourses lent ever greater prestige and influence to the idea that certain forms
markets in those decades, particularly the proliferation of genre fiction, on the of human difference could not be mitigated by would-be civilizing or progressive
one hand, and the rise of naturalism, on the other. With regard to the latter, femi forces. In such an epoch, as economic and cultural differences appeared to rigidify
nist critics such as Felski and Alice Gambrell have noted with some irony that the against the imperial ideal of global convergence, the equipoise of nation-based and
turn to a more deterministic or naturalist type of fictionone that tends to strip controlled-growth capitahsm also began to disappear. The social referent of the
protagonists of free will and social agencyoccurred just as women in British bildungsroman shifted from the shaped time of national destiny to the unshapely
and American society were beginning to assert their rights o f self-determination. time o f capitalism-without-borders, at once underdeveloped and overdeveloped,
The novel o f unseasonable youth and high naturalism is an alternative response to Static and accelerated.'*'
the growing aesthetic inadequacy o f the novel of progress in the age of imperial- Tfrese various developmentsthe philosophical critique of progress, the natu
finance capitalism and of increasingly bureaucratized and institutional forms of ralist plot o f disillusionment, the global markets incursions into national territory,
middle-class socialization. Perhaps the crucial differences lie in their geographical the broader shift from production-oriented to consumption-oriented discourses
frames of reference (unseasonable youth plots seeming to flourish in the space in economics and aestheticsall form part of the multipronged contextual model
NATIONAL-HISTORICAL TIME" FROM GOETHE TO GEORGE ELIOT 69
68 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

proposed in chapter r for the reorganization of the bildungsroman plot after 1860.' And, 5IS.I began to illustrate with the case of Kim in chapter i, colonial allegories
This chapters rough trajectory, from Dickens and Eliot to Schreiner and Conrad, of untimely youth lay bare the inbuilt ideology of personal and national growth
defines the contours o f mainstream British novel history,in terms of what Chris ;tl}at d^fi/ied the classic bildungsroman. They do so by taking the ideology of prog
topher GoGwilt calls the collapse o f nineteenth-century assumptions about the ress apqrt and exposing it to plots o f stasis, regression, and endless revolution. In
coordination of natural, individual, national, hmnan, and ultimately universal pro- thi,?, historical context, the temporal meaning and social vocation of the bildung
cess^es o f development (19). As the cases of Robinson Crusoe and Mansfield Park sroman-undergoes a comprehensive shift, as the history of the novel indexes the
already suggest, the late Victorian era does not mark the starting point for colpnial gradual displacement of historical-progressive thinking by anthropological-struc

influences on English realism, but it does mark a more comprehensive shift in tural t h i n k i n g in the age of empire. In texts like Schreiners and Conrads, as we will
which the global problem of uneven development fuses into the coming-of-age see in chapter 3, the trppe of autonomous youth asks readers to confront witftfresh
plot, disrupting the stkndard narrative, of growth and emergence in biographical/^ eyes the g ro w in g symbolic frailty o f nationhood/adulthood as symbolic backstops
najional fiction. With that disruption, we find new and uncertain aftegdrizations for what are, after all, the endless and originless processes o f self-transformation

of ^collective destiny that tend, at the least, to denaturalize the generic alignment and world-modernization.
between maturing subjects and modernizing nation-states. As the nineteenth cen- In Schreiners African Farm and Conrads Lord Jim, and in other cases to follow,

tiury wore on, it became increasingly difficidt to sustain the illusion o f a national there is no single plot template for the motif of arrested development. Some pro-
culture coextensive with its language and territory and coterminous with a pro- t^ onists seem prematurely aged, some endlessly juvenile; some develop rap

gfessive, yet bounded, future. The concurrent expansion and disintegration of the idly and others remain stuck in a psychosocial groove; some die suddenly, some
European imperial states from x88o to 1920 made it obvious that a developmental never age. In some cases youth is styUzed and dilated, in others it is truncated

model o f history rooted in pm antic nationalism was less and less tenable, politi and stunted; some novels feature youth as consciousness, some as consiunerism,
cally or symbolically. The bildungsromans generic capacity to reconcile the per some as romanticism, some as provincialism. All of these variants, though, share

petual motion of modernization with the stabilizing claims o f nationalism thus in foregrounding their departure from the master plot of harmonic growth. All
becomes attenuated in the later nineteenth century, as a new era o f global empire negate and estrange, in one way or another, the soul-nation allegory enshrined in

challenged the pretense of an organic relationship between culture and the state.'*^ the philosophic conception of Bildung. The original magic of the genre, which was
In Britain, the period of the New Imperialism corresponded not only to an to assimilate work into a narrative o f educationto harmonize, as it were, pro
intensifying pace of economic and technological development, but also to an duction and self-productioncomes under strain in colonial settings that appear

increasing symbolic schism between the political commitments of liberalism and to reenchant this formula, only to disenchant it with a vengeance. The contest

imperialism. The centrality of empire to British national identity after Disraeli between capitalism (work) and culture (aesthetic vocation) so effectively knit
forced a crisis in the national myth of a freedom-loving people. At the same time, ted together by the symbolic mechanisms of the classic bildungsroman (with its
imperialism tended to rigidify the mythology o f English liberty, turning a general implicitly national telos) is instead exacerbated and formalized as a contradiction
liberal compromise formation with the state into a more triumphant variation of in the high imperial age.
^ e nation-states destiny*^ High imperialism also precipitated a crisis in national In modernist novels of unseasonable youth, both the local region/backward

self-identity since the constituent cultures of the British state were increasingly colony, on the one hand, and the expanding world-system, on the other, func
separated from each other geographically and culturally. As we shift from Eliot tion as non-national spaces, subject to the historylessness of an eternal past or

and Dickens in i860 to Schreiner and Conrad in the late Victorian period, the a horizonless future. Those spaces comport equally with the symbol of youth-

communities o f the English novel become less and less knowable, to adapt Ray- without-age; youth represents what never fully modernizes and what is always
mpnd Williamss phrase. What remains mostly oblique or partially concealed modernizing. In both cases, and in both spaces (sub- and supranational), the dan
about empire jn the mainstream Victorian novelthe ways in which colonial labor ger of narrative in f in it y or endless youth prevails over the stable (and national)
and wealth support elite English mores, the contradiction between liberalism and temporal concept of bounded progress. In that spirit, we can reexamine African
imperialismmoves increasingly to the fore. Farm and Lord Jim as globally mimetic texts whose stunted protagonists point
70 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

to an uneasy generic grafting of New World-historical knowledge into an older


national-historical model of the realist bildungsroman. What is presented to read- |
ers in these texts as an immediate and often moving set of unresolvable existential K
or social conflicts also indexes the structuring contradiction between an imperial I
f'
ethos of worldwide modernization and the stubborn facts of uneven development ;
and underdevelopment in the colonial periphery. Such a double crisis is, I want to
suggest, definitive of Conrads and Schreiners relationship both to emergent mod- i
ernist form and to the New Imperialism. The novels capacity to use unseasonable
^youth as the concrete embodiment o f failed modernizationjjsdthin and beyond
Europe, will be the focus of the next chapter. -

3. Youth/Death: Schreiner and


Conrad in the Contact Zone

'And sometimes what is more amusing still than tracing the likeness between man and man, is
to>trace the analogy there always is between the progress and development of one individual
and of a whole nation; or again, between a single nation and the entire hum an race.. . . It is
the most amusing thing I know 06 but of course, being a woman, I have not often time for
such amusements.

Olive Schreiner, The Story o f an African Farm

He dominated the forest, the secular gloom, the old mankind. He was like a figure set up on a
pedestal, to represent in his persistent youth the power, and perhaps the virtues, of races that
never grow old, that have emerged from the gloom. I dont know why he should always have
appeared to me symbolic.

Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

This chapter aims to test the interpretive scheme suggested in chapters 1 and 2 by
extending the geographical frame of the discussion out to the colonial frontiers,
first of Africa, with Olive Schreiners The Story o f an African Farm (1883), and then
of Asia, with Joseph Conrads Lord Jim (1900). Both Schreiner and Conrad present
us with thwarted and preternaturally youthful subjects set against the background
of a languishing colonial periphery. But the non-European world is no mere
background here: These paradigmatic colonial novels narrate the failure of devel
opment in both characterological and geopolitical registers; taken together, they
help us elaborate a working model for the changing meaning of the bildungsro
man in the age o f empire.

71

I
YOUTH/DEATH: SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 73
72 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

O f course, if Schreiners African Farm shares with Lord Jim a particular relation into a series of prismatic and perspectival tableaux, a pinwheel o f blurry stories
between problematic acculturation and uneven accumulation in the colonial con collated by Marlow into an array of social perspectives. As in the mature fictions
tact zone, its feminist concerns would seem to differentiate it rather sharply from o(the decade that followed Lord Jim (Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and Under West
the work of Conrad. After African Farm, Schreiner went on to a major career as ern Eyes), Conrad uses a structured relay of embedded male narrators to produce

a New Woman writer, attacking both the politics and economics of the prevail an oddly static blueprint for a novel. With perspectival narration as the organiz
ing gender system, particularly in her landmark treatise. Woman and Labour. In ing device, the divorce of action from contemplation is assimilated into the form,
the epigraph to this chapter from African Farm, Schreiners protagonist Lyndall ecljoing a id deepening the guiding theme o f Jims passivity. As he perfects that
declares an ironic feminist perspective on the entire allegorical procedure that ties structure n the first stage of his career, Conrad begins to outdo even the original
the progress of one individual to the progress o f the whole nation: That proce ftiaster of bathos, Flaubert, stripping the momentum of plot from the modern
dure, she recognizes, depends on a male prerogative to expand the souls domainr - ist novel, peeling novelistic futurity away from the progressive logic o f national
by analogy to the development o f nation and species.* Lyndalls outsider perspec allegory.
tive recalls the unsettling of developmental allegory we have already observed in Schreiner and Conrad thus converge in plots of arrest and stasis organized
Eliots M ill on the Floss, and it anticipates the interlocking critique of patriarchy around broken allegories of progress. Schreiners Anglo-African woman cannot
and imperialism to be found in modernist novels-by Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, liberate herself, to be sure, but neither can Conrads Anglo-Asian man. Lyndall and

and Elizabeth Bowen. |im both slip into the dangerous darker side of their respective gender stereotypes:
However, one might equally read Lord Jim as a novel about the limits and .the dying mother/fellen woman and the broken hero/macho redeerqer. The gen
coiitradictions of imperial masculinity. Obviously Jim himself, after jumping der codes operative in those plots are all the more binding as they play out across
ship in the first half of the novel, becomes the living embodiment o f a failed code not just national but colonial space. Picking up where George Ehot and Thomas
of honor and service. By his mere presence, he threatens to expose the grubby Hardy leave off, Schreiner extends the naturalist m otif o f the trapped provincial
deeds o f colonial exploitation hiding just beneath the ennobling rhetoric o f civi woman into the colo;iial context. Conrad, too, exhibits streaks of cruel naturalism:
lizing mission and seafaring valor. And Jim is not exceptional. Conrad patiently In both African Farm and Lord Jim, we find the striving idealisms of youth viewed
reveals that several other men in the story (much like the masculine exempla in from a clinical distance by narrators who cast them as the puny, futile efforts of
K im ) suffer from their own crippling version o f a disjunction between chivalric insects (beetles and butterflies echoing the ants and beavers of M ill on the Floss).
values and social function. The iteration and echo o f Jims conflict across the )Vithout modernization and maturation in place as the famihar tandem engines
male characters is clearest of course in the case o f Marlow, a figure o f practical of story line, these novels trace a short circuit from frozen youth to sudden death.
maturity who cannot quite let go his romantic idealism. Marlow s refrain, he Where one might expect to find at the colonial frontier the last redoubt of heroic
was one o f us, recurs like an emotional tic because Jim can neither be included idealism or free self-making for the Anglophone novel, one finds instead modes
in, nor excluded from, Marlows charmed circle of masculine, professional, and of y^tionalization and reification even more unyielding than the ones back home.
racial solidarity. Jim is a code-breaking exception. Thus the plot o f Lord Jim As" Marlow himself sagely notes: In no other kind o f life is the illusion more wide
directly inverts the Goethean plot of social adjustment established by Wilhelm n f r p a litv i n n o other is the beeinnins all illusionthe disenchantment
Meisters entry into the Tower Society. In Jims case, the dream/reality gap struc swiftthe subjugation more complete (137). Hence both novels produce rapid
turing middle-class destiny not only cannot be mediated by the elite homosocial swings between romance and naturalist modes.
group, but it actually threatens to compromise the social function of the group Conrad and Schreiner frame a colonial divide between the dream of soul

and to'shatter its self-conception. making and the brute facts o f work, breaking open an encapsulated imperial
As a result, we find in Conrads novel a series of male figures more or less stuck ist romance with its temporal obverse: the naturalist code of death. Schreiners
in one station or another of the youth-age continuum, but no real transit from characters are playthings of fate, not Goethean self-makers; their growth is both
station to station. Between callow youth and anxious age, there is no aging. With Joo fast and too slow for the Bildung ideal of concrete, measured emergence.
out a narrative presentation of psychic or social change, Conrad organizes his plot The original magic of the genre, which was to assimilate work into a narrative
YOUTH/DEATH; SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 75
74 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

been,read variously as counterfeminist and feminist, anti-imperial and imperial,


of educationto harmonize, as it were, production and self-productioncomes nonracist and racist.^ In part for this reason, my reading brackets the question of
xmder strain in a colonial setting that appears to reenchant and globalize this political intention and concentrates instead on the problem of narrative form. The
formula, only to disenchant it with a vengeance. In other words, when we begin novels force stems, I think, not from Schreiners avowed view s-hopelessly mixed
to explore these novels in detail, we can see what it looks like when the definitive and perhaps impossible to correlate definitively to the book we havebut from
modern conflict between capitalism (work) and culture (aesthetic vocation) its systematic assimilation of a certain uneven and markedly colonial temporality
the conflict that is, ideally, knitted together by the symbolic mechanisms o f the into its plot structure, characterization, and figurative language. Its conspicuously
bildimgsromanis instead exacerbated, revealed, and given newly visible form awkvy^d temporal scheme not only challenges the formal dictates of the Goethean
as a contradiction in term^. bildqngsroman (with that genres accrued or conventional sense of teleological
and masculinist destiny), but also registers the deep, contradictions of colonialism
itselfcontradictions growing more conspicuous during the age of empire.
Outpost without Progress: Olive Schreiners '' Perhaps the best way to define the age of empire as a context for Schreiners
Story of an African Farm novel Js not to cite Eric Hobsbawms book (though his dates, 1875-1914) would
a lig n rather neatly with the contours of this study), but to recall Hannah Arendfs
If there is one thing upon which Olive Schreiners readers and critics now gener accqqnt o f modern imperialism, which assigns a significant place to 1880s South
ally agree, it is that The Story o f an African Farm is an odd duck in terms of genre Afpca. Arendt focuses on the quickening, formalizing, and globalizing of Euro
and stylea kind of literary platypus whose ungainly combination of parts and pean .colonialism in the 1870s and i8 8 o s - a vast process for which the Berlin
functidns seems to flummox both classification and periodization. To describe the (^ongress of 1883-1884 often stands as a concrete historical marker. Arendt defines
novel to new readers requires an entire glossary of both exotic and familiar generic highimperialism as the eclipse o f natiqnal by international capitalism, noting the
categories; it is one part South African plaasroman (farm-novel), one part New increasing intensity and instabUity pf speculative-financial and colonial-extractive
Woman fiction, one part Dickensian farce (featuring pale, sentimental orphans modes of wealth creation (as against more traditional lines of industrialization)
and ruddy, sadistic adults), one part naturalist tragedy (with a merciless rising sun (135), She focuses special attention on South African colonialism, starting with the
and a pitiable fallen woman), one part colonial gothic, one part Victorian melo breakneck growth generated by the opening of the Kimberley diamond mines just
drama (featuring hopeless love and missed letters), one part allegorical tale, one at the time o t African Farms publication. Arendt traces the origins of apartheid
part satire of provincial manners (with its dusty Boer wedding scene), one part bacjs to the Kimberley boom and to the imperial project defined by Cecil Rhodes.
spiritual autobiography, one part neotranscendentalist novel of ideas. Moreover, InRhodes&South Africa, she suggests, the so-called laws of capitalism were actu
The Story o f an African Farm now holds a firm place in both British and South ally allowed to create realities without any kind of backstop from national politics
African literary canons and, despite its nineteenth-century date o f publication (136-37). As a residt, normal capitalist development was forestalled and avoided
(1883), seems to anticipate a number of modernist fictional techniques. Combin (203)., If South Africa stands as a special case of racialized labor exploitation and
ing these problems of periodization, literary geography, and stylistic taxonomy, unfettered capitalism, it also, for Arendt, signals the beginning of a crisis and a
this chapter reads Schreiners sui generis African novel in relation to the history of condition that was not just peripheral or colonial, but also European and even
yet another genre, the European bildungsroman. ^lo^ial, in which the modernizing ethos and self-reliant bourgeois dynamism that
The combination o f gender and colonial concerns that animates Schreiners first droye Western industrialization began to dissipate. The Boers, she claims, were
novel no doubt partly accounts for its initial success in the 1880s and 1890s and the first European group to become completely alienated from the pride which
its renewed prominence in the 1980s and 1990s, when feminist and postcolonial Western man felt in living in a world created and fabricated by himself (194)
approaches raised its profile in North American curricula and critical debates. Of The centuries-long history of exploitative slave and colonial economies
course, as both John Kucich and Anne McClintock have recently noted, African notydthstanding, Arendts characterization of this era as inaugurating a new phase
Farms open designwhat some critics have seen as its immature or haphazard of Unrestrained capitalist relations outside the national boundaries and moral
qualityimparts to the text a high level o f ideological indeterminacy, so that it has
76 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH ^OUTH/DEATH; SCHREINERAND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 77
tf

limits o f middle-class progress proves, I think, quite telling for literary history in V existeficef The form, Coetzee observes, is pettiness in the midst of vastness
generaj, for the bildungsroman as the genre of progress, and for African Farm in (65'). Its iittle world reflects the intra-European rivalries of southern Africa, with
particular. Few texts are as well positioned to help us assess the speculative links sympathy attached to English stepchildren living in a Boer household,
outlined so fer between the rise of the new imperialism, the crisis of European p To focus my reading of the novel, I am going to concentrate on the separate
realism, and the new temporal contours of the bildungsroman. In African Farm, It bildungsroman plots of the novels orphan trio: Waldo, Em, and Lyndall, young
we can track the shift from realism to naturalism, from self-made protagonists I:- sufferers who endure the slapstick violence of the Dickensian villain Bonaparte
to environmental victims, from regional to global maps o f uneven development, I Blehkins in the first half of the story. The second half begins with a kinc! o f spiri-
from narratives of (at least apparent) class mobility to narratives o f racialized class : tual biogfhphy pertaining mostly to Waldo, then shifts attention to Lyndall and
stasisall as part of the history of the Victorian novel of education transplanted |i gaifis Momentum as a feminist novel o f ideas and a provincial tragedy along the
into the world of fin de slid e imperialism.^ I liiies o f Hardys less. Stolid Em follows the lit pathway toward marriage; Lyndall,
The point o f such a reinterpretation is not so much to finesse therVictorian/ I a precocious embodiment of New Woman aspirations, leaves the farm in search
modernist borderline, nor eventhough this merits consideration-to argue I "of a wdrldly education; and Waldo, dreamy son o f the deceased German over-
that colonial fiction was central to the innovations o f the late Victorian novel of I' sder, seeks an otherworldly education while tending to the farm. Each develops
consciousness. The point is, rather, to hitaate African Farm within a particular I outside the protocols of reahstic linear timea fact that is highlighted by explicit
conceptual, historical, and generic crisis in the discourse of progress, and to estab commentary, by the patterned imagery, and o f course by the unorthodox narra
lish the fissile logic of the bildimgsroman as it breaks down and breaks apart the tive pacing and structure. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (among other readers)
entwined narrative teli o f personal maturity and social modernization. What kind have noted that the novels two halves are rather disjointed, so that the protago
o f novel, we might ask, can keep faith with the complex interaction o f European nists youth, presented in the first book, is completely discontinuous with the
narratives of progress and their manifest faltering on the colonial periphery, with adulthood they have mysteriously managed to attain in the second (No Mans
the unsteady tempo of modernization in a fully extended yet unevenly developed La/fd 56). This oddity of construction, quite-akin, I think, to the famous bifur
world-system? The answer, of course, lies in the narrative form and linguistic cated' structure of Lord Jim, is in fact only the most obvious manifestation of
texture of African Farm itself; it is what makes the novels generic variety and non ari antidevelopmental logic that shapes the novel at every level and subplot. Em,
realist technique fascinating even today. This is what a coming-of-age story looks for example, matures so rapidly that she is in effect domesticated from the start,
like when its social referent is the very frontier of imperial capitalism, when it leaving her to wonder if all people feel so old, so very old, when they get to be
addresses a form o f modernization with no national boundaries and few political seventeen (zi9).
limits, a form corresponding to what Arendt calls a supposedly permanent pro In the cases of Waldo and Lyndall, the tempo of growth is more complicated
cess which has no end or aim but itself (137). and dilated. The novel opens with an agonizing scene in which a ticking clock tor-
Schreiners African Farm embeds and entwines the Kipling plot of endless fnents Waldo; time haunts him from begiiining to end. In the middle, Schreiner
colonial youth (as described in chapter 1) with the Eliot plot of feminine self- meditates-on Waldos growth in a somewhat jarring first-person plural voice, so
renunciation and sudden death (as described in chapter 2). In both kinds of plot that his intensely idiosyncratic thoughts are presented as the normal phases of
youth extended and youth truncatedthe missing element is aging, that is, the childhood cognition that we all pass through. This description occupies its own,
process of development itself. When we read African Farm, we can see right away affomalous chapter, entitled Times and Seasons, and is lodged at the pivot point
that failed or absent development is the governing m otif of Schreiners imagina of the novel very much in the manner of Virginia Woolfs Time Passes section in
tive response to colonial life in Africa. Her utterly provincial protagonists are as fo the Lighthouse. The sequencenow much commented uponis dominated by
distant from the metropole as they are sealed off from the inner life o f Africans, thdnotibn that the souls private time is discrete and incremental:
who feature here only as domestic and agricultural labor. African Farm is, as
J. M. Coetzee puts it, a microcosm of colonial South Africa: a tiny community set They say that in the world to come time is not measured out by months and
down in the midst of the vastness of nature, living a closed-minded and self-satisfied years. Neither is it here. The souls life has seasons of its own; periods not
YOL(TH/DEATH; SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 79
78 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

distilled reflection of colonial South Africa. Waldos African farm islike the
,foxind in any calendar, times that years and months will not scan, but which
Patusan o i Lord Jim zn outpost o f progress in which there is no real progress,
afe as deftly and sharply cut off from one another as the smoothly-arranged
only local realignments of limited resources and quite arbitrary power. The m od
years whjch the earths motion yields us.
ernization o f economic and social life fails in both African Farm and Lord Jim;
(137)
both consistently refer its failure to the impermanent and fragile quality of colo

In,Ticies and Seasons, Schreiner restricts Waldos development to the spiritual nial settlement. Near the start of African Farm, Waldo observes the following as he

and intellectual plane. The peculiarly asocial nature and syncopated time of Waldos contemplates the passing of the Bushmen (Khoikhoi); And the wild bucks have

development takes shape in relation to the remote colonial setting of the fafm; he gone, and those days, and we are here. But we wiU be gone soon, and only the

is not subject to everyday r e ^ st temporality, but instead models his subjectiv ston^ jvilU ie on here (50). By restricting itself to members of a marginal set

ity on deep and inhuman forfns of zoological, geological, and metaphysical time. tler class (a class that, to be sure, manages to dispossess the indigenous peoples),

Just as Conrads Jim is suspended between the high ideals and low practices of Schreiners novel emphasizes the futurelessness of life eked out on the edge o f the

empire, Waldo dwells in a peripheral zone somewhere between beautiful absolutes vejdt.
However, despiteor perhaps because ofthe hardscrabble boundaries of
and brutal facts. He grows up well outside the civilized Jium and buzz of Lionel
T r illin g s middle-class mores (106). That is, he, does not grow up, for despite the VValdos life (paralleled in the dank jungle privations o f Jims reign in Patusan),

outward elongation of his limbs, Waldo remains a pious ragamuffin, an ageless, therp is in African Farm a brief romance o f colonial innocence based on a vision
of vifgin land and unalienated labor, of colonialism without the contradictions
curly-haired cherub of Germanic intellection.'
Waldos passion for homespun and purple metaphysics, flowering in what of European capitalism. But these romancesWaldos and Jimsare in fact fully

Schreiner codes as the vast cultural emptiness of the African veldt, cuts directly encapsulated by the novelistic structures that surround them. In the end, their

against the Goethean formula o f concrete historical thinking. The colonial setting colonial bubbles of pastoral or neofeudal social harmony are burst by the reas

allows Waldo to encounter instead abstract existential concepts and the hard facts sertion of modernity; both European man-boys, once astride Asian and African

of merciless nahire. Thus Waldos governing time is both more and less abstract Nature, must then trade lyrical contentment for sudden death. Like Jim, Waldo

than the profoundly civilized and realist time ascribed to Goethe by Bakhtin, expires after a brief frontier episode of inner and outer harmony and remains a

Lukdcs, and Moretti. The conventional aspects of Waldos entire Bildung plot are walking figure of nondevelopmental time.
compressed into a single letter, a miniature scale model of a provincial novel of Lyndalls separate journey is equally compressed and fatal: She leaves the farm,

development: boy leaves farm, goes to town, seeks fortune, meets good souls and attppds school, encounters the world, takes a lover, becomes pregnant, returns to

bad, tastes new tastes, sees corruption and earns companionship, learns trade, th6 farm, leaves again, gives birth, and dies, all the while fiercely attempting to

gains informal education, then returns to the farm. Whereas in a conventional throw off the coils of Victorian womanhood and offering a cogent dismissal of

i\ovel we follow the hero through each episode, here the story of Waldos way in marriage as a degrading property arrangement. At one point, Lyndall reviews for

the worldis delivered in skeletal, retrospective, and indirect forman effect that Waldo the ideological burdens of a girls education:

intensifies the novels quite rigid restriction o f the action to the farm setting. The curse begins to act on us. It finishes its work when we are grown women,
Waldos circumscribed destiny is both determined and figured by the colonial who no more look out wistfully at a more healthy life; we are contented. We
cpnditions, especially insofer as the farm is a vulnerable settlement that does not, fit our sphere as a Chinese womans foot fits her shoe.. . . In some of us the
itself, develop. The land is dry and unforgiving, the livestock bare-ribbed, and the shaping to our end has been quite completed.
crops scant; the only wealth gained in the novel comes through marriage or inheri (189)
tance. Schreiner matches this curious absence of production with a notably ane
mic rate of reproduction among the settler class. If we assess Waldos absent plot This kind of education works, like the Bildung of Morettis darkest Lukdcsian

o f emergence against this backdrop, we can see that his failure to develop moves vision, by securing the consent of the subordinated, causing them freely to accept

in parallel to the nonemergence of a genuine culture or society in this fictionally uijfreedom. However, this is not the story o f th e novel; it is a story encapsulated
8 o tiNSEASONABLE YOUTH \ YOUTH/DEATH: SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 8i

Within the novel, objectified as the kind of female bildungsroman whose generic Consider, for example, the following passage in which Lyndall seems to weave
mordithe ilovel breaks. classical and colonial vignettes into an expansive transcultural perspective:
Schfeinef ifonizes by literalizing the motif o f the bound Chinese foot, framing
I like to realize forms of life utterly unlike mine . . . I like to crush together,
L ^dall in terms of her own tiny hands and feet. Lyndalls size does not represent
and see it in a picture, in an instant, a multitude of disconnected unlike
h& subjection to womanhood, but her willful refusal to mature. Still, if Lyndalls
phases of human lifemediaeval moiik with his string beads pacing the
plotline is not the story o f social compromise with womens roles, neither is it
quiet orchard, and looking up from the grass at his feet to the heavy fruit-
an emancipation story. Lyndalls precocious political sensibility spurs her toward
trees; little Malay boys playing naked on a shining sea-beach^ a Hindoo
freedom, but her critique of contemporary gender arrangements cannot provide a
philosopher alone under his banyan tree, thinking, thinking, thinking, so
public role or social resolution equal to her private sense of destiny. Often Schreiner
that in the thought of God he may lose himself; a troop of Bacchanalians
preseiits Lyndall as immured-within her own vision, stuck within a closed circuit -
dressed in white, with crown of vine-leaves, dancing along the Roman
o f introspection: I km so weafy o f myself! It is eating my soul to its eofe^self, self,
streets. . . a Kaffir witch-doctor seeking for herbs by m oonlight. . . I like to
self I (241). Lyndalls consumption of soul by self marks the'process wherein devel
see it all; I feel it run through me-7-that life belongs to me; it makes my little
opment has disintegrated. Just as for Waldos metkphysical lust, so for L^daUs
I life larger; it breaks down the narrow walls that shut me in.
freethinking ambition; these inner drives can be described but they are not, as in
(214-15)
the classic bildungsroman model, integrated into the logic o f a socially realized
chafacter. African Farm thus offers a colonially inflected example of what is in fact This global fantasy of males freely harvesting the fruits of nature and culture estab-
a familiar pattern in Victorian fiction, where female protagonists complicate or lislies Lyndalls shrewd views about the privileges of imaginative self-projection.
violate the masculine vocational and sexual model of middle-class consent, lead The passage assumes a more pointed meaning when we recall that Lyndalls secret
ing to what feminist critics have seen as a necessary refusal o f Bildung, a dissenting pregnancy is emerging at just this point, establishing a fine counterpoint between
voyage in, of a tragic plot of self-renunciation.^ two rfiodes of self-extension. Its placement in the text underscores Lyndalls restric
As we have already noted, the case of Schreiner is a tricky one for both femi tion to, on the one hand, private fantasies of mobility, cultural prestige, and social
nist and postcolonial analysis. A formalist approach to African Farm helps us avoid vocation and, on the other, the prospect of a delimited public role as handmaid
political reductions of the text, warding off a predictable but inapt focus on the and nursemaid to male destiny.
thematics of alterity or the reciprocal allegorization of woman and native. African What makes this example o f Lyndalls sophistication such a potent thematic
Farm resists the interpretive frame o f colonial otherness, o f cross-cultural'identifi- note in the novel is that it comes, in a sense, to define her as an authorial surrogate
cation and marginalization, in large part because it so thoroughly commits itself to who provides oblique commentary on the gendered abstractions that drive the
the logic of colonial failure and provincial tragedy. In this way, it resists the model classic bildungsroman with its typic^ hero figuring the fate of the collective.
described by Gayatri Spivak with respect to Victorian novels like Jane Eyre, in which At one point, in feet, Lyndall all but declares that the problem of allegory is a
white women establish a kind of subjective freedom by obscuring, displacing, or feminist one:
demonizing a racialized figure, a native, so-called (121). Schreiners com m itoent to
representing the problem of colonial development translates into a shrunken estate And sometimes what is more amusing still than tracing the likeness between
for Lyndalls subjective destiny. That commitment entails the failure o f both cultural * man and man, is to trace the analogy there always is between the progress
and biological reproduction at the periphery, putting the novel quite at odds with and development of one individual and of a whole nation; or again, between
the gendered project of imperial humanism that Spivak identifies both in her read a single nation and the entire hiunan race. It is pleasant when it dawns on
ing of Bronte and at large in her Critique o f Postcolonial Reason. you that the one is just the other written out in large letters; and very odd
The novels colonial and feminist concerns converge most fully in Lyndalls to find all the little follies and virtues, and developments and retrogressions
monologues on the problem o f the educated provincial womans limited capacity written out in the big worlds book that you find in your little internal self.
to abstract herself into universal narratives of hiunan or civilizational progress. It is the most amusing thing I know of; but of course, being a woman, I
82 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH YOUTH/DEATH; SCHREINERAND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 83

have not often time for such amusements. Professional duties always first, With the erosion of these bases for allegorical and teleological thinking, Schreiner
you know. It takes a great deal of time and thought always to look perfectly creates a metageneric level in the text, in which the naturahzed Goethean motifs of
exquisite, even for a pretty woman. developmental fiction are exposed as contingent and outmoded. She organizes (or
(198-99) disorganizes) her novel according to a more random and cruel form of temporal
ity, a naturalist clock whose uneven, unpredictable strokes cut across any sense of
Lyndalls arch tone points to the bitter fact that women bear a blocked relation pure progress, whether individual or civihzational.
to'a mode of self-representation whose narrative equivalent is allegory and, even In setting her naturalist clock against the romance of imperial progress,
more particularly, to the bildungsroman as a symbolic device that binds subject Schreiner also establishes a formal pattern that Conrad repeats, with variations,
to nation in a shared trajectory of progress and development. Her remarks JiD Lord Jim, equally a story of colonial removal and frozen adolescence. The two
testify to the pleasure of iliaking these symbolic narratives, but she seems also ndvels share the arch-naturalist motif of the puny human insect: Schreiner s beetle,
to be mocking their substance. In fact, Schreiners self-conscious approach: to rolling dung, symbolizes a striving, and a striving, and an ending in nothing,
Bildtlnga critique that is both colonial and feministpresents allegory itself as thus establishing the epigraphical keynote for Waldo and Lyndall in Book Two
an adolescent or naive form o f representation.* In the Jinles and Seasons chap (107; 135); likewise, Conrads remote patron Stein sees Jim, with his futile romanti
ter, the narrator describes it as a passing preoccupation of youth: For an instant cism, as a perfect specimen of the fragile, sad human Lepidoptera. More tellingly,
our imagination seizes it; we are twisting, twirling, trying to make an allegory . African Farm shares with Lord Jim the two-phase plot, highlighting its refusal or
(143). This is a juvenile and male prerogative associatednot incidentally for my incapacity to narrate growth, to fuse the objective and subjective conditions of
purposeswith that hermetic German-idealist Waldo. Here is Schreiners irony soulmaking.
of allegory: that Goethean developmental thinking is, after all, underdeveloped The point of estabUshing Lord Jim as an intertext for African Farm is not to
thinking. argue for direct influence, but to analyze related instances of late Victorian fiction
Lyndalls plot does not merely parallel but implicitly comments on Waldos, that encode uneven development into protagonists who cannot mature and into
casting skepticism on his youthful idealism, on his Goethean penchant for seeing colonies that cannot modernize. Conrads Jim fails to accumulate experience just
and seeking the drama of progress in all things. In Times and Seasons, Waldo as his colonial enterprises fail to accumulate wealth; the old bildungsroman link
conducts a series of experiments geared to finding metaphysical and narrative between se//-production (the hero who creates his own personality) and produc
meaning-systematically developmental meaningin every phenomenal cranny tion per se still obtains, but in an inverse or negative form. Jim is not so much a
of his little universe, from the geological to the zoological. He cracks eggs to see psychologically dynamic character as a walking principle of imperial time, a colo
the white spot wax into the chicken and dissects dead ducks and lambs, looking nial Dorian Gray to Marlows Picture, since Marlow appears to take on all the
for traces of ontogenetic symmetry and phylogenetic design in their viscera, avid sad, sagging weight of self-doubt that Jim seems to shrug off. When Jim dies, he
to confirm that aU is part of a whole, that progress and development cast their remains inside a bubble of supervirginal egoism, just as Kiplings Kim remains
sheltering meaning over the barnyard and across the stratified earth of the Karoo in the neverland of imperial adolescence, and just as Lyndall seems to trap the
(152-54). This, reflects the narrator, is how the mystified youthful mind tries to mature political consciousness of a New Woman in a tiny, charming body that
shore the evidence of nature against the weltering chaos of experience. The prin cannot age until it dies.
ciples o f unification and development, which, as many have noted, allude quite
directly to Schreiners own formative encounter with Herbert Spencer s First Prin
ciples, provide a foil for the novels dramatic revision of developmental allegory. !A. free and wandering tale: Conrads Lord Jim
Schreiner thus presents allegorical thinking as a passing phase in the life o f her
German-romantic boy hero but also in the history of European ideas. The narrator Work is the domain wherein Conrads Jim has an initial advantage over Schreiner s
explicitly locates herself in an era of rational skepticism about all forms of historical Lyndall. Despite Lyndalls education, her exclusion from the great world of earnest
or developmental design, whether derived from philosophy, religion, or science. labour is never in doubt and is in fact exacerbated by her location in the provincial
yOUTH/DEATH; SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 85
84 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

adolescent Englishman whose clear blue eyes were amazingly like a boys, with
agrarian world of Boer South Africa (194). Jim by contrast begins his career as a
that candid expression some quite common men preserve to the end of their days
promismi ipate in the merchant marine, though of course through Marlows eyes
by a rare internal gift of simpUcity of heart and rectitude of soul (lo). This blue-
we4:an see right away that, for Jim, fantasies o f derring-do have displaced Lyndalls
eyed;l;ero contrasts with Kurtz the corrupted idealist; both contrast in turn with
world o f earnest labour. Unlike Kipling, who genuinely narrates work itself, Con
Jim,' who lays claims to ideals that he cannot embody or redeem.
rads Marlow preaches the saving grace o f the Protestant work ethic (above all in
llie opening chapters of Lord Jim establish Jims heroic fantasies as at once rem
arenas of colonial enterprise), but seems to have a bottomless philosophical appe
iniscent of the Goethean bildungsroman (insofar as he feeds his,nptions of destiny
tite for talking about vocation rather than doing it. The novel follows the logic of
a steady diet of heroic literature) and quite obviously divergpt from the generic
Marlows priorities (soul status over labor value); Once Jims character is devalued,
modeKihsofar as we can already see that Jims dreams are callow and fraudulent,
he can no longer find reden|ption through work no matter how far he travels th^
divorced from action). When the opportunity to act emerges, Jim .fails, though
imperial waterways of the East, no matter the privilege of his race, gander,
M ^low notes with grim irony that Jim ardently recuperates his own passivity:
and class. In one small but telling episode, Marlow huffily rejects the idea o f sta
He Jiad enlarged his knowledge more than those who had done the wo rk . . . he
tioning a disgraced Jim with a group of indentured Asian laborers on a deserted
exulted with fresh certitude in his avidity for adventure (49-50). The novel requr-
guano island where he can act as cooUe-master and supreme boss. Chester, the
rentiy probes the gap between knowledge and action, widening it as Jim spirals
islands would-be birdshit capitalist, insinuates to Marlow that Jim is a walking
into, disgrace after abandoning the Patna, closing it temporarily in the Patusan
version of the guano isl^ d: a pile of golden waste that cannot really be salvaged
episode, then blasting it back open in the denouement. The generic languages of
or developed (167).
the novel keep modulating, because Jim is a romantic hero stuck in a naturalist
The need to rescue Jim vocationally is a long-term, novel-shaping problem for
plot: The social conditions are calculated to break his heroic self-conception, but
Marlow (and Conrad) as it is for Jim himself. Without redemptive work, the impe
he. perversely refuses their lesson. Marlow can never decide if it is appalling or
rialist enterprise reveals itself as merely exploitative. It is not surprising to find
aAmirahle to See such dogged will attached to such unsound actions (109).
a novel from this period (the era of Hardy, Dreiser, Zola) in which no fortxmes
To talk about the problematic o f endless youth in Lord Jim then is not just to
are made, but Conrad takes particular pains to imderscore the M ure of imperial
reckon with Jim the existential or moral adolescent, but also to consider the dila
accumulation and to align it with the static quality of Jims existential develop
tory and recursive organization of the novel itself as a coded reflection on both the
ment. As in African Farm, there is a nptable dearth of both production and repro
history o f the novel and on the historical context of late empire." Famously enough.
duction; indeed these are not just missing features but central and conspicuous
Lord Jim began life as a short tale and ballooned into the free and wandering
larks reciprocally indexed to the master trope of underdevelopment, Jims youth.
tale that we now have (43),' One might well imagine that the plotlessness is most
Jim, Marlow announces, is the, youngest human being now in existence (204).
saliqnt in the romantic Patusan portion of the text, but in fact both the colonial
He appears to defy the laws of time and the conventions of Bildung, remaining a
outpost (Patusan) and the merchant ship {Patna) are sites of stasis. Conrads tech
Teflon-coated fiur-haired boy despite the episodes of moral and professional fail
nique for plot-stalling a shipboard tale is already visible in both The Nigger o f the
ure that kick the novel into gear in chapter 3.
Narcissus and Youth. In the latter story, the expository section mirrors that
Jim is not just a moral or psychological type; hes also an ideahzed ethnic
o f Lord Jim, with Marlow playing the role of the young mate avid for adventure.
English type. During the years before and after Lord Jim, Conrad seems to have
J^clamation points and fervid interjections pile up as Marlow recalls his own state
been preoccupied with the figure of the English idealist, whom he criticizes
o f^ in d shipping out on the Judea:
for naive sentimentality, celebrates for moral integrity, and frames in terms of
arrested development.' The three Marlow tales that Conrad published during
O youth! The strength of it, the faith of it, the imagination of it! To me
the 1898-1900 period, Youth, H eart o f Darkness, and Lord Jim, show Marlow
she was not an old rattle-trap carting about the world a lot of coal for a
encountering three different forms o f idealism. In Youth, Marlow recounts
freightto me she was the endeavour, the test, the trial of life.
the heady days of his first Eastern voyage (as second mate on the Judea) and his
(17)
admiration for the Judeas captainan iteration of the Jim character, a strangely
YOUTH/DEATH: SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 87
86 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

Vinraces psyche and of the sea, white, hairless, blind monsters lying curled on
*feut this high feeling is suspended and dissolved by a long legal wrangle that keeps
tfie ridges of the sand that threaten Rachels long girlhood (i6). Stephen Dedalus,
the Judea portbound and forces youth to stew in its own potentiality (20). Marlows
the-hero of Joyces Portrait o f the A rtist as Young M an, not only entertains grisly
Easterii adventure becomes Conrads experiment in adventurelessness; in it, souls
spectacles of heU as an infinity of suffering, but has unsettling dreams peopled by
are formed in contemplation and retrospect rather than in act and will.'^ Colonial
apelike creatures (124). At such moments, working from a depth beyond telling,
joiuneys in most Conrad textscertainly in Lord Jimd o not deliver men from
thfe'se images are not Just metaphors tapping the psychosexual unconscious, they
the enforced passivity of domesticated masculinity in the industrial age. Instead
drC also self-exposing figures that announce their own necessity to a plot of stalled
they provide a stark contrast-medium for discovering and disclosing the impos-
action;' they reactivate the story when characters are mired in psychic or ethical
sibiUty of adventure. '
sSsisTThese uncanny figures also sig n a l-in their thematic Unks to infinitude and
Of course, such bathetic sjiectacles of fortvmes linmade and destinies unmet
depth^the allure of actionlessness, of the stall that never ends. More specificaUy,
present an artistic problem to a novelist: How to advance a narrative that has
they seem to operate as variations on the theme of an Hegehan bad infinity- a n
adventurelessness at its core? How to organize the pattern of sceiie,'Set, and epi
infinity associated with both frozen youth and imperial depth/death.
sode without concedingas Conrad did notto a fully nahiralist inversion of
In the case of Conrad, bad infinity seems always to demand its chronotopic
riarrative Providence into tragic, deterministic fate? In Youthf we can see Conrad
opposite: a site of bounded space and stopped time. On an isolated ship (the Judea,
figuring out how to balance action and stasis on a small scale by rotating poiiits of
the Narcissus, the Patna) or in an isolated colony (Sulaco in Nostromo; Patusan m
view and mulling over impressions while action is held kt bay. This tells us a great
Lord Jim), time is trapped into an almost airless lack of motion. Bogged down in
deal about the mechanics of plot in Conrad, because he so faithfiilly reproduces
cycles of failed modernization, colonial spaces such as Sulaco and Patusan pro
the problem of construction in the overt content of the tale. Coal smolders in the
vide the setting for Conrad to cycle through episodic bouts of speculation and
cargo bay while the rtory and the ship are held still, but we know (as we know in
spectatorship, philosophical chatter and moral inertia. Into these pocketed worlds
Secret Agent) that an explosion will come and that the narrative will therefore end.
bf muffled action and stalled development comes the violent accident or intru
Explosions are not Just topical referents for Conrad; they also literahze the trigger-
sion that Conrad uses to drive time forward. Oscillating between the distended
function needed to kick a stalled plot back into forward motioneven when, as
time of narrative recycling and the instant accidents that bring historical or linear
in the rigged silver mine of Nostromo, the dynamite stays unexploded. Explosive
time back into play, Conrad manages to create the narrative framework for what
devices define, in a sense, the displacement of destiny by accident in fiction, and it
we generally call his impressionist style.^Lord Jim establishes a fairly legible rela
is precisely that displacement that defines, in turn, modernisms most fundamental
tionship between the slowness or languor of the style and the lingering youth of
revision of the bildungsroman.
the protagonist; Conrads language has the same gorgeous virility and charm of
In "Youth, when the smoking cargo explodes, it blows Marlow off the ship: I
vagueness that his hero does (58). To put the point more simply, Conrad aUgns his ,
seemed somehow to be in the air (26). The evacuated agency of the line antici
own emergent technique for breaking the action with Jims penchant for inaction.
pates Jims jiunp off the Patna-. I had jumped. . . . It seems (125). Conrad frays
This link is nowhere more clear than in the fateful moment of Juns Jump from
and spredds the syntax here in order to underscore the passive natare of the anti-
the sinking Patna. The Jump is a Jump-cut, vaulting the reader forward from the
hero cdught among forces too large or unknowable to contest. That m otif of the
deck of the Patna to the inquest a month later. Conrads use of deferred climax and
paralyzed hero overtaken by invisible or invincible forces that suddenly break the
delayed decoding finds perfect correspondences in Jims brief confession (itself
crust o f a stalled narrative recurs not only across Conrads works, but across quite a
postponed for several chapters after the opening of the public inquest): I had
number of recursively organized modernist novels of youth: It marks the arrested
Jumped.. . . It seems (125). At a stroke, Conrad hollows out the act with a past-
development of the protagonist.'*' Thus the object that sinks the Patna in Lord Jim
perfect verb tense that reflects Marlows layered retrospect, with an ellipsis that
remains an unseen, underwater dark mass, something floating awash, a whatever
matches the untold narrative gaps, and a haze of seeming that clouds the space
it was. In Kim, we find the Shamlegh pit, a bottomless, sexuaUzed, Asiatic maw
between subject and action, event and reader. Jims nonadventure might well be
that Kim must evade in order to preserve his imperial innocence. In Woolf s The
desaibed as a perfect inversion of the rite of passage- n o t Just because it marks
Voyage Out, a number of invisible phallic creatures populate the depths of Rachel
YOUTH/DEATH: SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 89
88 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

point of view, the novel seems organized to illustrate by negative example the logic
a wrong action, but because Jim preserves through it all a strange iUusion of pas
of national closure outlined in chapter 2. If in the classic or Goethean model of
siveness, ,^s though he had not acted (123). The jump-cutting in Marlows story
Ae,bildungsroman, historical time and social transformation are shaped by the
brings readers to and through a middle portion of the text in which Jims geo
fixed states of adulthood and nationhood, then Jims story gives us the counter
graphic mobility produces not the awaited ethical maturity and social integration,
or reyisionary narrative in which historical time cannot be shaped by the nation
h^t a discontinuous set of failed episodes through which Jim does not grow. After
hood-adulthood plot. In Jims Patusan, the time o f em ergen ce-of Bakhtins
hi? disgraceful exit from the Patna, Jim cannot really rejoin the fraternal subsociety
of the merchant marine, but must remove himself endlessly toward the horizon of national-historical timeis absent all around.-
At the level of plot, this means that only homecoming can redeem Jim. At the level
the known empire, stuck in a loop of rebirth and shame in each new port. Finally,
of^?m,-this means that only the anchoring chronotope of the nation can contain a
tjirough the offices of the trader Stein, Marlow manages to remove Jim to Patusan,
narrative o f endless youth by .converting it into a narrative of social reconciliation.
the remote Bornean trading colony where the remainder of Jims story plays out.
If, in Great Expectations, Pip must return to the domestic-national space to achieve
Most readers of Lord Jim take note fairly quickly, of the fact that M ^ ow 'an d
symbolic closure, here Jim piust suffer the impossibihty of closure (adulthood) in
Stein choose Patusan, an outpost at the far edge of imperial ipodernity, as a^place
^ e form of permanent exile from England. Marlow makes this fairly explicit when
where Jim can redeem his neofeudal dreams of heroism and adventure. In keep-
hedndicates that the ennobling ideas that justify his existence, the animating spirits
ipg with the delayed maturity of his protagonist, Conrad presents a colonial space
HpfinpH by arrested modernization: The seyenteenth-century traders went there that justify all action in the imperial arena, are natiqnal ones:

for pepper,. . . but somehow, after a century of chequered intercourse, the country Those who return not to a dwelhng but to the land itself, to meet its disem
seems to drop graduaUy out of the trade... nobody cares for it now (209-10). To fiU bodied, eternal, and unchangeable spiritit is those who understand best
out th,e picture of an impossible, premodern social world in Patusan, Conrad also its severity, its saving power, the grace of its secular right to our fidelity, to
provides for Jim a baldly allegorical romance with a beautiful half-Asian woman our obedience. Yes! few of us understand, but we'all feel it though, and I say
named Jewel. Of course, we do not expect much from Conrad in the depiction of all without exception because those who do not feel do not count.
romantic love or of womens experience, but Jewel is even more a cipher than her (206-7)
blue-eyed lover. She is the exotic and faithful mate who fixes Jim into a fantasy
M ^low understands the abstract and imaginary rules of national belonging: I do
of cross-cultural marriage and innocent colonial wealth-extraction.-^ This love-
not mean to imply that I figured to myself the spirit o f the land uprising above the
story-cum-buried-treasure plot is a pat combination of imperial romance motifs,
ty^te cliffs of Dover, to ask me what I . . . had done with my very young brother
and it underscores Conrads somewhat desultory decision to allot Jim a complete
(207). Marlow does not conjure England up in his mind like a mirage, but he nev
imperial-hero ftilfiUment kit: He had the gift of finding a special meaning in
ertheless sees that the problem of Jims redemption lies in the fact that he can never
everything that happened to him. This was the view he took o f his love affair; it
belong to the spirit of the land rising over Dover. We are used to being reminded
was idyllic, a Uttle solemn, and also true, since his belief had all the unshakeable
in the Marlow texts of Conrads preference for the liberalism of the British empire
seriousness o f youth (267). Almost droningly now, Marlow hits the note o f Jims
as .against other, more rapacious European colonialisms. But here the symbolic
permanent youth, though by this point in the text we understand that whether
role.pf Englishness is of a subtler kind, less often noticed. The spirit of the land
his iriner desires are denied or fulfilled, Jim will not mature. In fact, the bildimg-
is.historical existence itself: It guarantees and imparts historical being to its sub
sroman track now runs in reverse, bringing Lord Jim from hard experience to
jectsthe grace of a secular belonging, to paraphrase Marlow.- Marlows soaring
(fantastic) innocence.
speech invokes the national geography as the ground and source of identity itself
But the fantasy entails its own impermanence; as Jim and Jewel (and Marlow
and Stein) always know, Patusan cannot function as a home or homeland for Jim. (those who do not feel it do not count ).
Marlow grasps the importance of national belonging because he too has
So. much is clear from the hard-wired tragic elements of the novel, but what is
fallen outside its shelter. Marlow seeks sheltering conceptionsracial solidarity,
worth investigating in some detail is Conrads implication that Patusan cannot
masculine honor, the Protestant work ethicthat can replace the territorial and
ground a realistic reconciliation plot because it is non-national space. From this
X YOUTH/DEATH; SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 91
90 U nseasonable y o u th

fheTorn halves of the bildungsroman compromise: Where the classic hero in


political guarantees supplied by national belonging.*" Recognizing Jim as a fellow
the Goethean model reconciles desire with law, Jim embodies the contradiction
untethered being, Marlow seeks to anchor Jim in his fraternal-professional code;
betyieen them.
the novel is a long meditation on that foiled effort. Indeed Jim cannot be assimilated
Dwelling outside the zone of modernization, Jim serves not just as a symbol of
to the global order of Marlows overseas life any more than he can be assimilated to
R n g li.sb ideahsm, but as a toteni for Patusan and its people, who areas Marlow
the permanent life of Patusan and that is why the trials of what Nico Israel calls his
would have itwithout history:
exilic bUdungsroman never end, short o f death (58). Stuck in these extranational
territories outside England, Jim experiences a temporal sentence that is either all He dominated the forest, the secular gloom, the old mankind. He was like
ybuth (the narrative never ends) or sudden death (the narrative only ends). a figure set up on a pedestal, to represent in his persistent youth the power,
England works foij Marlowand for Conradas the stable spatiotemporal and perhaps the virtues, of races that never grow old, that have emerged
m'ean between the bad finitude of the colony and the bad infinity of empire. Read from the gloom. I dont know why he should always have appeared to me
back against the model o f the classic bildungsroman. Lord Jim reVe^s a chrono- symbolic.
topic array of possibilities: the local, bounded space of ti^ itio n and romance (in (238)
which historical time is displaced by the static time of romance and frozen youth);
This tableau of Marlow gazing at Jims persistent youth against the native back
the radically open and unboimded space-time of empire and globalization (in
ground o f the old mankind seems to me to define the novels core. Immediately
which capitalist modernization is constantly transforming the social world and in
one senses the tension between old mankind and races that never grow old,
which collective and individual identities are dissolved into endless revolution);
though it is perhaps a familiar paradox of imperial discourse to cast both Euro
and the mediating, reconciling chronotope of the nation (in which harmonious
peans and non-Europeans as ageless: a youthful yet advanced modernizing race
growth is projected as the normative temporal mode for both subjects and societ
encountering an ancient yet childlike one. The atemporal or bipolar logic organiz
ies). National time is shaped or narratable time because it progresses, but not for
ing jfhis double trope organizes much of Lord Jim, beginning with the presenta
ever. The nation,, particularly as enshrined in the classic or realist novel, mediates
tion nf Jim /Marlow as a youth/maturity doublet rather than a moving dialectic of
between a bounded and a boundless chronotope, achieving a spatiotemporal com
growth,and transformation. The missing existential and narrative tissue between
promise that allows for the reconciliation of tradition and modernity. By contrast,
youth and age in this text corresponds to the missing historical being o f two dif
both the pocket-colony and the expanded world-system are extranational spaces
ferent races that never grow old; that is, o f a racialized colonial encounter that
of historylessness marked, respectively, by the utter absence of progress (all tradi
troubles the language of development itself. To put the matter more concretely, we
tion) and by the endless expansion of progress (all modernity). In both cases, and
might think of Jim as the ironic modernist version o f a Walter Scott protagonist.
in both spaces, the danger of narrative infinity or endless youth prevails over the
If, as Lukdcs has it, the Scott hero embodies the emergent force of national history,
stable (and national) temporal concept of aging-into-dosure.
then Jim embodies the frozen, uncertain, or heterochronic dimensions o f postna
This split temporality of the premodern and the hypermodern marks the
tional history.
absence of modernization, maturation, and development from the middle o i Lord
.But what are the political impjications of using an arch-imperialist Lord like
Jim, and finds its spatial coimterpart in Patusan, an enclave outside national-his
Jim to represent not just the shiny dynamism of European empire-making, but
torical time. It is shaped by both local political force and global economic forces,
also, and at once, the stripped historical being of Asian peoples? As with BCipling
but not mediated by a nation-state form, even as a formal tributary or colony. Both
and Schreiner before, we have to ask whether the adolescence of the colonizer
ill the historical source material centered on Sarawak (present-day Indonesia) and
(however symbolically inflected) can plausibly be interpreted as a device for
in Conrads composite rendering of that material, Patusan is an odd kind o f state
acknowledging the lost history of the colonized. The answer begins with Mar
less colony. As Michael Moses has described it, Patusan functions as a peculiar
low, who already tries in the previously cited passage to establish some distance
premodern space almost akin to the polis of Greek tragic drama (Novel 85). Indeed
from his fantasy of Jims representativeness: I dont know why he should always
Patusan has the enclosed quality of a tragic space: Both polis and prison, it sets the
l\ave appeared to me symbolic. But it is part of the texfs artistic power that those
limits on Jims imperial subjectivity. A captive master in Patusan, Jim represents
92 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
YOUTH/DEATH; SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 93

Marloi^an projections of a romantic youth barely touched by time, and of an


is subjected to a devastating historical critique by the arrest, revision, and objec
exotiO colony barely touched by Westernization, coexist with Marlows awareness
tification of the inherited progressivist logic o f the bildungsroman. As Krishnan
that history can leave neither Jim nor Patusan alone. Going a step further into
notes, the novel does not end up drawing Patusan into the normative horizon o f a
this Conradian fun house of ironized ironists, we can see that Marlow himself is foregone modernity the foregone modernity that Conrad at some level seeks to
only half-awate of the problems inherent in framing Jims adolescence as a version
expbse as the false Hegelian idol o f imperialist discourse (347)." Com'ads flexible
o f the natives backwardness, but the novel thus registers that its double allegory of
shuttling o f the m otif o f imderdevelopment across colonizer/colonized lines does
underdevelopment is not merely an inert device. Just as Schreiner voices, through
thfeiwork of unsettling Western/non-Western modes o f historical being. Moreover,
Lyndall, her suspicion of the representative protagonist in the passage cited in the when the text exposes the fantasy of endless youth (underdevelopment) to ifonic
epigraph to this chapter, Conrad voices, through Marlow, his suspicion o f the rep
"demystification, it creates an interference pattern between the idea o f Patusan as
resentative protagonist. Jims agelessness represents for Marlow the histojylessnes's
ah exotic land outside history and Patusan as a resource colony already subject fo
o f Patusan s ancient races, but the text does not credit this act o f representation as cblbnial regimes of modernization. In that interference pattern, the novel reveals
true so much as use it to unfold and disclose the embedded contradictions of both
the central contradiction of the new imperialism: that it seeks to underdevelop
the inherited allegory of progress attached to the European bildungsroman and
and develop at the same time; and the long youth/sudden death m otif o f Jim him-
the civilizational discourse of progress attached to the new imperialism.
s'elf is a fitting emblem for that exposed contradiction. Jims missing adulthood
Ih e political fantasy underwriting Marlows presentation o f the Patusan episode makes clear what is missing at large in this colonial tale of broken B ild m g and in
is that Jim is a natural leader whose charismatic Englishness fairly breathes integ
the tale of European imperialisms own illusion of permanence is the narrative of
rity to the corrupt and fractious local powers in Patusan: It is a fantasy o f British achieved self-possession, the time of emergence."-*
hegemony without domination. On the other hand, Jims presence does not change
Reading Lord Jim in this way means that the involuted and convoluted language
miich in this highly stultified local ecology of power."" As in the case o f Kiplings
o f modernist subjectivity is not, finally, an evasion o f the historical world, but a
Anglo-India, social forces are distributed in more or less fixed equihbriaa con
deeply realist method for describing the evasion o f historical forces implied by
stantly shifting but never fundamentally changing Great Game in which the
neofeudal imperialismand the inevitable return and backlash o f those forces.
British are honest brokers but not makers o f an emergent, modern nation-state.
Conrad uses tales of interiority to represent objective social conditions, but those
In'Kim, as in Lord Jim, a notable lack o f national-historical time underwrites a
coilditions include an advanced stage'of capitalist modernization in which neither
tendentious fentasy of juvenile imperial subjectivity. But in both texts, the ideo
the material signs nor the intellectual prestige of progress as a metahistorical motif
logical fantasys impossibility is exposed precisely by the biological/biographical could be guaranteed. Taken very simply. Lord Jim is a bildungsroman for its own
imperatives attached to the condition o f youth.
age, in which we can see the traditional protagonist, one who embodies a progres
Lord Jim uses mixed temporalities and ironic frame narratives to encode and to
sive or linear model of history, getting eclipsed by the protagonist who registers the
debunk the colonialist dream o f endless youth, giving us a self-detonating fantasy
Contradictions of an era split into multiple and conflicting temporalities o f under
that reveals itself as a coded critique o f imperial time-regimes along the lines of
and overdevelopment. As the model o f national-industrial emergence becomes
Johannes Fabians Time and the Other. The exoticized and dehistoricized position obsolete in Europe, and is barely emergent in the global South, the novel as a form
o f the native has been the focal point, naturally, for a number of recent postcolonial
registers the faltering power of the nationhood-adulthood allegory to give shape to
readings of the novel, too, though such readings must contend with the fact that
historical time and to social transformation. Lord Jim is an Edward Waverley for
Conrad has already thrown doubt upon Marlows fantasy of native life. In a recent
the early twentieth century: not the national hero, but the postnational anti-hero.
positioning of Lord Jim within the long history of globalizing and abstracting dis
Given the magnetic power o f Marlows fantasy of endless youthwith its post
courses in Southeast Asia, Sanjay Krishnan pays close and welcome attention to the
ponement of narrative closure, existential maturity, and historical modernization,
elements of the text that appear to rehistoricize native subjectivity by decentering
the challenge for Conrad is to bring the Patusan episode to a meaningful close. One
the model of interiority as the sole marker of historical being (334). In a sense,
Can sense the strain in the denouement of Lord Jim, even as one can appreciate the
o f course, the model o f European subjectivity remains at the center of the text, but
thematic symmetry of the Gentleman Brown subplot, in which the spell of Jims
94 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH XOUTH/DEATH; SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 95

semicharmed colonial life is broken. Brown is the right doppelganger for Jiin. Like not so much occlude the global division of labor as draw attention to the standard
Jim, Jie |s a pseudo-aristocratic figure marooned at the ends o f the earth; but unlike languages and story lines by which that division of labor is hidden from Western
Jim, he represents the buccaneer spirit o f empirea life of pure action with little eyes. ,The novel is also realist in the Bakhtinian sense that it assimilates to the hero
Romantic self-contemplation or chivalric window-dressing. Conrad carmot resist real historical time just at the moment that a progressive or linear interpreta
th, opportunity to split the atom of Goethean character once more and reveal to tion, of jvorld history centered in Europe was being eclipsed by a heterochronic
us Jhe explosive and tragic results of this active/passive dyad (Brown/Jim). Brown and multipolar model of global history. The problematic of uneven (colonial)
confronts Jim at the point o f Jims weak integration into Marlows code o f impe- developmentas figured in Patusanis not just reabsorbed by Conrad into the
riaj/uling-class values, and thereby makes Jim fall prey to the colonial forces he metanarrative of progressive modernization, but begins to break down the fibers
had hoped to redeem. As if taking its cue from the ruthless Brown, the narrative of tJi^L metanarrative, exposing its contradictions in the medium of an anach
bangs along toward the e n i with a speed that is jarring after three hundred pages ronic modernist style. In that spirit, we can take African Farm and Lord Jim as
of Marlows philosophical cud-chewing. As the windy narrator himself observes, globally m im e tic texts wherein the mix o f antidevelopmental and developmental
in th,e final part of Jims story, events move fest without a c^eek" (331). Destiny logicrevealed through the characterology of the stunted protagonistpoints to
bursty into the temporal vacuum o f Jims Patusan life, aijd'death comes quickly in a an uneasy generic g r a f t i n g of new metahistorical knowledge into older European
tragic sequence of battlefield miscues and cross-cultural blunders. Jim ends where njo4els of the bildungsroman.
Schreiners Lyndall does: He cannot age, but neither can he step outside the flow of I have so far suggested that the troping of colonial anachronism (both under-
historical time, so he follows the same circuit from frozen youth to sudden death. deyejopment in colonized spaces and uneven development across the colonial
With the full sequence of events, from Patna to Patusan and afterward, in view, yiofld-system) is a crucial dimension of Lord Jim, and that its ideological signifi
we can see that the romance of frozen colonial youth expresses a recalcitrance to cance is considerably complicated by the ironic distance established by Conrads
the teleologies of maturity/modemity, but that these teleologies cannot be fully use of Marlow as subnarrator. To describe in detail the branching effects of Conra-
bamished from the text. Ih e novel seems to absolutize the (Hegelian) idea of his dian irony within this interpretive scheme, it is helpful to track Marlow as both a
torical teleology as predicated on the diffusion of European modernity, yet exposes connoisseur of irony and an object of it. Moving out of Patusan proper and further
that idea to a rigorous and ironic critique from within. At an earlier stage o f the into the frame narratives of Lord Jim, we get a clear blueprint of the newly charged
argument, I described Jims youth as a sign of timelessness or absent history, but if meaning of bildungsroman conventions at the moment of their highly self-con
history is missing from Marlows depiction of Jim, it is not by any means missing scious redeployment in modernist writing and in the force field o f the colonial
from Conrads depiction of Marlow. Reading Lord Jim now, from the vantage point contact zone. Reflecting on his own story, Marlow is aware that he has constructed
of our moment in the long process of globalization, I think we can see the text as Jim as a symbol not just of lost youth and lost ideals, but o f an even more general
a document that records a certain kind of historical pressure on the individualis interruption of historical time. Here Marlow describes the effect of leaving Patusan
tic novel as the master genre of modernity, and as a metageneric work of art that and its composed image of Jim and Jewel:
blends stalled and accelerated time-schemes in order to project the story of West
I had turned away from the picture and was going back to the world where
ernization as both an impossible and an inevitable discourse of progress.^
events move, men change, light flickers, life flows in a clear stream, no mat
To put this another way, we need to reclaim the critical realism of Lord Jim
ter whether over mud or stones.
as a novel of globalization as against the Jamesonian claim that Conrad mysti (286)
fies into style and subjectivity the actual conditions of the colonial world-system
circa 1900. In a recent reinterpretation, John Marx reads the novel as continuous Marlow sets the opposition between a static and pictorial timelessness (the
with the tradition o f the industrial condition of England novel, insistingI think Patusan chronotope) and the grim necessity of change and motionan almost
persuasivelythat it does not disguise or stylize labor and production into a m od dhematic onrush o f flickering light, frame giving way to frame without stop.
ernist dazzle of absences, but shows them, as they are being transformed, by the And this flow of time bears down on the self hard enough to threaten the lux
objective processes of high imperialism (15). Lord Jim is a realist novel that does ury o f an ethical or philosophical calibration o f experience (whether over mud
YOUTH/DEATH; SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 97
96 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

assimilated the same laws of endless motion in the form of a romantic idealism,
or stones). Marlow, as Conrads surrogate, appears to accept the mantle o f an
existentially conceived concept o f history, and also to reflect that concept back forever immature.
feut of course the reason Marlow cannot countenance Jims idealism is not,
into the formal struggle between style (static, pictorial, impressionistic) and the'
finally, that it represents an opposite value, but that it so closely mirrors his own
flow'of history/plot. Through Marlow, Conrad reflects, in other words, on the
disguised idealism, which threatens to destabilize his professed pragmatism.
tension between scene and story that is the basic literary code for all the larger
Marlows structure of feeling (anxiety because he cannot integrate ideaUsm and
oppositions between youth and age, illusion and disillusion, the colonial romance
pragmatism) gives us the subjective or emotional correlate to the problematic of
of Patusan as frozen time and the imperial reality of Patusan as raw material for
.colonial (under)development. Identifjdng schizophrenically with both the urge
inevitable modernization.^
to celebrate Jim/Patusan as signs of an alternative to Western modernity and to
As a character, Marlow has deeply ambivalent views that are themselves set off
tcknowledge their final vulnerability to the discipline of history (qua Western
and framed by a further set of narrative displacements. Even before Marlows yiew-
modernity), Marlow must be understood as a figure who embodies colonial con
point is qualified externally, we find him doubting his own claims and ifiotives. No
tradictions rather than a detached mind who observes them.
wonder, since, for example, he insists on hard work as the-itieans to redemption,
'Conrad sets Marlows illusions inside a chain of related figures (youth, idealism,
but appears to spend most o f his time and energy on ministering rather quix
cdlonial space, arrested development) for which Jim is the standard-bearer. But the
otically to Jims destiny. He virtually declares his self-division on every page as he
more significant romantic is Marlow, and we can hear this quite clearly in the major
wants to discipline Jim to the wheel of history but also seems to enjoy and even to
chords of the earlier Marlow story, Youth; For me all the East is contained in
in f la t e Jims florid romantic ideaUsm. Marlow uses Jim as a screen to prevent him
that vision of my youth.. . . Only a moment; a moment of strength, of romance, of
self from realizing his own naivefo, that is, from confronting the fact that he has
glamour, of youth! (43). The conceptual overlapping of the East. . . that vision. . .
m a i n t a i n ed an enchanted worldview by transferring his romantic impulses from
my youth captures the distinctive flexibility of arrested development as a political
the individual hero to masculine collective whose ethos is the solidarity o f the
(East), stylistic (vision), and existential (youth) term. Youth and Asia are thematic
craft (139). Although Marlow plays the role of grizzled pragmatist, his illusions in
pretexts for a text of impressionist style, as Conrad reveals with greater depth mov
many ways are deeper and more durable than are Jims own; one might say that it
ing from Youth to Lord Jim, where Marlows idealism occasions an autocritical
is Marlows innocence that is most at stake in Lord Jim.
assessment of the limits of modernist style framed in terms of colonial youth. 'Thus
Marlows ambivalent oscillation between pragmatism and romanticism has a
the operative fantasy of a colonized people without history figured in the heros
distinctively imperial cast to it, and bears out some of Hannah Arendts observa
Immaturity is not the soft ideological underbelly of an imperialist novel but rather
tions about imperial service in the age of Rhodes. Arendt claims that imperialism
the subject of the novels ironization of Marlow.
produced an effect whereby specific economic or poHtical goals were increasingly
Lord Jim revises the bildungsroman not by inverting its logic into a European
displaced by ceaseless self-justifying expansion, a law of endless development;
tomance of white lordship, but by laying bare the tension between old allegories of
No matter what individual qualities or defects a man may have, once he progress in the European novel and new facts of radically uneven development in
has entered the maelstrom of an unending process of expansion, he will, as the colonial world-system. Ihat complex double act becomes more apparent as the
it were, cease to be what he was and obey the laws of the process, identify novel pushes beyond Marlows unsatisfactory language of sentimental education
himself with anonymous forces that he is supposed to serve in order to keep and illusions perdues and turns to two other viewpoints that outflank Marlows;
the whole process in motion; he will think of himself as mere function, and those o f the privileged man and Stein.* The transfer of narrative perspective
eventually consider such functionaUty, such an incarnation of the dynamic from Marlow to the privileged man is a traditional point of interest for formal
trend, his highest achievement. Analyses o f Lord Jim. By effecting that transfer, Conrad qualifies Marlows view
(Arendt 215) point and deepens the meaning of Jims Patusan existence. For the privileged man
is a skeptic, who doubts that Patusan could have redeemed Jim. You said also,
Maflow seems to have assimilated just these laws of imperial capitalism in the
form of'a functionalist pragmatism, always already mature, and Jim seems to have Marlow writes to him.
98 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
YOUTH/DEATH; SCHREINER AND CONRAD IN THE CONTACT ZONE 99

that giving your life up to them {them meaning all of mankind with skins
are finally swept into those metanarratives. Lord Jim, precisely in its objectification
brown, yellow, or black in colour) was like selling your soul to a brute. You
of the soul-nation allegory, spotfights its inability to reconcile the demands o f the
contended that that kind of thing was only endurable and enduring when
romantic soul (allegorized in Patusan as the exotic refnainder of colonial differ
1?ased on a firm conviction in the truth of ideas racially our own, in whose
ence)'and the demands of the social code (ideas racially dur own understood as
name are established the order, the morality o f an ethical progress.
a feith in secular progress).
(2 9 3 ) Lord Jim takes pains to objectify all o f its elements: first, the romantic narrative
o f Jims self-image, then the faux-skeptical view of Marlotvs narrative of Jims
Ideas racially our own: a volatile phrase secreted inside a web of prepositions (an
im'age, and, finally, its own framing devices, taken as a way to give aesthetic form to
ethos based on a conviction in the truth o /a n idea), its grammatical position as
Theicopresence o f two conflicting value systems. Marlow works at a synthesis that
complex as its narratolo^cal one (the phrase is relayed to an unnamed subnarratQr
canilot be realized, and the privileged man arrives to articulate its impossibility,
by another unnamed subnarrator, the privileged m an, from a lettej addressed to
th e fundamental historylessness of Jim-in-Patusan as a colonial romance does
the latter by Marlow who is, in turn, reproducing the privileged mans words from
nof'square with the force of historical progress embodied in imperialism. But the
an earlier conversation). It is hard to imagine a more indirect pathway from author
noVel does not want to give the final word to the privileged mans Eurocentric
to reader for such important words. The highly filtered presentation of Marlows
concept of order and progress either. To the battle between synthesis and non
voice reveals a deep ideological strain in Conrads thinking about race, empire,
synthesis we have a guided response in the form of Stein, who appears to stand
and the politics of ethical progress. Marlow wishes to read Jim as redeeming
for an ironic narrativization o f the stalled dialectic between developmental and
a notion of heroism that he, Marlow, barely credits but cannot abandon sipce it
anfidevelopmental time in the novel.
glorifies the motivations underlying his own imperial career. The privileged
Stein is the one figure in the novel who seems to have stabilized his own iden-
refuses to view Jims Patusan life in terms of progress, since it appears to have been
tity'in terms of the demands of action and of contemplation, of passionate ide-
a temporarily charmed exercise in intercultural and interracial romance, a demod-
alishi and mature pragmatism. More to the intertextual point, he is a German'
ernizing of Tuan Jim rather than a modernization of the native subject.
associated by direct reference to the literary antecedent of Goethe (and to the 1848
Bewildered, Marlow falls back on his blanket skepticism (I a ffirm n o t h i n g ")
fdvolutionswhich Lukacs takes as the threshold event that brings the aurtain
He sidles up interrogatively to an alternative viewpoint, not quite breaking faith
down on European realism). Steins authority in the text stems in part from the
with the progressivist values of the privileged man: The point, however, is that
fact that he has lived the jungle adventures and intercultural love plots of Jim and
o f all mankind Jim had no dealings but with himself, and the question is whether
traversed them, progressed through them, to arrive at a matmre standpoint. Only
at the last he had not confessed to a faith mightier than the laws o f order and
Stein in that sense could be said to mediate or to modulate across the competing
progress (293). Does Jim, at the last, embody a feith beyond the laws of order and
temporalities of delayed and enforced development. Stein idealizes neither the ide
progress? In what would such a faith consist, for Marlow? It is here that we reach
alism of permanent youth, nor the disillusionment of resigned adulthoodunlike
the tender points of Marlows mind, the place where his own sense o f contradic
Marlow, who idealizes both. Citing Goethes play Torquato Tasso, Stein describes
tion is almostalmost!as acute as the novels. He has submitted himself to a
to Marlow a moment when he felt that he held the meaning of his own existence
logic of linear history naturalized as existential time, and to the goals o f imperial
unambiguously in his own hands. He embodies, for Marlow and for us, the para
trade and modernization naturalized as masculine action itself. But he has col
digmatic fulfillment of the Goethean bildungsroman, but he also sees that fulfill
lected a secret and explosive cargo of doubt, amounting almost to resistance or
ment as temporary, as part of the narrative of a life, not as an artificially eternalized
subversion. By crediting Jims immaturity as a meaningful alternative to the laws
moment of closure. Paul Kirschner has persuasively tracked the thematic reso
of order and progress, as a kind o f anachronistic romance of the heroic soul, he
nances o f Goethes Tasso in the Stein portion of the text. The Goethean theme, as
identifies with the underdeveloped periphery as a zone outside the existpritial and
Kirschner notes, is the battle between strong imagination and the actual terms of
political purview o f European modernity. However, even if peripheral colonies
existence, a battle resolved in the bildungsroman of Wilhelm M eister by a compro
such as Patusan temporarily resist the forces of modernity/historicization, they
mise between the two. Steins fusion o f practical intellect and romantic idealism
100 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

deques residual element o f a functional Goethean plot o f self-formation and


self-integration in Lord Jim. It is the device that recurs at the end o f the novel
to throw into relief the stalled dialectic o f the main plot, where the oppositions
bety^e^n youth and age, revolutionary change and historical meaning, remain
umeconciled.
Th^ final triangulation of Marlow and Stein around the deliquescent figure of
Jiiljs youth gives the close o f Lord Jim a strong echo of an intertext even more imme
diate than any Goethean resonance: Oscar Wildes The Picture o f Dorian Gray. It is
surprising that few critics have directly compared Lord Jim to Dorian Gray since
Conrad is so clearly mihing some o f the same territory of an eroticized homospcial -
transaction organized aroimd the figure o f an eternally fair-haired English youth
who serves tp embody the projected desires and lost illusicais of two older men. 4. Souls of Men under
Beyond the obvious morphological correspondences between these two ratinnjr^i
fictions of exorbitant youth, there is a deeper set o f relations in which the devel
Capitalism: Wilde, Wells,
opment of modernist style, emergent in the aestheticized language o f both Wilde
and Conrad, works in close relation to the figure of an eroticized and idealized
and the Anti-Novel
English youth. Both situate their golden youths in the middle of an increasingly
global system o f commercial exchange and commodification, and in both youth
No life is spoiled but one whose growth is arrested.
itself stands for the slow unwinding of the soul-nation allegory o f progress. Turn
Wilde, The Picture o f Dorian Gray
ing to chapter 4, we move firom the Afro-Asian contact zone back to the Anglo
phone metropolis o f London in order to track the m otif of endless youth first in I am, in a sense, decay.
the gothic protomodernism of Wilde and then in the satirical semimodernism of Wells, Tono-Bungay
H. G. Wells.

What does a novel look like when its protagonist engages in permanent self
development with no obvious end, no external aim, no vocational or libidinal
closure, no horizon o f bourgeois self-discipline or social compromise? How
does such a novel, a tale o f endless becoming, function as a narrative? The
^Kipling, Schreiner, and Conrad texts examined in previous chapters provided
some answers, revealing various subgeneric combinations and encapsulated
narratives, all organized in relation to the geography o f the frontier within the
colonial world-system. Meanwhile, other late nineteenth- and early twentieth-
century Anglophone writers were reconceiving, even deforming, the biograph
ical plot o f the bildungsroman from within that systems metropolitan zone.
Oscar Wildes The Picture o f D orian Gray (1891), for example, gives the m otif of
frozen youth its archetypal expression, depicting a man charmed into bound
less beautiful youth until the horrifying moment when the conceit crumbles

101
102 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM: WILDE. WELLS. AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 103

andas in Lord Jim and The Story o f an African F a r m -s n a p s back into sudden dida<-tirism of The Picture o f Dorian Gray. While Dorian Gray initially gives its plot
death. ovel: to a fantasy of eternal youth and permanent Hellenic indulgence in sensory
Wildes novel has come to stand for an entire fin de si^cle shift away from pleasure, it is in many waysas critics have often observedan almost moralistic
the social realism of the mainstream Victorian novel and toward various gothic, fext driven by an vmcompromising sense that Dorians experiment cannot but end in
decadent, sensational, or natmrahst forms. In fact, Wilde himself, in The Critic as <lfeaster.3qhe beautiful Dorian of Basil Hallwards imagination, a living icon of youth
Artist, an essay written almost contemporaneously with Dorian Gray, speculates arid beauty, becomes in the end a kind of subject-object monster of reification. Or, to
on the branching path o f Enghsh fiction; He who would stir us now by fiction put it another way, in keeping with the economic logic of Wildes aesthetic, the soul
must either give us an entirely new background, or reveal to us the soul of man in who begins to live as a pure and ageless artwork ends up embodying the logic of pure
its innermost workings (Complete Works 1054). Wilde goes on to say that while commodification, hollowing out his will, and collapsing into a dead thing.
there remains much to be done in the sphere of introspection (innermgst work What would it be like, though, to organize a novel from the opposite end of this
ings), Kiplings 1880s Indian fiction had already begun to gfye the entirely new tfkjectory, so that the very premise of the text is the idea that the protagonists inner
background, with its superb flashes o f vulgarity (1055): Here Wilde describes the life is already fully shaped by the logic of reification? Where the commodified soul !
forked future of English fiction in precisely the terms that Lukdcsor Edmund was not revealed to itself in gothic paroxysm at the moment of closure, but taken
Wilson for that matterwould use to model the situation of the modernist turn: ,as the center of a biographical plot in a tale dedicated from the start to the unstable
He proposes, that is, a binary model posing objective, journalistic, or naturalistic laws o f modern marketing, a life story shaped by the boom-and-bust of capitalist
works against subjective or symbolist works.' speculation, where characterization and commodification cannot be separated? In
As noted in the previous chapter, the Lukacsian notion of a crisis of bourgeois fact, we have such a book: H. G. Wellss Tono-Bungay. In this novel of ideas, a self-
realism retains a certain explanatory force in English studiesdespite its norma styled Romance of Commerce (73), the protagonist, George Ponderevo, tells his
tive continental account of the 1848 revolutions as the turning point and despite Hfe story as the story of the prototypical modern commodity, a feke tonic named
its inattention to sex and genderbecause it partially confirms the shape of a late Tono-Bungay. Like its real-life source, Coca-Cola, Tono-Bungay is an elixir that
Victorian gothic/naturalist canon now largely enshrined in Anglo-American liter floods the market on a crest of advertising hype and that dissolves the social bonds
ary studies. Lukdcss account o f this literary-historical shift holds that novelistic and psychic rites of passage that organize traditional biographical fictions. Our hero,
realism breaks down into two strainsthe naturalist-objectivist and the romantic- Ponderevo, subordinates himself to the cause of Tono-Bungay, becoming the man of
subjectivistas European writers register a broad philosophical and intellectual commercial action stripped of orderly self-cultivation. Like Dorian Gray, but from
faltering in the concept o f progress.' The robust productive life of the bourgeois the opposite direction, Ponderevo transforms the pedagogical ideal of self-making
revolution weakens and dissipates, just as the robust materialist concept of com into a deformed plot of arrested development. A scientific young man with artis
bined and uneven development splits into two inadequate parts: on the one hand, tic pretensions, Ponderevo mutates into a corporate hack who can sustain neither
the self-congratulatory dream of endless, Whiggish forward motion and, on the relationships nor vocations; even at the end, he caimot reconcile his inner needs
other, the irrationalist discourse o f decline and degeneration (Historical Novel with operative social conventions. Ponderevos lower-middle-dass science becomes
85.174). Where the great realists Goethe, Scott, Balzac, and Tolstoy managed to as corrupted as Dorians upper-middle-class art, generating parallel records of
produce heroes who incarnated Lukdcss Marxist-humanist concept of social prog antidevelopmental life stories, one based on the formless failure of continual self
ress,'the heroes of the late bourgeois novel become playthings of determinist social production and one based on the formless ftdlure of continual production.
principles oron the flip sidemere eccentrics trapped in the cell of the mind. Although Wilde and Wells are seldom analyzed in a comparative frame, then,
Oscar Wilde straddles the poles o f this binary model of fin de si^cle literary sub their signature fictions, Dorian Gray (1891) and Tono-Bungay (1909), taken as a
jectivity, working at the contradictions between commodified social relations and pair, capture the disintegration of realism into subjective (aestheticist) and objective
the utopian possibilities of an aesthetically grounded existence. The paradoxes and (naturahst) modes. In these two novels o f stunted youth, modern consumer culture
antinomies that Wilde gathers up, in all of his writing, between action and contem fully penetrates the plot of sociahzation, unraveling the culture-commerce compro
plation, or between production and consumption, animate and organize the gothic mise of the classic bildungsroman with particular clarity and throwing overboard the
104 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH SOULS of: MEN UNDER CAPITALISM: WILDE, WELLS. AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 105

{leterosexual marriage plpt as the presumed center of social reproduction.'* The corn- of Huysmanss A Reborns. We open in Basil Hallwards studio, redolent of roses,
p riso n makes further sense given that both writers were, during the 1890s, working dotted with Persian saddle-bags and silk curtains designed to produce a kind of
iAThe mode of post-Darwinian gothic didacticism. Given their shared interest in mpmentary Japanese effect (23). This kind of description has the effect of paus
4 egeneratipn, it may not be surprising that Wildes Dorian Gray and Wellss George ing or stalling the narrative: Wildes paragraphs often luxuriate in long sumptuous /
Ponderevo can betaken to represent the torn halves of the nineteenth-century bil- lifanies o f descriptive detail, directing the readers attention to sensory inventory
djmgsroman, the fission of the Goethean compromise between sensitive so'ut and rather than to plot, action, or even characterization. The combination of lyrical
dutiful citizen. As a deformed subject, the art-man Dorian Gray ends up quite neatly description, epigrammatic discourse, and dramatic dialogue that we find in the
mitidpating the commodity-man George Ponderevo: Both lives engender plots of opening chapter is characteristic of the entire textone reason it can be under
arrested development, of delay and decay, o f rise and fall, of vicious or absurd clo stood as a kind of anti-novel. The term anti-novel in my chapters title has this
sure. In both cases, the failed synthesis between commerce and culture is the subject restricted meaning of a novel organized, at the level of syntax and structure, as well
of the text, not just an incidental feature. In that sense, these two antidevelopmentd ^ .th e level of pjot and character, to delay and distort the linear temporality ^ d
texts together expose an unmediated contradiction betweenjhe'subjective world of narrative logic of biographical realism.'* Many critics have, naturally, attended to
cultural aspiration and the objective sphere of commqdified social relations. the basic antidevelopmental structure of Dorian Gray, butitjs less often noted that
But what is even more striking than the thematic convergence o f Wildean the texts Orientalist tropes cluster and thicken just at the points where Wilde needs
decay and Wellsian half-Ufe on the figure of the anachronic hero is the historical Break with the realist mode of presentation or the linear demands of traditional
convergence of the two novels as pictures of consumption and production in the plotting. In establishing the central supernatural conceit of Dorians gothic altera
age of empire. Wildes cosmopolitan decadence and Wellss global marketing give tion, for example, Wilde produces an ainbience of exotic indolence: The warm air
us what we might call the two faces o f postnational narrative, rendered in terms of seemed laden wjth spices. A bee flew in, and buzzed round the blue-dragon bowl
an overt crisis in the allegorization of the maturing soul linked to the modernizing (123). These Asian motifs are echoed in the opiated demimonde o f Dorians Lon
society. In the cases of Schreiner and Conrad, the nonaccumulation of wealth on don dockside prowls, the seedy underbelly of metropolitan commerce o f which
the underdeveloped colonial periphery provided an obvious andogue to stalled Basils studio is the perfumed. West End incarnation.
Bildung, but in the novels of Wilde and Wells, we find a different kind of economic Wilde perhaps sets a precedent here for Virginia Woolf, who, seeking to intro
logic: overconsumption and hyperproduction, respectively. The fascinating part of duce a break from realist conventions and Aristotelian unities in Orlando, also
the immediate Wilde-Wells comparison is that both of these economic problems makes use of Orientalist imagery to reroutemarredive time into descriptive delay, >/
sink contextual and thematic roots right down into the colonial world-system and to challenge and bend the organic conceits of the biographical plot. She plunges
both find vivid hterary expression in the m otif of stunted/endless youth, paced her reader into temporal disorientation and gender ambiguity during the most
with the swamping o f national histories by the boundless energy o f capitalisms Orientalist portions of the text, set in Constantinople (and inspired by W oolfs
global revolution, no wonder modernist fiction turned the inverted or exploded vicarious investment in Vita SackviUe-Wests journeys in Turkey and Persia). Shift
plot op progress to such trenchant symbolic ends. In the comparative analysis that ing Orlando from male to female body W oolf offers a riposte to the fiction of
follows here, we see Wilde and Wells ring their changes on the antidevelopmental masculine imperial adventure. Exoticizing distance seems to afford Woolf the nec
plot and reveal, from the perspective of the metropole, the increasing displace essary experimental license with the boundaries of fictional and sexual convention
ment of national by global frames o f reference for the British novel. to shrug off the imperatives of domestic realism. It is not hyperbolic to say that
a pair of Turkish trousers is the pivotal de'vice that allows W oolf to pull off her
gender-shifting plot with a subtle nonchalance.
Unripe Time: Dorian Gray and Metropolitan Youth Wilde likewise sustains his conceit of prolonged youth without experiential
depth by g lu tt in g Dorian Grays senses with a continual parade of aesthetic stimula
]ii,D o ria n Gray, Wilde sets an antidevelopmental fable within a specifically tion, drawing substantially on what Regenia Gagnier calls the exotica of the world
metropolitan and global economy, taking his cue from the exoticizing consumerism outside the West (no). Following the arrest of Dorians aging, the long descriptive
SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM; WILDE, WELLS. AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 107
106 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

For a season: This connoisseur o f youth, unlike his deluded pupil, recognizes
interludes thtif constitute the novels middle offer a serious artistic challenge to
th |t youths value and its impermanence cannot be prized apart. As Douglas Mao
Wilde: hoW to keep the story interesting. In fact, as Jeff Nunokawa has aptly and
puts it: One of the lessons of the novel thus seems to be that it is easy to mistake
tersely noted, the book is boring (71). Dorian Gray is boring for the same rea
anjjm povenshm g failure of becoming (a lack o f growth) for a fruitful resistance to
son that both Kim and Lord Jim (despite their exotica) are boring: Their plots are
becoming (an evasion of narrowing and ossification) (93). Indeed Lord Henry
static'ahd antidevelopmeiital. Forheaders trained to expect strong emplotment
will later give voice to what amounts to the moral of the tale: No Ufe is spoiled
and chafacterological progress of the kind typically found in Austen, Bronte, or
but one whose growth is arrested (102). Wildes conceit is to set experience and
Dickens, the transfer of interest to symbolic, hnguistic, ideological, and descriptive
sensual pleasure free from the limits of biographical and psychological accumula-
re^sters cannot fully make up for the stalled development of a passive hero.
lio n , indeed from existential time itself: Eternal youth, infinite passion, pleasures
Dorians long expferiment in urban delectation requires, on the supply side,_,
subtle and secret, wild joy and wilder sinshe was to have all these things (135).
a rich world city and the form o f cultural privilege that Raymond WUHShs has
As he explores the narrative outcome of this Faustian bargain, Wilde gives us the
called metropolitan perception, that is, the magnetic concentration of wealth and
canonical and archetypal laje Victorian account of the dangers of this bad infin
power in imperial capitals and the simultaneous cosmopolitan access to a wide
ity, precisely the dream-cum-nightmare o f infinite self-transformation that was
variety of subordinate cultures (Politics 44). Describing Dorians years of pro
dissolved by the realistic compromise of the Goethean bildungsroman. Even if, as
tracted hedonism, Wilde emphasizes the multicultural stimuli and underscores
Lord Henry opines, the aim of life is self-development, one cannot realize ones
the appropriative (imperialist) dimension of Dorians consumerism: When he
yoqth except by letting it come to an end (41).
studies perfumes, he turns to burning odorous gums from the East; when music
If Lord Henry maintains a Goethean-Schillerian ideal o f self-cultivation and
grabs his attention, he stages concerts featuring mad gypsies, yellow-shawled
self-fulfillment, then Dorian stands as an object lesson in the warping o f that
Tunisians, grinning Negroes [who] beat monotonously upon copper drums, and
idqal.' Wilde too associates the ideal of self-making with German romanticism;
shm turbaned Indians (165). He gathers from all parts o f the world the strangest
in The Critic as Artist, he insists on self-cultivation as against any kind of insti
instruments that could be found, either in the tombs of dead nations or among
tutional education: Self-cultmre is the true ideal of man. Goethe saw it, and the
the few savage tribes that have survived contact with Western civihzations, and
immediate debt that we owe to Goethe is greater than the debt we owe to any man
loved to touch and try them (165-66). Dorians senses crave the variety of world
since Greek days (Complete Works 1043-44). Goethes pattern for the bildungsro
music, and his long sensory bath requiresor at least imfolds most meaningfully
man depended on the integration o f apparently incompatible value systems and
withinthe urban environment of the imperial metropolis, where the wealth of
time schemes into a single narrative frame organized around the pattern o f devel
dead nations and savage tribes filters in and remains available for consumption.
opment or growth. Dorian cannot reconcile or even countenance the intermixing
Orientalism and metropohtan perception are cultural predicates for the key
o f progress and decay, the integration of acculturation and decadence into a single
ideas of pleasure, beauty, and consumption in the novel; ideas such as Hellenism,
organic body or narrative form: Culture and corruption, he says at one point, I
hedonism, aestheticism, and individualism (the last borrowed from Wildes own
have known something of both. It>seems terrible to me now that they should ever
lexicon in The Soul of Man under Socialism). Such anti-utilitarian doctrines are
be found together. For I have a new ideal, Harry. I am going to alter. I think I have
both practiced and embodied by the ageless Dorian Gray, who literahzes some of
altered (24?). Dorians alteration, like Gregor Samsas metamorphosis, is a nar
the throwaway dicta uttered by Lord Henry Wotton. You have the most marvellous
rative device that opens up antidevelopmental potential, displacing the organicist
youth, and youfh is the one thing worth having, says Lord Henry. He continues:
allegory of individual and social growth with an unnatural and unclockable pro
Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses.. . . Ah! cess of overripening and underripening. The resultin Kafka as in Wildeis a
realize your youth while you have it___A new Hedonismthat is what our failed synthesis that displaces the lynchpin temporal compromise between youth
century wants. You might be its visible symbol. With your personality there and adulthood, freedom and social constraint, narrativity and closure.
is nothing you could not do. The world belongs to you for a season. A novel that fixates on youth can only draw attention to its own quixotic effects,
its own estrangement from the inherited nineteenth-century techniques o f the
(45-46)
108 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM; WILDE. WELLS, AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 109

c6fning-of-age tale. Dorian has, in a morally probative way, taken the notion of a^ a country whose beauty is unnaturally preserved in a green and frozen youth
pernj^ent youth rather too literally. Wilde has, in an artistically potent way, taken (5^). The preservation of a green and frozen Ireland occurs of course through the
it just literally enough to reveal the compositional weakness of the old bildungsro- discursive and material effects of a colonial regime, subsequently transferred in
man as a symbolic devicethe arbitrariness of its closural forms, the ideological part to the self-antiquating offices o f many postcolonial Irish nationalisms. At the
iSatchwork of its*way of rounding oif existential time into adulthood (understood levH of narrative structure, the trope of greenness or unripeness yields interesting
as a kind o f plateau)and, as I have suggested in earlier chaptersrounding off new results when grafted into the reaUst novel. Like his followers Joyce and Bowen,
constant social transformation into the shapely time of nationhood. With the Wilde gravitated toward the French model o f Flaubert, that is, toward highly styl-
Doriari Gray conceit, Wilde manages to lay bare the negative potential o f a never- feed scenes of bathos and enervation as against the more linear and robustly pro-
ending story of self-development by steering it away from the telos o f adulthood "^essive models embodied by Stendhal and affirmed by Lukacs. Wildes investment
and from the spatiotemporal containment of the nation. in .the flaneur/aesthete figure taken from French modernism also sets the pattern
For this reason it is useful to zero in on the Orientalist tropes that help Wilde f6r-Joyces Stephen Dedalus, who follows Dorian Gray and oscillates between
suspend noveUstic time: The cultural coding there h in t e d the symbolic value appreciating the fugitive beauty o f the city and delving into the grisly racks of sor
o f a culturally m ediated break from the great English tradition o f realist fiction. did sinners and splendid sins (Dorian Gray 73)." As Dorian shuttles between
Certainly Dorian Gray codes developmental imperatives (in all their normative contrition and delectation, his inability to integrate moral and sensual experience
and heteronormative force) as mainstream, middle-clkss; English ideology. That anticipates much of the adolescent middle o f Joyces Portrait.
is, Wildes narratorlike Wilde himself in The Soul of Man under Socialism As powerful as recent insights into the Irish Wilde have been, it remains impor
seems to oppose the compromise between bourgeois convention and aristocratic tant to tread delicately in this territory of national identification, especially when it
cultivation, hoping to see the latter sprung free from a particularly English insis comes to the attribution of literary quahties or ideological positions to one side or
tence on work and wealth. Lord Henry gives voice to this view in a brief bit of rep another of the Irish/An^o divide. For one thing, though I have already begun to sug
artee with the Duchess of Monmouth, where he derides the bourgeois practicality gest that Wilde, like so many Irish intellectuals of his time, associated England with
and narrow-mindedness o f England. The duchess rephes: philistine, utilitarian, and grubbily materiahst thought, he also insistsin Dorian

I believe in the race, she cried. Gray and elsewhereon a strongly materiahst understanding of even the most ethe

It represents the survival of the pushing. real and aestheticized human endeavors.' For another, the influence of urban deca

It has development. dent styles and motifs distilled from Flaubert and Baudelaire extends to Enghsh and

Decay fescinates me more. American modernisms as well as to Irish; the rewriting of the nineteenth-century
reahst action hero into the passive subject of naturahst and modernist fiction is an
(23 2 )
event with wide hterary-historical apphcation, and our investigation of the colonial
Here is the core dyad o f the noveldecay versus developmentand Wilde frames antidevelopmental fiction is but one part of that history.
the temporal crux of the matter in terms of English self-construction as the lead Moreover, since it is so difficult a biographical task to sort out Wildes own
ing edge o f modernization, a race o f producers and developers. ironic mix o f Anglo-Irish attitudes and afiiliations, we should perhaps concentrate
This understanding of progress as an English fetishfor both world-making our attention on the form of Dorian Gray in order to avoid both schematic politi
and novel-makingmay help explain why Wilde, and in his Irish wake, Joyce, cal intentionalism and ethnic or postcolonial pigeonholing. One effect of pair
Beckett, Flann OBrien, and Elizabeth Bowen, offered implicitly critical or dis ing Wilde with Wells in this chapter is to suggest that the formal problematic of
tanced views on classic English realism and contributed so much to the larger the stalled Bildung plot runs acrossand indeed renders blurrynational lines
modernist project that I have described here as the antidevelopmental novel." in modernism, from English (Woolf, Wells) to Creole (Rhys) to Anglo-German-
Vicki Mahaffey has proposed that Wildes attraction to youth and underdevelop South African (Schreiner) to Anglo-Polish (Conrad) to Anglo-Indian (Kipling)
ment, so central to the organization of D orian Gray, stems not just from a moral, to Anglo-Irish (Wilde, Bowen) to Irish (Joyce).^ All of the writers listed here
sexual, and aesthetic fascination with innocence but also from his view of Ireland experimented with a radically uneven temporality assimilated into their narrative
110 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM; WILDE, WELLS, AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 111

compositions, indeed into the very language of human_ interiorityand all of tl|e underdetermined self and the overdetermined self, the would-be free aesthete
them,pi;oduced antidevelopmental fictions that seem to encode the historical and ^ d the mere naturalist plaything of fate, reflect the same erosion o f the balance
geographic^ dissonances of the age of empire. betvyeen individual desire and social conditions.'
,^_My guiding claim to this point is that Wildes D orian Gray conspicuously Wildes plot, like the bifurcated ones we saw in both Schreiner and Conrad, is
exppses the progressive logic of the realist novel, using the trope o f youth that neither a bildungsroman nor an antibildungsroman, but an unorthodox combina
does not age in the proper temporal order. That exposure o f outmoded and tion o f conflicting narrative principles set into a kind of interference pattern. Plot
contradictory generic conventipns is, in Wildes text, shot through with historical returns to claim sovereignty over the fate of Dorian Grays body, just as it does in
traces.of, Anglo-Irish colonialism and wider reference to uneven development the fin a l pages of Lord Jim. The suppression of existential and historical force that
in.the imperial world-system (remember the tombs o f dead nations). It is not is^dperative in the middle of the novel produces a kind of temporal rebound effect,
that Wilde uses Dorians golden youth to assert the value o f the Irish imagi so that even with the nonmimetic or gothic energies of the novel taking center
nation and its spiritualized backwardness against the materialized progress of stage for so long, the form manages to accommodate both nonprogressive and
the, English mind, nor even that he champions Dorians bohemian flight from progressive temporalities. Wildes combination of time schemes thematized in the
existential time and bourgeois values. In fact, as readers can fairly plainly see, form of the art novel sets a precedent for any number of high modernist Kunstler-
Wilde narrates the vengeance o f clock time on the decadent conceit o f Dorian romane by figures as diverse as Joyce and Stein, Maugham and H. D., Lawrence and
I Grays magical youth. Here is the moral self-recrimination of the final chapter, in Woolf, in which an ironic narrative voice manages both to champion and ironize
which Wilde voices Dorians thoughts about his error, and implies the necessity the values of the marginalized aesthete. In the Anglophone modernist novel, bour
o f organic time: geois socialization is never quite defeated, one might say, by bohemian dissent.
Dorian Graylike the other stalled youth novels discussed so faroperates as
Ah! in what a monstrous moment of pride and passion he had prayed that
a, metageneric project that both deploys and objectifies bildungsroman conven
the portrait should bear the burden o f his days, and he keep the unsullied
tions. It forces readers to confront what is most strange and contradictory about
splendour of eternal youth! All his feilure had been due to that. Better for
the biographical conceit as a way of organizing fiction, and about the ideological
him that each sin of his life had brought its sure, swift penalty along with
commitment to progress (for both subject and nation) that such a conceit seems
i t . . . . What was youth at its best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shal
traditionally to have entailed.'^
low moods and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery? Youth had
What I described in the previous chapter as the return of historicist or devel
spoiled him.
opmental logic with a vengeance (a kind of reality principle that challenges the
(260)
fentasy of endless youth) occurs here too, as objective social conditions make
Dorian Gray ends with the revelation that the logical endpoint o f an experi themselves felt in Wildes text when organic-biographical time whips back into
ment in pure hedonism is not freedom but its opposite. When people indulge in place, Hrising down the long urban adventure of Dorian Gray. However, the novel
sensual excess, they lose the freedom of their will. They move to their terrible should not be understood as a mere encapsulation of endless youth; there is more
end as automatons move. Choice is taken from them (226). The narrator triply heye than just a realist text that has returned to absorb and sanitize the antipro
reiterates the point here, betraying a certain amount of eagerness to balance the gressive or antinarrative materials of gothic romance. Here, as in chapter 3s read
novels sensualism with a moralizing kick. The dream of a life lived with unregu ing of Lord Jim, the critical concept of interference is perhaps more apt than the
lated desire, outside the reified world of work, social obligation, and social con cbncept o f encapsulation to describe the unresolved dialectic between youth and
vention, produces not a beautiful soul, but a sensual robot. The fetal concluding age. Both Conrad and Wilde ironize their own resident ironists, Marlow and Lord
scenes remind us that The Picture o f Dorian Gray is not ^ decadent novel but a Henry.' Neither work is designed to be put to rest by an aging observer who neatly
book about a decadent novel: Huysmanss A Rebours, the infamous novel without wraps up the folly of bloody youth; both unsettle the authority and legitimacy of
a plot that bedevils Dorian (i56).5 In that sense, Wildes gothic novel o f ideas the Marlow/Lord Henry position because they do not quite want to abandon the
seems to affirm Lukdcss model of the narrative crisis of bourgeois realism: Both value of fuU-time, never-ending self-cultivation.
SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM; WILDE. WELLS, AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 113
112 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

''* Both texts use frozen ybuth, I think, to question developmental paradigms of
Few critics have explored Conrads role as an inheritor of the Dorian Gray
all kinds, including what Lee Edelman has called the absolute value of repro
m otif and k mediating figure between the Wilde of the 1890s and the Wells o f the
ductive futurism (3); however, Wildes text advances the queer critique of prog
ipoos.'s Both Dorian Gray and Lord Jim center on an eternally fiair-haired boy, pro-
ress and development with more intensity. The marriage plot is aborted and
totypically and phenotypically English, who becomes the object of fescination for
decentered with even more alacrity in Wilde than in Conrad. The adolescence/
ethically worn older men contemplating their own lapsed romanticism. Consider
maturity binary operates in the texts as a coded version of the queer/straight
an early description from Wilde, which might well have been excerpted from the
binary, and Marlows investment in the salvage ideology of professional solidarity
ojiening chapter of Lord Jim: His frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was
cannot be separated from his strictly homosocial model of male bonding as
sbmething in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth
a consummate sign o f maturity. Those codes o f implicitly celibate mastery or
was there, as well as all youths passionate purity. One felt that he had kept him
implicitly heterosexual maturity are designed to keep eroticism quarantined and
self unspotted from the world (39). The triangle of Marlow-Stein-Jim replicates
to eclipse the allure of Jims splendid youth. In D orian Gray, Hallwards erotic
in many ways the triangle of Lord Henry-Basil Hallward-Dorian-r-and in that
investment in Dorian comes somewhat closer to the surface of the text than
sense it is Basil whose obsessive fascination matches MarloW'srwith Lord Henry
does Marlows in Jim. But both Dorian and Jim clearly operate as objects of
and Stein as the more remote, detached observers of the spectacle of youthful ide-
hfale desire, as devices that displace attention from the marriage plot, and as
alism. Both of the blank fair-haired boys, Dorian and Jim, find rather blank
the center o f a purposeful fantasy of adolescence that postpones and margin
doomed loversflatly depicted women with obvious allegorical names (Sibyl
alizes all forms of bourgeois social adaptation, including mainstream hetero
Vane and Jewel). Jim and Dorian are passive in their blemishless youth, acceding
sexual institutions."^ In this sense, the two novels can both be glossed by Neville
to a destiny that they can neither outrun nor accept. Both throw themselves upon
Hoads useful discussion of the temporal and historical coding o f queer figures
the knife in the end as a way o f bringing sudden closure to the potentially endless
in the age o f empire: The understanding of 'homosexuality as the marker of
story o f their lives, accepting fetes vengeance for having shrugged off the weight
"Western decadence par excellence may also suggest ways in which the person
of experience.
laying claim to homosexual identity in an era of global capitalism can be made
O f course, Dorian Gray does not commit to tragic closure with the same force
to carry the anxieties surrounding the social ruptures produced by economic
as Lord Jim (or, for that matter, Schreiners African Farm). Despite the fact that
Wildes narrator gives vent to some anti-Faustian pedagogy at the end, readers may development (152).
Indeed, though each of these two novels has its own temporal and sexual algo
still sense that the utopian longing behind Dorians magic youth is more memorable
rithm for balancing the imperatives ofyouth and age,'both emplot a contest between
than the heros grisly end. In the Nietzschean vein of Soul o f Man under Social
developmental and antidevelopmental time as a way of representing a colonial
ism, Wilde sees the value o f individual freedom as compromised and displaced by
brack in the discourse of European progress. In terms of the largest frame of analy
various forms of social thinking, including the charitable and the religious, and in
sis in this study, both Dorian Gray and Lord Jim expose the Goethean bildungsro-
Dorian Gray he releases a full fantasy of youthful openness while posing it against
mans traditional logic of national emergence and individual self-formation to the
the sad necessity o f experiential accumulation and existential limits. Wildes text
cold light of an adolescent reductio ad absurdum, in which shapely, progressive
has a radical or utopian critique of progress that makes itself felt even through the
time becomes stalled B ildm g. Historical and psychological becoming are turned
censure o f Dorians immaturity, whereas Conrads tragic politics of time makes
into stasis and decay, punctuated by intermittent and violent bursts o f narrative
itself felt even through the ironic presentation of Marlows closet idealism. It is
advance. And both writers unfold this program of narrative innovation and meta
difficult, of course, to peel these interpretive judgments apart from our received
generic reflection in a postnational, semi-English space. Wilde and Conrad stand
ideas of Wilde and Conrad as, respectively, a queer aesthetic provocateur and a
at different angles of remove from Englishness and from the English tradition of
conservative master craftsmen. But the juxtaposition of these golden-youth plots
social realism, but their work, taken together here, manifests what we might see as
does seem like an object lesson in Sedgwickian queer analysis: Both of these are
the aging of the realist bildungsroman into an advanced stage of self-consciousness
all-male philosophy-lab novels that explore the homosocial/homosexual line, with
Conrad blurring the divide somewhat less than Wilde does. and of stylistic mutation.
i i 4 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISMt WILDE, WELLS. AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 115

If the jesidually aristocratic values of Wilde and Conrad destabilize bourgeois biological reproductionand the transmission of values from one generation to
ntyti^i^ o f moral and .economic progress, so too do the emergent lower-middle- the nextemerges in their signature novels as problems or absences, shouldered
class*values of H. G. Wells, chronicler of a disenchanted, institutionalized, mass- aside by long investigations of interminable adolescence. In the case of Wells, we
t **

consumer English society. Even more, perhaps, than Wilde and Conrad, Wells find several Edwardian novels (or anti-novels) driven by an expansive logic that
records the dying days o f an eUte myth o f education in English life and the trans resists containment and closure and that self-consciously rescripts the condition-
formation o f neofeudal myths of empire into the twentieth-century realities of of-England story for the age of global imperiahsm. Tono-Bungay in particular iS'
worldwide imperialism, crass consumerism, and unstable financial speculation. As a* nlock-epic fable of globalized commodity capitahsm and, at the same time, a
we add H. G. Wells into the Wilde-Conrad equation, we can build on the insights bildungsroman that has been turned inside out in ways that are, if less lurid than
of bpth Irish/postcoloi^'ial and queer approaches to Dorian Gray that allow fresh ' ffie story o f Dorian Gray, no less intense in their challenge to the old humanist and
access to the historical'traction of Wildes brilliant decision to subtract the aging ' progressive logic of the Goethean tradition.
process from an otherwise verisimilar metropoUtan miheu.*'' '
Wildes achievement, we might say, was to unwrap and expose the old Bil-
dung conceit, which used nationhood-adulthood ctosure plots to turest the ever- An unassimilable enormity of traffic: Commerce
unfolding narrative of capitalist transformation. Wilde simply writes a novel that and Decay in Tono-Bungay
is unusual insofar as it commits more* fully to the allegory o f permanent self
transformation, showing by this narrative thought experiment how essential the Given that so many Anglophone writers of the fin de si^de favored the plot of
recuperative motifs o f adulthood/natjonhood had been to the European novel. My the secret sharer, it is perhaps fitting that this chapter reads Wilde and Wells as
speculation here is that Wildes trope o f endless youtha symbol of the endless opposites who turn out to be doubles. Our conventional understanding of these
revolution of modernizationgained currency and resonance during the age of two writersthe Irish ironist and the Enghsh realist, the master of epigrams and
empire because the mediating power o f the nation to produce political and social prolix prosifier, the incipiently modernist Victorian and the residually Victo
unity across zones of radically uneven development was giving way to a more glo rian modernistconceals a deeper affinity that underscores some of the tectonic
balized sense of inequality, unevenness, and culturalized or raciahzed difference. shifts that define the canon o f 1890s British fiction. In that decade, both Wilde
Regenia Gagnier has identified Wildes centrality to our understanding o f a broad and Wells practiced what I have called gothic didacticism. Wellss famous fic
shift from production to consumption as the symbolic center of economic activ tions of the period-T he Time M achine (1895). The Island o f Dr. M oreau (1896),
ity in late Victorian Britain; moreover, her work has begun to suggest a contem The Invisible M an (1897), and The W ar o f Worlds (1898)all trade in some ver
poraneous shift away from the idea o f a settled endpoint for national industrial sion of the Darwinian fantasy of regression that inspired D orian Gray. In Wells s
economies (94). In my analysis, such larger contextual stories resonate with,the scientific romances, the twin specters of degeneration and invasion threaten
constellation of antidevelopmental texts in which the interlocking allegories of the body politic.*^ The Island o f Dr. M oreau, for example, stages a fantasy of
nationhood and adulthood seem to be attenuated in the power to effect natural species regression using the conceit of forced evolution: The mad vivisection-
narrative closure.* 'ist Moreau cuts and flays the bodies of large mammals until he has roughed
When we pair the Wilde of Dorian Gray with the Wells of Tono-Bungay, we can out new human forms, then reconditions their souls with the rudiments o f law.
begin to see all the more clearly the imploding and exploding forms o f the Brit This 1896 novel also anticipates the basic thematic and narrative structure of
ish novel as indices of several related and massive transformations in Victorian Conrads H eart o f Darkness, with the narrator Prendick in the role o f Marlow,
economic and cultural life; mass consumerism, mass education, high imperialism, a reasonable Englishman who discovers a cruel and corrupted genius o f Euro
speculative finance, new media, and modern advertising. Moreover, Wilde and pean science at the outer reaches of civilization. Like the protagonists of H eart
Wells each mark important turns in the modernization of sex in late Victorian o f Darkness, or Dorian Grayor o f other Victorian gothic doppelganger texts,
Britain, with the heterosexual and reproductive femily presented in their work as such as Stevensons Dr. Jekyll and Stokers Dracwlfl-Wellss Prendick comes to
the object of queer and feminist critique. No coincidence, then, that cultural and see himself reflected in the degraded, irrational, and bestial sides of Moreau and
SOULS'OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM; WILDE. WELLS, AND THE ANTI-NOVEL II7
Il6 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

More to the point. Wells sets this story of an imseasonable, discontinuous life into
his creatures. These secret sharers scandalize him and release potent anxieties
a specific phase in the decline of English class society and rise of global commodity
provoke^ by Darwinian racial sciences and by the late Victorian historiography
o f Westerii decline. capitalism.^
j George Ponderevo starts out as a somewhat rootless, educated member of the
Wellss thematic preoccupation with evolution/devolution itself, that is, the
governing m otif of progress-becoming-decline as both a social catastrophe and lower middle class, his social desire mesmerized by the gentry values associated

fictional contrivance, carries over from his 1890s gothic romances into his more with his mothers employers at Bladesover estate, and his vocational ambitions

serious and mainstream novels of the Edwardian era: Tono-Bungay (1909), A m v ^ e l y directed at some kind of creative or scientific pursuit. But life only truly

Veronica (1909), The N ew Machiavelli (1911), and Marriage (1912). In these. Wells
begins for George when his Uncle Edward, a glint-eyed, monomaniacal ph^m a-

rewrites the condition-df-England novel in terms o f two revolutionary pressures -cist, decides to market a tonic called Tono-Bungay (loosely based on the-history

on inherited values: the spread of the global economy and the modernization of o f Coca-Cola), which then becomes a massive commercial success. As Unde

sexual and gender relations. These are big novels, with expansive personalities Edwards right-hand man, George goes along for the wild ride of Tono-Bunga/s

and exploding forms, bulging as if in sympathetic response to the entropic and rise and fall in the marketplace. The fate o f the magic elixirdriven by false claims,

exponential growth o f human knowledge, technological power, and the imperial bogijs science, financial speculation, and corporate voodoo becomes inseparable

system.^ In Tono-Bungay, the best known of this group of novels. Wells invents a from Georges fate. The disposition of his soul, the inner desires of his heart, the
intellectual promptings of his mind, are all sacrificed to the drama of Tono-Bun-
protagonist-narrator George Ponderevo whose coming-of-age plot gets hijacked
by the unstable logic o f commodity fetishism and the unpredictable rhythms of gays life cyde as a fad product. In the end, George can only look back at his life as

I the business cycle. At the outset, George observes that modern social life has
a story of activity and urgency and sterility. I have called it Tono-Bungay, but I had

produced unmanageable Realities that force him to record only inconsecutive far better have called it Waste (412). Just as Dorian Gray, seeking sdf-perfection,
converts himself into a self-reifying object, so does George Ponderevo subordi
observations rather than a seamless autobiography (11). He cannot, he confesses,
arrange the details o f his life in any developing order at all (37). "I must sprawl nate his self-formation to the erratic life o f the commodity Tono-Bungay. Just as

and flounder, comment and theorise, George insists (13). Impatient readers will Dorian sells his soul for eternal youth, beauty, and pleasure, so does George sell his

find that he keeps his word! The case of bloat becomes more interesting when we S9i}l,for a privileged seat inside the belly of the corporate whale. And the result is
the same at the level of narrative structure: George cannot grow or mature into an
consider the opening passage of the novel:
^ tonom ous subject with a socially integrated self. Like Dorian, but in a different
Most people in the world seem to live in character; they have a beginning, ^nnal key, George remains very much a moral and emotional adolescentshallow,
a middle and an e nd . .. . But there is also another kind o f hfe that is not so ;nercurial, callow, and obtuse. His life story reads, even to himself, like a loop
_ much living as a miscellaneous tasting of life. One gets hit by some unusual ing, oscillating sine curve without dear resolution or growth. George continually
transverse force, one is jerked out o f ones stratum and lives crosswise for registers the fact that his life story seems to upend the expectations of the develop-
the rest o f the time, and as it were, in a succession of samples. piental plot, as in this pithy bit of self-diagnosis that might well have come straight
(9) from Dorian Gray: "I am, in a sense, decay (413).
Tono-Bungay compresses and splits the normal code of compromise between
The passage announces that Tono-Bungay is not, and cannot be, a shapely bio
graphical novel, but will assemble itself as a set o f miscellaneous episodes. It marks bohemian urgings and bourgeois necessity at the heart of the Goethean bildungsro

a self-conscious departure from the arc and curve of the coming-of-age plot. And man: George the young man with creative ambitions suddenly becomes a hyper

it also introducesthough not by namethe global commodity Tono-Bungay, trophic business mogul with no soul, then slides sporadically back into a moody,

taken as an unusual transverse force that destabilizes the progressive and bio puerile funk. Instead of social compromise. Wells describes a stalemate between

graphical plan o f the national bildungsroman. Aside from his difficulties as the irreconcilable states of mind. Once Tono-Bungay, the commodity, absorbs and

n^rator o f his own unruly life story, Ponderevo as the central actor in that story displaces George as the protagonist of this novel, Georges life becomes a spas

suffers firom an ongoing failure to accumulate a functional, integrated personality. modic and self-trivializing affair, narrated not as a tale of emergence but as the
Il8 UN^ASONABLE YOUTH SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM; WILDE, WELLS. AND THE ANTI-NDVEL 119

offharideH passage o f time without moral or psychological progress: Nearly eight breakup o f national tradition and meaningful, productive economic relations as
years slipped by. I grew up (219). a predicate for the unclockable nonstory o f George Ponderevo, whose matura
Once Tono-Bungay enters its peak as a successful brand, the story o f Georges tion plot founders because it is assimilated to a modernization process with no
life can no longer be the story of England.* In the first third o f the book, Wells, symbolic or historical constraints. The novel encodes this problem thematically by
voiced through Ponderevo, anchors social fixity in the gentry stronghold o f Blades- depicting a widespread crisis of English wholeness when faced with the corrosive
over, a stand-in for the English class tradition as a political container that gives and uncontainable effects of mass commodity capitalism.
rounded meaning to historical time. Enter Tono-Bungay, the global commodity While he both laments and satirizes the lost productivity of the English ruling
that disrupts the spatiotemporal boundaries of class and riation, following the classes, George also embodies their etiolated and enervated statenot despite his
boundless energies o f market capitalism. Summarizing the tortuous legal and-- role in the success of Tono-Bungay but because of it, since it is an empty commod
financial maneuvers by which we (the Tono-Bungay corporate subject)^spread ity built on false value. With characteristic self-consciousness, George notes that
ourselves with a larger and larger conception, George himsdTobserves that that thd personal crisis of his uncles hollow life/empty product is all too reflective of a
sort of development is not to be told in detail in a novel (232). Novels tend not to crisis in national capitalism:
narrate the tentacular and tortuous life o f the corporation in part because it has Yet it seems to me indeed at times that all this present commercial civilisation
no logical endpoint other than continued growth and expansion. When the logic is not more than my poor uncles career writ large, a swelling, thinning bub
o f permanent expansion (global capitalism) displaces the logic of national growth ble of assurances; that its arithmetic is just as unsound . . . that it all drifts
(as symbolic counterweight to endless expansion), the specter of the Hegelian on perhaps to some tremendous parallel to his individual disaster . . .
bad infinity appears, raising the possibility that the novel form will expand into a (239)
never-ending story of infinite details and numberless episodes.
But Tono-Bungay does not narrate the infinite expansion of capitalism itself, of The closing ellipsis in the text signals Georges uncertainty about how to end a
course: It is the story o f the rise and fall of a fad commodity whose life cycle deter sentence, a paragraph, a narrative that is organized according to the rolling tempo
mines the jerky, episodic quality o f the novels composition. George Ponderevo, of capitalist speculation. Everywhere the moral fervor of Wells shows through in
increasingly self-conscious about the problem o f lost tradition, charges the loss this novels saga of lost productivity: It is all one spectacle, announces George
of smooth progressive time to the depredations o f newfangled capitalist opera at the end, of forces running to waste, o f people who use and do not replace, the
tions visited upon a stable English way of life centered on the old estate o f Blades- story of a country hectic with a wasting aimless fever of trade and moneymaking
over. He offers this picture of the condition of England: It is becoming a country and pleasure-seeking (412).
of great Renascence landed gentlefolk who have been unconsciously outgrown The problem of failed productivity extendi from Wellss portrait of capitalism
and overgrown in an epoch defined as (in the words of his bombastic uncle) a run amok to the libidinal economies of Georlge Ponderevos life, where he indulges
big Progressive On-coming Imperial Time (107; 281). Where once the English in a vain and self-blinded set o f sour romances that he generally casts as the fault
elites balanced scientific and industrial dynamism with the stabilizing values of of wasted and wastefiil and futile women. What hope is there, he laments in
a gentry-based national myth, the new ruling classes of the early twentieth cen his final reflections, for a people whose women become fruitless? (412). There
tury harbor, in Ponderevos view, a disorderly instinct of acquisition with "noth is a kind of subtle feminist undercurrent running through speeches like this one,
ing creative nor rejuvenescent (70). Bladesover, the intact and integral estate of since Georges callow understanding of women, sex, desire, and himself are all tar
Georges childhood, is replaced symbolically by Crest Hill, the failed estate of the gets o f Wellss irony. Indeed elsewhere in Wellss considerable body of fiction, we
nouveau riche Ponderevos, the house that Tono-Bungay couldnt quite, in the end, can find a much more developed criticism of the sex-property system in England;
bixild. Crest Hill becomes, for George, the compactest image and sample of all in novels like The N ew Machiavelli, for example. Wells offers a direct denunciation
that passes for Progress, of all the advertisement-inflated spending, the aimless of the benighted puritanism of his times, particularly insofar as it blocks both
building up and pulling down, the enterprise and promise o f my a g e.. . . Great women and men from romantic candor and sexual liberation.-*Wells sees Eng
God! I cried, but is this Life? ,(376). Here Tono-Bungay makes manifest the lands sexual mores as completely out of step with its scientific, technological, and
SOULS 6 f men under CAPITALISM: WILDE. WELLS. AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 121
120 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

economic modernity: They represent a national form o f arrested development that marriage plot is the narrative and social convention par excellence for embedding

refur^ithroughout his novels. In Tono-Bungay, the detached aesthete Ewart makes subjects into the fixed state of adulthood, so the roving disrespect paid to that

jthis clear, to Geprge: We dont adolesce, we blunder up to sex (186). Without an iijstitution by Wells aligns nicely with his novels expansive resistance to the stan

.^uthentic pr realistic path from youth to sexual adulthood, middle-class English dard sig n s and accoutrements of bourgeois maturity.
Tono-Bungays vocabulary of corporate capitalism borrows heavily from the
men develop unrealistic romantic goals and tastes.
Even more specifically in the case of George, romantic failurestoo numerous libidinal register (fruitless, wasted, sterile) in order to describe the .crisis o f bour

an,d f r a n k ly tiresome to describe hereare driven by an irrational set o f desires geois dynamism. That crisis takes the form of an alternating pattern between the
lin k e r! in Wellss diction to the economic irrationality of speculation and mass hyperactivity of an enterprise driven by bogus technology, mass n:\arketing, and

marketing. Love, Ponderevo observes, like everything else in this immense -yampant speculation on the one hand and the utter deflation o f bankruptcy, eco

process of social disorganization in which we live, is a thing adrift, a fruitless - nomic collapse, and empty consumerism on the other. Wellss fable of late capital-

thing broken away from its connections (372). In a feirly clear rewriting of i|m.picks up the narrative I described in chapter 2 via Arendt and Lukacs: that is,

the Pip-Estella subplot of Great Expectations, George misunderstands his own th? collapse of the bourgeois revolution. The bourgeoisie, according to this model,

romantic destiny and chaimels his erotic energy through his nostalgic fixation no longer serve as the engine of social, economic, or cultural progress (moralized

on aristocratic values (Beatrice) and through his disavowed entanglement with and stabilized through the political mediation of the multidass nation). Ponder-

consumerist gratification (Marion). The results in either case are disastrous, and eyos governing theme as a narrator matches this story: he castigates the English

Wells frames the problem so as to accentuate the confusion between economic ruling class and entrepreneurial class for their flagging energies and wasteful new

and sexual objects that bedevils his protagonist. The main bad-marriage plot in practices. Both Arendt and Lukdcs take the expansion of imperiaUst activity after

Tono-Bungay centers on Marion, whom George dismisses as too conventional: 1870 to be a sign of failed bourgeois dynamismof the failure, not the success,

It was the cruellest luck for Marion that I, with my restlessness, my scpetidsm, pf the European project of modernization. Here too Wells follows the same line

my constantly developing ideas, had insisted upon marriage with her. She had no of thinking: As Tono-Bungay enters a desperate stage of collapse and failure, the

faculty o f growth or change (197). Sexual life with Marion comes to signify both Ponderevos launch their own private scramble for African wealth. Uncle Edward

the immature Puritanism of the naive George and the compensatory restlessness dispatches George to Mordet Island off the African coast, to harvest a radioactive

o f the corporate George, a game of ping-pong between frozen libido and bound material called quap, a miraculous energy-commodity that will, they hope, save

less desire that mirrors the uneven growth processes of the novels existential and Tono-Bungay from imminent corporate death.
The quap episode marks a nadir in the fortunes of Tono-Bungay and in George s
economic registers.
Later, seeking comfort with his mistress Effie, George undergoes another round pi;oject of self-cultivation. In a Conradian drama of regression and rapacity, George

of disintegration and ennui: I wondered if all the world was even as I, urged to pnters the most brutalizing arena of global commerce, the tropical colony, and

this by one motive and to that by another, creatures of chance and impulse and becomes a morally bankrupt European attempting to seize raw materials. Very

u n m e a n in g traditions (214). This romantic crisis makes itself felt by George as a quickly, the quap expedition devolves into an almost farcically compact and com

crisis of self-fashioning in post-traditional English society: Sex reduces him to a plete failure, as Wells anatomizes everything that can go wrong with the dream

system o f appetites and satisfactions rather than clarifying for him an integral of colonial resources harvested for nothing. On board ship, George, who had

model o f desire and destiny centered in the maturing self (215). What is most radi preened himself on his own liberal tolerance, finds himself becoming a brutal rac

cal about Wellss broken Bildung is perhaps this deromanticization and decentering ist taskmaster and, finaUy, a murderer: I understand now the heart of the sweater,

of the marriage plot, something otherwise associated with the queer modernisms of the harsh employer, of the nigger-driver (332). During the homeward journey,

(and narrative innovations) o f Wilde, Woolf, Forster, and Stein. And what is most having swiped heaps of quap," George discovers that its radioactivity is toxic. The

distinctive about Wellss version of the decentered marriage plot is his insistence men faU ill, and the ship begins literally to disintegrate. All is lost, predictably

on the language of unstable subjectivity and unrooted desire as a mirror-effect enough, and the Ponderevo fortunes, moral and financial, plummet further down

of capitalisms, endless motion. In the classic bildungsroman or realist novel, the the backdrain of failed capitaUst ventures.
SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM: WILDE. WELLS, AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 123
122 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

modernization. And Wells, ever the didact, makes it very clear to readers that the
Reflecting on the trip, George writes: That expedition to Mordet Island stands
novel of global capitahsm circa 1910 is the story o f disproportionate growth and
apart frohi all the rest o f m y life, detached, a piece by itself with an atmosphere all
Regression at once, a metabildungsroman that is in some crucial ways about the
its own (344). But in fact the episode is entirely consistent with the main plot at
iippossibility^f biographical and national fiction in the post-Victorian world.^^
a thematic and symbolic level. It shifts attention from speculative aflid consumer-
.We began, o f course, with one of those impossibilities, as the narrator declared
ist enterprise to plundering and imperialist enterprise, but keeps the focus on the
that he could not recount his life as a meaningful and organized sequence of
underlying problem of nonproductivity in late capitalism. It illustrates the short
events. We end, in Tono-Bungay, with the other, as the narrator observes that it has
circuit from a faltering national-industrial economy to a speculative finance-
become equally impossible to describe the life of his nation as a meaningful and
driven economy to a risky colonial-extraction economy, and dramatizes the racial
organized historical narrative. Tracking the broad slow decay of the great social
and moral costs o f high imperialism.^'* And the metaphoric value o f quap is thatit
organism of England, Ponderevo states in the final chapter that the problem lies
refiresents a kind of dangerous, disintegrative energy that has no bounds or limits:
in the tumorous growth-process of the London metropolis (70, 418). He sum
It is not just a fentasy of bottomless wealth, but a symbol o f Endless potential, end
less becomingthe forces that define Georges loss'of moral integrity and the final marizes his views:

deformation of his Bildung plot. Georges recession and decay proceeds like the That is the very key o f it all. Each day one feels that the pressure of com
radioactive material he is chasing; he is developing backward, a half-life at a time. merce and traffic grew, grew insensibly monstrous, . . . and jostled together
Wells makes this clear and ties soul decay directly to nation decay as the narrator to make this unassimilable enormity of traffic.
declares that the break-up o f the quap-laden ship represents in matter exactly (418)
what the decay of our old culture is in society, a loss o f traditions and distinctions
The E n g lish novel, like the social system firom which it arose, cannot assimilate
and assured reactions (355). Atomic decay becomes an overt metaphor for social
such global traffic without losing its Jamesian sense of styUstic proportion and its
disintegration, but also for the way that bad matter (associated with globalization)
Austenian sense of social composure. A multinational and metastatic process of
has displaced the moral fiber that should have defined the organic and humanist
modernization is unsettling the social referents of Tono-Bungay in neat parallel
core o f Georges character.
with the unsettled and unseasonable quality of Georges prolonged moral adoles
Even more explicitly than Dorian Gray, Tono-Bungay links the unseasonable
cence. Or, to put it another way, George Ponderevo assimilates the real historical
youth of its protagonist to the uneven developnlents of the age o f empire. It enacts
t i m e (per Bakhtin) o f a globalizing era driven by monstrous trafficthe same
and describes the break-up of the bildungsroman and its soul-nation allegory
monstrous traffic, in a sense, that formed the backdrop to Dorian Grays life of
of harmonious growth: Here both soul and nation are temporally disorganized,
endless, listless consumption.* The results are only too legible in the protagonists
stuck in a rut yet driven too fast. Wellss commodity novel mirrors Wildes art
bustling yet unsatisfying existence, the boom-and-bust of a life that changes all the
novel: When subjectivity is written in the language of pure commodity logic, it
time but never improves.
follows capitalisms endless forward motion and produces the plot o f permanent
Wells uses Ponderevo, with his evacuated agency and downward-spiraling des
adolescence. So too when subjectivity is written in the language of aestheticism
tiny, to condense a multidimensional critique of modernity, focusing with special
the language that seeks fully to disavow commodification and fully to arrest the
emphasis on the financial and imperial dynamos of the changing British economy.
forward momentum of timethe result is a plot o f permanent adolescence. End
The wayward plot of Tono-Bungay exposes the English national myth of tradi
less self-development collapses into the absence of self-development because it
tionalists who modernize the world. Unharmonious timesboth slow and fast,
cannot be converted into the narrative currency of achieved self-identity. Just as
backward and forwardgovern and shape the novel, making Ponderevo a figure
important, when the story of development spills out of the frame o f national tra
for the Mling, fissuring synthesis between national tradition and capitalist moder
dition, it foregoes the inherited symbolic resources o f the bildungsroman, aban
nity. In a somewhat more discursive and less sensational way than the Irish Wilde,
dons its'hiost naturalized technique for harnessing and-halting the progressivist
Wells takes apart the English self-image as the race that has development (in the
logic of ihodern reahsm and making the life of the iiidividual and the life of the
words of Wildes duchess, 232). Wellss anti-novel, like Wildes, implicitly describes
national the organic center of a representable (because not interminable) story of
124 UkSEASO^^ABLE YOUTH SOULS OF MEN UNDER CAPITALISM: WILDE, WELLS. AND THE ANTI-NOVEL 125

the limit pbints of realist narratability for young characters who embody capitalist oceSn of modern capitalism: The sea, with its monstrous variety, bears the flags
modernization uncut and unharnessed by the stabilizing forces of national tradi- of all the world and drives London beyond all law, order, and precedence (417)-
tio h rih e limitp'oints become legible to readers when we see the protagonist fail Ponderevos final thematic crescendo recalls George Eliots riverine-pathway to
to develop an integrated personality while operating under the symbolic aegis of world trade in The M ill on the Floss and Conrads merchant-marine waterways in
bommodificatidn, perpetual innovation, speculative finance, and high imperial- Lord Jim. It depicts the global economy as an epistemological force that breaks the
fsm.^ If the standard coming-of-age plot puts modernization into symbolic com bounds o f national territory, disrupting the ordered existence of both a person and
promise with a moralized concept o f national progress, the modernist novel of a people. Tono-Bungay's representation of Lbndons monstrous traffic anticipates
untimely youth removes the temporal checks and balances of that concept, giving Virginia W oolfs The Voyage D u ta. novel composed during the same years as
uS a heterochronictfiough perhaps no less realistform. Tono-Bungay and published in 1915. In The Voyage Out, Woolf begins where Wells
The resulting narrative forms take us beyond the familiar novel of disiUusiori- leaves off, with a description of the London docks as a thematic gauge used to
ment in which the heros demoralization and alienation simply flip the socially register the effects of the colonial world-system on national space and novelistic
affirmative poles of the bildungsroman. Tono-Bungay does not invert social- time. As we will see in the next chapter, W oolfs novel, too, unsettles the bildung
adjustment plots into tragedy and disillusionment, but folds open and objectifies sroman plot as it ventures out from England and into the seascapes and landscapes
the problem of the bildungsroman. Such a metageneric approach is both more and of imeven development.
less radical than a fully exploded or inverted bildungsroman would be. On the one In fact, the writers at the center of chapter 5, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce,
hand, it keeps certain nineteenth-century standards intact; no matter how much both opened their careers as novelists by writing a version of the colonial metabil-
he falls short, George still measures himself existentially against clock time, psy dungsroman, in which underdeveloped or peripheral space grounds and allego
chologically against the interiority and fulfillment o f the realist hero, and socially rizes stubbornly youthful protagonists. These two writers (another English/Irish
against the expectations of bourgeois adjustment. On the other hand. Wells dis pair to match Wells and Wilde) define the very core of high modernist fiction.
assembles the soul-nation allegory with such clarity that it is difficult to imagine They share hypercanonical status now in part because their work exemplifies a
the twentieth-century novel reassembling it, at least not in its relatively natural signature modernist style, the stream o f consciousness. Unlike Wilde and Wells,
ized or classic form. The somewhat clunky pun in George Ponderevos surname Joyce and Woolf deemphasize the didactic and discursive narrator and assimilate
(revised by Wells from Ponderer to Ponderevo in order, it appears, to suggest the commentary into the devices o f interior monologue and free indirect discourse.
phrase ponder evolution) points neither to an embrace nor to an outright rejec As Benita Parry describes the Wells method, the social and psychic turbulence
tion of evolutionary/developmental time, but rather to a project of pondering, of of Tono-Bungay is described rather than syntactically inscribed (150). If that
establishing historical and critical distance. The soul-nation allegory cannot sim featuredescription, commentary, statementallows Wilde and Wells to be all
ply be willed into oblivion by artistic fiat or modernist will-to-innovation; it must the clearer about their metageneric project (objectifying rather than deploying
be tracked, dialectically, in a path toward social and symbolic obsolescence, its the conventions of the bildungsroman), it also helps account for their place as
meaning changed by the eclipse of one phase in the history o f modernization by transitional figures between the Victorian and modernist canonswith Wilde a
another, more intensely global one. protomodernist and Wells a semimodernist. These are real differences in criti
The final passages of the novel concentrate our attention on the broken national cal status, and they are matched by innumerable other stylistic, biographical, and
frame o f the story, and indeed of English experience in Wellss lifetime: Again and ideological differences that separate Wilde from Wells from Woolf from Joyce. All
again in this book I have written of England as a feudal scheme overtaken by fatty the more striking then to discover the convergence of these four writers on the
degeneration and stupendous accidents of hypertrophy (417). Degeneration unaging protagonist as a device for exploring, from different angles of political
and "hypertrophy^ accidents and bloat: an apt and vivid description indeed of perception, the problem of progress across the colonial divide. Like Wells, Woolf
the novel itself, unstrimg into postnational, antidevelopmental time. The passage estranges both the coming-of-age plot and the condition-of-England frame as she
vividly captures the arresting-and-accelerating heterochrony that shapes the novel transplants the story of Rachel Vinrace from southern England to South America.
of untimely youth. And what brings England into disharmony is the boundless Like Wilde, Joyce picks up the Flaubertian thread of the urban anti-hero and uses
I

126 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

it to write a definitive novel of Irish youth. It is, o f course, a direct line of influence
from Wddes Picture to Joyces Portrait, but we also should mark the difference
|n that Joyce? novel describes not the problem of the man-becoming-art, but the
problem of the man-becoming-artist. That shift allows Joyce to address the worlds
of commodification and reificationthose forces that displace Bildung so compre
hensively in Wilde and in Wellswith a somewhat suljtler hand. As we will see in
the next chapter, both Joyce and Woolf work through their own apprenticeships as
novelists by decisively rewiring the plot o f development and dropping it into the Si*

recursive, regressive groove of colbnial adolescence.

5. Tropics o f Youth in W oolf


and Joyce

For the methods by which she had reached her present position, seemed to her very strange,
and the strangest thing about them was that she had not known where they were leading her.

Woolf, The Voyage O ut

The economic and intellectual conditions of his homeland do not permit the individual to
develop.

Joyce, Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages

Edward Saids insistence on the cultural integrity o f empire still offers a vital
challenge to the humanities today, and particularly to literary scholars of the
period 1880-1940, for whom Saids concept makes it at once more difficult and
'nlore necessary to reconceive the relationship between modernism and colo
nialism {Culture and Imperialism 97). The model of colonial culture established
by Said identifies a flexible, often aesthetically complex, yet ideologically pur
poseful, discourse of colonialism that projected Western superiority, secular
rationality, economic progress, and bourgeois triumphalism to the far corners of
the earth. Yet the dominant models of aesthetic modernism describe it as a criti
cal movement whose dissonant strains within European culture are unified by a
deep suspicion of precisely those same projected narratives of Western superior
ity, rationalism, and progress. As we have already begun to see, these alternative
propositions raise a key question for the politics o f modernism: Do modernist
works critique imperialism and its associated values or, alternatively, do they

127
128 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH \ TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 129

renovate Western art by exploiting the cultural and epistemological privileges and nationality of the protagonists. But here, as in earlier cases of male-female
that Raymond Williams has memorably described as metropolitan perception or Anglo-Irish pairings (Conrad and Schreiner, Wells and Wilde), the overt dif
(Politics 44)? O f course the answers to this question are as various as modern ferences between' Woolf and Joyce sometimes obscure shared historical condi
isms disparate expressions in art, literature, music, and philosophyand, by tions and stylistic affinities.^ From a gender-studies perspective, for example, one
now, most scholars attempt to chart a middle course, eschewing both implau might say that W oolfs Rachel Vinrace exemplifies a lat^ Victorian girls blocked
sible claims of an ideological chasm between modernism and imperialism and access to elite education while Joyces Stephen Dedalus can Join the ranks of the
equally implausible claims of direct ideological correspondence. Nevertheless, church, the university, or another site o f masculine social prestige. But the path
this somewhat Manichaean and moralistic framework continues to define much of Stephens destiny is as compromised for Joyce as the path of Rachels is for
o f the commentary on modernism and colonialism. As a result, many scholars W oo^ IlR ach el marks an early Woolfian effort to arrest a socialization process
restrict themselves to considering texts with obvious imperial content and, more in which patriarchal authority limits womens freedom, Stephen likewise embod
to the point, end by charging or crediting particular modernists with, pro- or ies a Joycean drama of rebellion against symbolic fethers and fatherlands. Where
anti-imperial viewseven if the ratios of political intention ar^mixed, nuanced, Rachel naively resists patriarchal authority by questioning its outcomes and opt
and ever-shifting. ing out of its sexual arrangements, Stephen exposes its operations by acting as a
While Conrad stands as an obvious instance o f a modernist writer whose rela kind of double-agent who raids its institutions, usurps its prerogatives, and exag
tionship to colonialism has often been framed in largely intentionalist terms, the gerates its intellectual habits. In her first novel, W oolf trains herself to purge the
same problem has also shaped colonial discourse studies of, and postcolonial usual fundamentals of novelistic character and then to redistribute them extra-
approaches to, the two most canonical modernists, Virginia W oolf and James subjectivelyan effort that later yields Jacobs Room, in which elegiac absence nul
Joyce. Such approaches have, for example, consolidated our understanding of lifies the heroic tale of Bildung. Joyce, it appears, is training himself to saturate the
W oolfs intertwined and impassioned suspicion o f imperialism and patriarchy.' field of consciousnessan effort that later yields Ulysses, whose Stephen Dedalus
Jane Marcuss groundbreaking reading of The Waves established the initial bases of still cannot quite think his way out of the vexed position o f the antinational anti-
this interpretive position, arguing that that novel contains a veiled but unmistak hero. In their different ways, preintellectual Rachel and hyperinteUectual Stephen
able and cogent attack on the power/knowledge structures o f British imperialism. m'Ust both assume a stubborn social passivity. And such passivity underscores the
In a subtle rejoinder to Marcus, Patrick McGee insists that The Waves offers an fact that these protagonists are built to serve a null function, to be fictional devices
implicit and partial critique, rather than an explicit denunciation o f imperial that disrupt the traditional coming-of-age plot, throwing into relief its masculin
ism, drawing attention away from W oolfs own political attitudes and toward her ized and nationalized concepts of destiny.
forms symbolic mediations of the colonial context. McGee objects, in other words, Stalled developmentor colonial adolescenceregisters in both Woolf and
to viewing Woolf as outside the ideology o f imperialism that she anatomizes (and Joyce, then, via a gendered critique o f imperial authority. But these variations
reproduces) in her fiction (631-32).' If we take W oolfs fiction as a key example on the frozen-youth trope require interpretive responses that push through and
of how modernism firamesboth in terms o f authorial intentions and formal beyond the avowed anticolonial politics 6f the two authors in question. In the
effectsa historical relationship to colonialism, it is worth considering in more oJ)ening case o f Woolf, my discussion will not emphasize the postcolonial the-
detail the literary devices that mediate between those two layers of textual mean f n a ti r s of alterity (in the form of Rachels oblique identification with colonized
ing in the modernist novel. peoples) nor even the direct presentation o f anti-imperial politics (in the form of
Toward that end, this chapter begins by examining W oolfs most obviously W oolfs acerbic satire of the Dalloways and their fatuous Jingoism), in part because
colonial novel. The Voyage O ut (1915), then moves to its near contemporary, Joyces the novel itself takes pains to establish the ineffectiveness of both cross-cultural
Portrait, o f the A rtist as a Young M an (1916), taking the shared m otif o f stalled identification and bourgeois dissent as types o f counterdiscursive action. Instead,
development as the master trope o f both texts and as a device whose meaning the reading will concentrate on the novels assimilation of a certain uneven
outstrips author-based forms of p a rti pris ideology critique. A comparison of and markedly colonialtemporality into its narrative and characterological lan
these two novels has limits from the outset, particularly with regard to the gender guage, which is to say, on the formal problem of how The Voyage O ut undoes
130 UfJSEASONABLE YOUTH TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 131

I the generic protocols o f the bildungsroman. This approach aims to bring together As we consider Joyces modernization of the Goethean bildungsroman, we will
W oolfs bharacteristically modernist aversion to linear plots with her idiosyncratic see that it responds to the challenge of narrating artistic self-formation and Irish
representation of an ersatz Amazonian landscape in order to elaborate and extend identity without simply replicatingnor simply dismissingthe dominant linear-
this studys central claims about the structural link between modernist fictions of progressive models of both the apprenticeship novel and the European nation-state.
adolescence and th? post-Berlin politics of European imperialism. .The Voyage Out, too, set at a rather different angle of remove from the English great
tAs in the previous chapter, I begin my analysis o f Woolf with a straightforward iradition, seeks to scramble the chronotope of the national bildungsroman. Where
question: How does the dissonance between hypermodernization in the metro Joyce seems to write a novel of youth taken as an endless prelude, Woolf twists the?
politan core and underdevelopment in the colonial peripherya defining feature cQjning-of-age plot into one long, spiraling denouement almost from the opening
of the modernist worldm ^ e itself felt in the fabric of novelistic time? Ih e ques chapter. The 'overt narrative asymmetries mask an xmddrlying formal symmetry
tion opens an equally pressing line of inquiry into A Portrait o f the A rtist m a in the two texts. And since Woolf and Joyce now occupy the very center of the
XoungMan. Indeed, in the case of Joyce, the last twenty-five yearsjiave witnessed a twentieth-century canon, it is worth considering how foundational these two par
fairly comprehensive critical reorientation around questiqps of nation and empire, c e l texts of frozen youth were for writers who, having learned to invert and arrest
begiiming with a first wave o f political readings in the 1980s (Deane, Mangan- the coming-of-age narrative during the age of empire, went on to conduct varied
iello, MacCabe) and extending into a second wave of more recent postcolonial experiments in antidevelopmental and multiprotagonist fiction that have helped
approaches (Attridge and Howes, Castle, Cheng, Duffy, BCiberd, Nolan, Valente). define not just their careers but the shape of literary fiction long after modernism.
Here the critical literature runs a bit deeper than in the case of postcolonial Woolf,
and includes many subtle elaborations o f Joyces own politics. Perhaps this is
because it is notoriously difficult even to establish Joyces political views, split as The weight of the world: Woolf s Colonial
they were between his rejection of extra-Irish authority (whether British-imperial
Adolescence
or Roman-Catholic) and his rejection of Irish authority (whether national or reli
gious, cultural or political). The Voyage O u t blends the tropical setting o f imperial romance with the skele
This chapter uses the pairing with W oolf and the emphasis on the symbolic tal outline of a female bildungsroman, yet this combination of genres works to
utility o f the metabildungsroman to try to establish a new critical angle on the deromanticize the tropical setting o f one and invert the temporal sequencing
postcolonial Joyce. Rather than dwell on the ambient irony produced by Joyces o f the other. Readings o f the novel have long turned on two broad interpretive
anti-imperial-yet-also-antinational politics, I propose to concentrate on Portrait questions that organize feminist and postcolonial approaches, respectively.^
I as a text that addresses colonial modernity by exposing the contradictions in what First, why does the novel initiate a trajectory o f apparent self-determination,
I David Lloyd has termed "developmental historicism {Irish Times Until now spiritual enlargement, or at least social adjustment for its protagonist Rachel
this study has been exploring various modernist breaks and traps in the stan Vinrace, only to close down those possibilities in a long spiral o f illness, driv
dard coming-of-age plot, but we have now to confront a protagonist with his own ing the plot into an antipatriarchal ground zero of death and renunciation?
fully elaborated theory of aesthetic stasis. Even in a modernist canon replete with Second, why does W oolf stage this process in an obscure South American
arrested-development plots, Joyces Portrait represents an additional turn o f the tourist colony? What narrative, symbolic, or stylistic purposes does the colo
screw. In it, the exposed contradiction between endless growth and shaped time nial setting serve? To put the two questions together: Since in the end the
works both as a symbolic and narrative principle and as a matter of thematized colonial distance from England only highlights the durability and portability
experience for the protagonist. Many o f the structural back-eddies and symbolic of the social conventions that domesticate and threaten Rachel, why voyage
flourishes of Portraitn o t to mention the most searching political implications
out there in the first place?
of the textcan be illuminated in light of a dialectical confrontation between the My answer to this last question turns on the novels capacity to shift the trope of
novel of pure adolescence on the one hand and the developmental imperatives of development freely between psychic and political registers. The Voyage O ut breaks
modernity and maturity on the other. from the narrative dictates of the bildungsroman, avoiding the baleful teleology of
132 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 133

late Victorian womanhood with a twenty-four-year-old protagonist who remains bride going forth to her husband, a virgin unknown o f men; in her vigour
stubbornly, insipidly young. Wootf describes the impression Rachel makes: Her and purity she might be likened to all beautiful things, for as a ship she had
face .was weak rather than decided . . . denied beauty, now that she was sheltered a life of her oym.
indoors, by the lack of colour and definite outline; she seems more than nor- (24-25)
maUy incompetent for her years (13). Rachels development in the novel is not
;The Conradian homage in this passage seems to point back to Heart o f Darkness, a
sq much absent as staccato: thrust in and out of her amorphous youthfulness by
clear'intertext for The Voyage O ut (which Woolf had begim to write only five or six
turns, she is now fi-ustratingly pillowed in innocence, now suddenly alert to adult
yeafkafter Conrads novella appeared in print). Like H eart o f Darkness, Woolfs novel
possibilities. More to the point, Woolf sets this story of fits and starts, of beckoned
begins on the banks of the Thames, moves to the edge o fu distant continent, then
and deferred matiuity, in an unevenly developed coastal enclave, Santa Marina, a
. teices a journey into unknown geographic and psychic territories, ending in death
misbegotten tourist colony that seems to have deferred its own modernity only to
and a thwarted engagement. Moreover, Woolfs interest in women who are sheltered
have it arrive belatedly. . - '
from the imperial way of the world echoes Marlows insistence that women are out
W oolf invents a syncopated, suspended, then accelerated histdry of settlement
of i f f Heart 26). Richard Dalloway, making hisf first appearance in Woolfs fiction,
for Santa Marina: First it is dimly,Spanish, then bpefly English, then Spanish again
(Jdm'es aboard the Euphrosyne to crystallize this point for Rachel Vinrace and for
for three hundred years o f apparent social stasis, then English again, made over
us:,Women cannot have access to the dark re^ties of imperial rule, he pontificates,
into a holiday spot for the shabby genteel. Like Rachel, Santa Marina develops
because it is impossible for human beings, constituted as they are, both to fight and
arrhythmically, first languishing, than suddenly catapulting forward, reeling with
; to have ideals (Voyage 56). Men fight and compromise while women symbolize ide
anachronism. Having failed to form itself into something firmly British and mod
als for the men who have lost them in the firay. In Conrad, as in Woolf, a neochivalric
ern the first time around, Santa Marina appears as a cultural backwater. We learn
gender ideology becomes the language of mystification for men living too close to the
that in arts and industries the place is still much where it was in Elizabethan
volatile contradictions between imperialist rhetoric and imperialist practice.
days (80). And here, a few chapters earlier, is a description o f Rachel Vinrace:
But the Conrad-Woolf resonances extend perhaps even more significantlyand
Her mind was in the state o f an intelligent mans in the beginning of the reign of
in ways that have not been recognized in literary scholarshipfrom The Voyage
Queen Elizabeth (26). To anticipate one additional point o f resonance between
O ut to Lord Jim. The echo o f Conrad in the ship-as-veiled-bride motif is perfectly
Voyage O ut and Joyces Portrait: Both texts feature protagonists, the Elizabethan
apt since W oolfs Rachel is, much like Conrads Jim, a virgin in a bubble o f blushing
Rachel Vinrace and the medieval(ist) Stephen Dedalus, whose prolonged adoles
egoism, a virgin not just to sex but to intersubjectivity, forced to face disillusion
cence seems to correspond to a nonmodern temporality. And there is another
ment but unable to live with it. She is, like Jim; a willfully adolescent adult whose
audible modernist resonance in W oolfs account of Rachels backwardness: She
refusal to age leads to death in an obscure colonial outpost. And, like Jim (and for
persistently links fier two subjects of arrested developmentRachel and Santa
that matter, Kiplings Kim), Rachel is a classic symbolic orphan, a many-parented
Marinathrough the redoubtably Conradian m otif of the virgin land behind a
figure who, as the object o f other characters projections and desires, stands as a
veil (79).
kind of semantic void, the null function that can carry the symbolic weight of
Conrads importance to Woolf in the early stages of her career is not just appar
Bildung as both a biographical and social process.' Using her stock exotica to full
ent in the symbolic use of colonial territory to describe spoiled innocence, but
literary effect, W oolf casts Rachels mind and the South American landscape as
extends to the level of diction and cadence. Consider this early description of the
figures for each other, each prone to a certain formlessness. Here is Rachel on the
Euphrosyne, the ship carrying Rachel to her tropical destiny:
cliffs edge with her suitor, the plump and hapless Terence Hewet:

An immense dignity had descended upon her; she was an inhabitant of the Looking the other way, the vast expanse o f land gave them a sensation which
great world, which has so few inhabitants, travelling all day across an empty is given by no view, however extended, in England; the villages and the hills
universe, with veils dravm,before her and behind. . . . The sea might give there having names, and the farthest horizon of hills as often as not dipping
her death or some unexampled joy, and none would know of it. She was a and showing a line of mist which is the sea; here the view was one o f infinite

I
TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 135
134 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

sun-dried earth, earth pointed in pinnacles, heaped in vast barriers, earth bildungsroman (with its essential chronotope o f national enclosure). The open,
widening and spreading away and away like the immense floor o f the sea, in f in i te, horizon bears on Rachel Vinrace as a disorganizing forceultimately, a
earth chequered by day and by night, and partitioned into different lands, fatal force. It feels like the weight of the entire worldand in a way it is (244).
where famous cities were founded and the races o f men changed from dark # o o l f uses the m otif of colonial travel to generate a lan'guage and imagery pat
savages to white civilized m en and back to dark savages again. Perhaps their tern for describing the self unbounded in tim e and space, and therefore unable
Rnglisb blood made this prospect uncomfortably impersonal and hostile to fo develop and stabilize itself within the frame o f the realist novel. Or, better
them, for having once turned their faces that way they next turned them to put; W oolf finds in non-European space the symbolic resources that allow her

the sea, and for the rest o f the time sat looking at the sea. to keep Rachel in adolescent hmbo, to postpone the process of sexualization and

I (194) socialization more or less indefinitely.


,,, W oolf never returns to modern colonial settings after The Voyage O ut except by

The protagonists discomfort stems not just from the infinite space,(which would jWay of flashback or imaginary voyage; perhaps having used the scaffolding o f the
invoke a familiar mode of the colonial sublime), but from'the almost-glimpsed .underdeveloped periphery so conspicuously in this initial work, she needs it only
cities that are ruled by an imaccountable, nonlinear history, a round of racial leap as a symbolic prop in later, more experimental novels o f consciousness such as
frog with no clear progress toward civilized, stable self-possession." A lack of self- The Waves. From this point of apprenticeship forward, W oolfs fictions rework the

.possession, in fact, stands as the most persistent m otif linking Rachel to Santa conventions of the female bildungsroman in any number of ways. They generate
Marina, the sunny land outside the window being no less capable of analysing its new vocabularies for fractured time and recursive plotting rather than reproduce
own colour and heat than she was of analysing hers (210). Cutting from psyche the conventions of linear time and chronological, sequenced plotting; they multi
to setting, Woolf establishes a consistent figural scheme in which protagonist ply protagonists and perspectives rather than organizing plot and focalizihg voice
and colony share a generalized unboundedness and a resistance to purposeful or through a single biographical device; they introduce sex and gender dissidence

smoothly clocked development." as well as vocational crisis rather than narrate a process o f final socialization into
The uncivihzed South American landscape (however inauthentically ren work and love; they focus on death, loss, aging, and the failure of destiny rather
dered) serves as both figure and context for Rachels ego dissolution. In the long th a n establish novelistic closure through the harmonic growth o f a young pro
passage cited earlier, the regress o f the horizon disorients Rachel while signaling tagonist; and finally, and crucially in this study, W oolfs novels tend to underscore
its actual--and her potentialalienation from English norms. The slow dema problems o f national and imperial ideology rather than tacitly reinscribe the stabi
terialization of Rachels selfhood in South America comes to language through lizing historical force of national belonging.'^
its interconnectedness with those borderless vistas. W oolf underscores from In The Voyage Out, Rachels identification with infinite space and uncouth
the start a contrast between Englands insularity, which allows for a kind of nature becomes, for Woolf, a technique for indicating resistance to a mature iden
knowability, and the incomprehensible scale of the partially modernized, par tity, to the traps and trappings of bourgeois womanhood." Woolfs experiment in
tially nationalized South American colonial territory. As they leave home in the suspending Rachels identity formation depends on the colonial setting as both
opening chapters, Rachel and her shipmates gaze back as if they could see the a figurative index and a causal agent in the mbc. But what is in some ways most
whole of England, from the bald moors to the Cornish rocks, grasped as a striking about the novel is the rapid, almost skittish permutation of figures estab
small and shrinking island, the spatial container of an entire way o f life (23). But lished for Rachel: She is not just a lost colony or virgin land, she is also a ship, a
in her colonial adventure, Rachel can never quite orient herselfall the mark river, a butterfly, a piano string, a breeze. The intermittency and inconsistency of
ers of national culture are missing, jumbled, or exaggerated; she feels, instead these metaphors is not, as is sometimes thought, a flaw, but the point of a novel
o f the spatial coherence o f the nation, the spatial incoherence of the global sys seeking to disrupt'the momentum of Bildung. The Voyage O ut displaces all the
tem. In the ambient imagery o f the novel, that incoherence registers as what potential plots of development (Victorian social mobility, naturalist tragedy, bohe
we have in earlier chapters called the specter o f an Hegelian bad infinity: a spa mian compromise) by creating a narrative stasis or long threshold wherein Rachel
tial and narratological threat of endlessness that is the symbolic antitype of the does not so much develop an ego as accumulate metaphors.' She remains a bundle
136 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 137

of crisscrossing libidinal vectors, a human nebula, poised between becoming and This reading provides a more precise, and more specifically colonial, frame
nn^ecoming herself, until she falls ill and dies. work to explain what is a fairly common observation about The Voyage Out, which
lj\e novel thus produces a systematic and astringent inversion of the Goethean is th^t the ftdled bildungsroman of Rachel Vinrace is a pretext or precondition for
ideal o f m ^e destiny, documenting Rachels inability-to cultivate her own self the ultimately successful artistic development o f Virginia Woolfjust as Stephen
hood through a set o f linked images, through a set o f averted narrative out Dedaluss incomplete formation in Portrait o f the A rtist prepares tjie way for Joyces
comes, and sometimes (as in the following.passage) through explicit narratorial mature achievement in Ulysses.'^ To elaborate our initial hypothesis about the con-
commentary; pection between Rachels ego dissolution in the colonial setting and the develop
ment of W oolfs modernist style, we might return to a comparison between The
For the methods by which she had reached her present position, seemed
Voyage O ut and Conrads Marlow fictions. When Marlow encounters a socially or
to her very strange, aAd the strangest thing about them was that she had
episf;emologically unassimilable human figure (Mr. Kurtz or Lord Jim), he carries
not known where they were leadihg her. That was the strange thingr^that
back some bounty of existential insight. But this two-man drama is feminized and
one did not know where one was going, or what one wanted;'^d followed
internalized in The Voyage Out, where Rachel acts both parts, the peering pro
bhndly, suffering so much in secret, always unprepafed and amazed and
tagonist and the blurry human figure. She cannot interpret or describe tfte effects
knowing nothing; but one thing led to another'and*by degrees something
of her own self-dissolution. Moreover, Rachels stubborn innocence is repeatedly
had formed itself out o f nothing, and so one reached at last this calm, this
thematized as blocked knowledge about the imperial system itself, an incapacity
quiet, this certainty, and it was this process that people called living.
to read the deep Unks between imperial capitalism,and domestic humanism. Thi?
(2 9 7 )
structuring motif, so crucial to the novels shape and to its authors social experi
As the passage opens, the repetitive cadences almost evoke Gertrude Steins char ence, takes form in the words of Rachels merchant frther, who is shipping goats
acteristic method for forestalling narrative momentum, condensing into syntax the and other goods in the south Atlantic trading zone o f Britains informal empire: If
larger antidevelopmental logic of the text. Rachels lack o f self-knowledge at the level it,werent for the goats [commerce] thered be no music [culture], my dear; music
of plot also works at the level of language or style by generating an extreme mobility depends upon goats (i6).
of perspective that slowly transforms itself from, psychological quirk into narrative Rachels uncultivated selfhood is not just, in other words, figured in the colony
device. If a juvepile and estranged perspective on adult realities is a relatively com as a metaphor;,it is based quite directly and sociologically in the colonial system
mon conceit (from Dickenss Pip to Faulkners Vardaman to Gunter Grasss Oskar of exchange. Her failed education lies, after all, at the feet o f an absent and inatten
Matzerath), Woolf actually dramatizes the migration of that youthfully coded tive father who is too busy abroad to superintend the cultivation of his daughters
viewpoint from its explicit source in a discrete character into a diffusely adoles mind. If we take Woolfs cue here, we can zero in on the mechanism that allows
cent principle of narration. In other words, Rachels character yields (to) a narrative the trope o f underdevelopment to shuttle between stylistic and generic registers
trope of undevelopment, an erratic, semi-omniscient, semi-embodied third-person Qn the one hand and colonial context on the other. For the novel addresses itself
perspective from which W oolfs key writerly innovations emerge in the temporal quite explicitly to the problem of womens incomplete access to knowledge about
vacuiun left behind by the suspended coming-of-age plot. Rachel caimot interpret imperial economics and politics, while more slyly assimilating this foreclosed
or describe the effects of her own self-dissolution, but Woolf absorbs the subject/ knowledge into its own revision of the bildungsromans temporal imperatives. The
object dissolve into an experimental fictional language. In a sense, style transforms Voyage O ut invites us to consider its departure from generic conventions in terms
and even displaces plot; that is to say, style has a plot, while the novel itself, dilating of the unknowable geography of production in the imperial metropolis. In the
and distending arrhythmically for long stretches, often does not. As fhe chapters roll opening scene, Rachels aunt, Helen Ambrose, muses on the West End o f London:
out, readers can sense Woolf testing the limits o f her form: the unintegrated subject It appeared to her a very small bit of work for such an enormous factory to have
at the center (Rachel) making space for thematic digressions, animated objects and made. For some reason it appeared to her as a small golden tassel on the edge of
decor, rather loose figurative play, a good bit of minor-character-shuffling, and a vast black cloak (6). Woolf foregrounds imcertain appearances (It appeared to
most conspicuouslymultipolar perspective. her . . . for some reason it appeared to her) and vast cloaked realities, gesturing
138 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 139

toward the lost intelligibility that Fredric Jameson has conceptuaUzed as part of the colonies. In them, the Goethe-Schiller model o f aesthetic and inner education

life in modernisms unreal cities, where key parts of the societys basic daily life appears to displace the work of economic production, but that displacement is

take place out of sight.='Jamesons claim that colonialisms dispersed and unknow laid bare rather than naturalized at the level of plot. In Lord Jim, as we observed

able forms of economic activity filter into modernist works at the level o f style in^ chapter 3, Jims failure to accumulate experience or to amass a personality is

gains a certain force and specificity if we consider the Helen-Rachel doublet in its registered reciprocally by Conrads colonial economyin which the main preoc

light. With The Voyage O ut a text conceived at roughly the same time as Forsters cupation seems to be the production of character, not wealth. Of course, both pro

Howards Bnd, which Jameson cites as his one key instance o f British modernisms duction and self-production ultimately fail or remain stunted in Conrads frontier

(imperial) political unconsciousWoolf gives us a case where the styUstic inven spaces outside the chronotopic envelope of the nation-state. In the colonial fanta-

tion emerges alongside and even from the epistemological feult line produced by syland-of Patusan, Jims sense of an authentic and special destiny for himself aligns

colonial modernity. The voyage out section of The Voyage O ut establishes both the \yith the necessity of his removal to an obscure, unwanted outpost.. But this ahgn-

spatial crack between nation and empire and the ethical crack between cultine and ment o f irmer and outer destinies, o f the pedagogical project of soulmaking with

commerce. These unsynthesized divisions function as the thematic preconditions the practical work of colonial administration, can only be temporary. In Patusan as

for Rachels unformed (indeed unformable) subjecti\dty. in Santa Marina, the temporaUty of underdevelopment, shaping both adolescent

If Helens bohemian and feminized image o f the citys visible golden tassel heroes and colonial hinterlands, doesnt just prolong youth, it also snaps back into

marks out a gendered instance of the broad screens and epistemological decoys sudden death.

that are symptomatic of capitalist and colonial modernity, those screens are Like Jim, Rachel dies from a fateful encounter with a kind of native infec

further highlighted as we shift focus from Helen to Rachel, the underdeveloped tionan Amazonian virus in her case. Her death, like Jims, is a Pyrrhic victory

heroine who strains to see the lines of power and production connecting her own that symbolically aifirms the value, and values, o f the iimocent protagonist even

cultured inner life to the great world-spanning activities of men like her father and as the novel kiUs her off. A colonial romance lies buried in The Voyage Out, but

Richard Dalloway. In the southern latitudes of the novel, those lines are no easier it is an encapsulated romance (as in Lord Jim) whose logic is reversed by the

to see though no less binding. Rachel embodies but cannot comprehend W oolfs cjosural process. In this sense, both novels expose the ideological romance of

keynote theme o f nonsynthesis between aesthetic culture (your music) and mer permanent adolescence by suggesting that neither human aging nor socializa

cantile capitalism (my goats). It is this nonsynthesisfi-amed explicitly in the text tion nor modernization can be prevented, only deferred. In other words, W oolf

by global rather than national tradethat establishes Woolfs novel as a direct and Conrad seem at first to reenchant the bildungsromanto hold out hope for

revision of the classic bildungsroman, the genre that aims to reconcile culture and a reconciliation between the souls private longings and its social obligations

capital by harmonizing self-production and production per se. As we have seen in but finally come to disenchant it with a vengeance. For Rachel, the voyage out

earlier chapters, there is a long dissenting tradition in the female bildungsroman in to Santa Marina initially seems to promise some kind of enlarged possibility for

which this symbolic reconcihation is not only not performed but is critiqued. Like semiautonomy within patriarchal social relations; her courtship with the fatuous

Schreiners African Farm, The Voyage O ut embeds that feminist critique into the Hewet seems, under the spell of the Amazon, to break from some of the rigid sex

problematic of colonial development. Among the many reasons that Rachel cannot ual conventions that threaten Rachels happiness. However, whenat the heart of

reconcile the rules of art and commerce is that she, like Conrads cloistered women the novels Amazonian darknessRachel looks into the eyes of the native women

in H eart o f Darkness, represents the gendering of the imperial unconscious, the who are staring back at her, she recognizes that a vast and impersonal system, in

split between civilizing and chivalric ideals on the one hand and the grubby deeds which sex, gender, labor, and power are socially organized, will always impinge
o f einpire men on the other.* pn her subjective and autonomous sense of self: So it would go on for ever and

Even as the gendered dimensions of W oolfs project in The Voyage O ut or ever, she said (270). Rachels sense of entrapment in patriarchy, her lost myth

Schreiners in African Farm -distinguish their plot o f underdevelopment rather of Coethean subjectivity and freedom, unspools in the language o f horrifying

sharply firom those of, say, Kim and Lord Jim, all of these novels share a com stasis, the permanent absence of a special developmental destiny, as the gears of

m on logic that structures the relation between acculturation and accumulation in patriarchy grind on.
140 unseasonable YOUTH TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 141

Ihis moment of recognition at the uttermost, innermost remove from English A long curving gallery. From the floor ascend pillars of dark vapours. It is
civilizatiomrepresents the core of The Voyage Out, where a never-ending genera- peopled by the images of fabulous kings, set in stone. Their hands are folded
tiondl chain and the stasis o f arrested development converge to define the novels upon their knees in token of weariness and their eyes are darkened for the
reviMon o f the bildungsromaii. W oolfs novel puts pressure on the progressive errors of men go up before them for ever as dark vapours.
logic of the genre, suggesting that it is not-or perhaps no longerpossible for (272)
subjects 'and nations to come of age in smooth, harmonic, morally affirmative
lockstep; the special temporality o f Bildung thus breaks down in two directions at With the errors of men rising forever before the eyes of weary kings, this image
once: into the instantaneous and the infinite. Those apparently opposed units of collates the censers and icons of a patriarchal churth with the bardic images of
liarfative timethe intensified, glotified moment o f being and the vast, grand ancient Irish royalty, and even evokes the uncrowned king of modern Ireland, a
temporal registers lying beneath and beyond official historyhave come to define ^Veary Parnell. The vision troubles Stephen with its amorphous and portentous
the essence o f W oolfs style as a Bergsonian modernist. What we learn from read implication o f an unending process of rising and falling, o f fallenness itself eter
ing them back into W oolfs colonial metabildungsroman iiffiSf the enriched pos nalized, converting perhaps the Daedalian dream of flight into the dark, bodiless
sibilities o f modernist style derive in some detectable p a it from the fissure o f the levity of the vapors. As soon as Stephen imagines prolonging his youthful ardor
soul-nation allegory into isolated moments and endless procedures that thwart into the endless vocation of art, he must confront, perhaps more directly than any
the logic of developmental historicism. Joyce too takes his part in a modern other character considered in this study, an equal and opposite danger, which is
ist dismantling of the progressive soul-nation allegory, fracturing its magical arc thfe endless life narrative as an eternal sentence with no period.
once more into two superficially opposed but logically complementary tempo One might well extend the comparison between the unconscious life of Rachel
ral registers, the epic and the epiphanic. If Rachel Vinraceand through her, Viiuace and Stephen Dedalus, since the gibbering and deformed little men of her
Virginia Woolfescapes from the narrative conventions of Bildung on her voy Chipboard dreams correspond so well with the goatish little creatures that people
age out, she must then face the profimdities and uncertainties of time unmoored his enervated mind after the sermon in chapter 3 (and that recur as horrid little
from its moralized and humanly scaled familiars (the life span o f the self, the men in the bad dreams reported in his diary o f 25 March). Both protagonists have
history of the nation). Hence the moment o f being among the native women is their narratives of enlightened self-cultivation detained and derailed by mani
also a showdown with eternity, with a particularly gendered and colonial night festations o f sexual trauma and of a distinctly undeveloping unconscious made
mare of for ever and ever, which is the moment when the freedom of endless vivid in the form of dream creatures who are regressed or primitive totems of raw
becoming (frozen youth) is suddenly revealed in the dark nightmare o f Hegelian masculinity. What Joyce and Woolf both seem to have discovered in the course
bad infinity. o f modernizing the bildungsroman against the backdrop of colonial modernity
That scene has a close analogue in Joyces P ortrait In a moment of climactic is the power of superimposing troubled sexual and gender rites of passage and
triumph toward the end of chapter 5, Stephen declares his epigenetic aspirations scenes of confrontation with imperial authority. For example, in The Voyage Out,
as an artist: to recreate life out of life. He appears in that moment, moreover, Rachels bad dreams are triggered when Richard Dalloway, an archetypal Empire
to embrace the implications o f a process that will go on and on and on and on Man in this novel, presses a kiss on her and initiates her fall into sexual adulthood.
(186). But there is, as Hugh Kenner aptly detects, an ominous undertone in the This small-scale violation prefigures the entire plot, not just of tragic resistance
lineperhaps one on too many (Kenner cited by Levenson, Stephens Diary to the institutionalization of desire as heterosexual marriage, but also of colonial
1020). Just as Rachel \Tnrace confironts at her moment of truth a vision of eter self-dissolution as against an imperial and patriarchal stamping o f the soul. Dallo
nal feminine labor and impaired subjectivity, of the endless process of gendered way represents a conservative version of English history that involves swallowing
socialization that will make her its object, so too does Stephen glimpse the endless enormous chunks of the habitable globe (43). He touts the world-historical mis
chain of gendered beingthe dark side of his cherished self-image as the self- sion of the British ruling class: In one wordUnity. Unity of aim, of dominion,
begetting man, the demon of pure potentiality. Later, he records in his diary an of progress. The dispersion of the best ideas over the greatest area (55). When
unsettling dream: he kisses Rachel, he reveals himself as her antagonist, a threat to her freedom.
142 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 143

Shortly after his unwelcome sexual impression, a horrified Rachel sees her life for Stephens dockside wanderings fill the middle spaces in a long narrative ofbecoming;
the first time | creeping hedged-in thing, driven cautiously between high walls, they point to a dmrable symbolic connection between an inchoate adolescent self
here turned aside, there plunged in darkness, made dull and crippled for ever hood, an uncertain and unsanctioned form of desire, and the quays and rivers that
(72). Already, then, before Rachel arrives in South America, the novel poses her coimote Stephens own marginal or provincial place in a vast system of economic
unfofmed and dissolving adolescence against the entwined forces of maturation modernization. Such scenes, with their overtones of juvenile wanderlust, verge at
(understood as subjection to patriarchal power) and modernization (understood times on banal romanticism. But they also recall a specific frame o f Uterary refer
as subjection to imperial power). ence: Beginning with Eliots Maggie TuUiver and her fateful downstream journey
The traumatic interlinking of sexual maturity with political visions of national on the Floss, we have encountered a series o f protagonists whose coming-of-age
conformity and progress shapes ^tephens youth as well, though in his case the plofs. have-been disrupted by commerce and traffic nm ning outside the symbolic
nationalist cause is a second-order effect o f British imperialism. Stephens earliest boundaries of local or national territory. From Conrads maritime empire and its
sensations include, prominently, the green and maroon brushes of Paniellr'arid dispersal of the soul-nation ^ egory to Wellss unassimilable enormity of traffic
Davitt, and the shaming, castrating taunt Apologise, pull out jiis'eyesboth and its diffusion of the condition-of-England novel to W oolfs impenetrable Lon
associated with the disciplinary nationalist Dante (3-4). La^er,'Stephen confronts don economy and its framing of Rachels yoyage out, we have been charting a close
a recurrent pattern o f sexualized and gendered shammg interwoven with confra- correspondence between antidevelopmental novels and a vast, disruptive global-
ternal demands to join the circle of patriotic and patriarchal Irish manhood. The cplonial system o f social and economic reorganization. We have been charting, in
fallout from Stephens cycle of cloaked sexual traumasthe narrative content that other words, symbolic tensions between the waterways of late Victorian or new
largely displaces the rite of passage in Portraithas been well elucidated in queer Imperial capitalism and the territorialized spaces o f national identity, tensions that
criticism since the publication of Quare Jqyce.^ In Joyces antidevelopmental novel, seem to have altered the basic contours of the modern(ist) bildungsroman.
as in W oolfs, sexual normalization is disrupted from within and cannot proceed In Portrait, Joyce figures experience, especially traumatic experience, in a
to a socially sanctioned closure point (i.e., marriage). As a result, Stephen cycles hydrauhc system o f images: pools and puddles, rivers and reservoirs, tides and cur
through traumatic exchanges that echo each other backward and forward; gilded rents, sweat and spittle, holy and profane liquids that wash over and run through
with narcissistic fantasy and supported by self-conscious refusals of forced iden Stephen. Joyce sets the flow of sin and squalor against the elaborate bulwarks and
tity, that cyclical, or epicydical, movement marks Stephens adolescence as more or levees o f Stephens own making: the patterning and ordering devices of arcane
less permanent. He remains a swooning, hstless, and passive spectator who queers scholarship, churchly abstraction, aesthetic theory, and self-mythologization.
even heterosexual desire and whose libidinal plots, all elfin preludes, seem to Consider, for example, this typical passage, from chapter 2:
suspend the double master plot of individual and national emergence.
He had tried to build a breakwater of order and elegance against the sor-
did tide o f life without him and to dam up, by rules o f conduct and active

Elfin Preludes: Joyces Adolescent Colony interests and new filial relations, the powerful recurrence of the tides within
him. Useless.
Among the many urban settings Joyce uses to capture the dilatory mind and shifting (104)
moods of Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait, some of the most resonant are the Liffey- The tides of sexual awakening within and urban degradation without converge
side quays and docks where our hero, the itinerant aesthete of Dubhn, walks the in Stephens encounter with a Dublin prostitute. But the conflict is more than
margins of national space and courts the barely definable needs of his growing soul: just sexual; it goes to Stephens attempt to assert moral and temporal control over
A vague dissatisfection grew up within him as he looked on the quays and the process of his own formation; at a formal level, tides and breakwaters mark
on the river and on the lowering skies and yet he continued to wander up Joyces attempt to manage the flow of time and story line. Water and waterways
and down day after day as if he really sought someone that eluded him. signify time in a generafized existential or purely narrative sense (the stream of
(69) consciousness, one might say), but here they also signify time in a more textured.

(
TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 145
144 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

perhaps even geopolitical, sense, since they open at both the literal and symbolic modernist fiction seems to challenge and scramble the Bakhtinian formula of

levels to tjie boundless world of modernization unchecked and unbalanced by the national-historical time.
Irish national emergence is obviously a problem of identity formation for
soul-nation allegory.
hike Rachel Vinrace, albeit in a more self-consciously dramatic way, Stephen Stephen and of aesthetic practice for Joyce. P ortrait narrates a continuous ten

oscillates between self-consolidation and self-dissolution; both resist the socializa sion between experiential flux and the time-shaping force of national identity. In

tion process and value the fluidity of adolescence. As Rachel muse^ in free indirect the opening chapter, Stephen famously gives order to the (traumatic) disorder of

discourse: "To be flung into the sea, to be washed hither and thither, and driven experience by locating himself within a nested geography of classroom, school,
about the roots of the worldthe idea was incoherently delightful (281). In Por town, county, nation, continent, planet, and universe (12). This signal moment of
trait, the water imageryright down to the swirling bogwater o f Stephens clos Ptolemaiciself-assertion both reinterprets and, in a sense, travesties the soulmak
ing diaryflows across chapters, breaking up the plot with sensual repetitions that ing apparatus o f the Goethean hero who builds a nascent intellect out of a kind of

attune Stephen to alternative temporalities of drift, stasis, and regression. - cifltural global-positioning system always set to the cardinal point of the cosmo
If Portrait can be read as typical of a larger modernist problematicin which politan self. Such devicesthe most hoary conventions of the modern novel as a

subjective narratives o f arrested development seem to cluster around themes of technology o f self-fashioningare deployed by Joyce but also torqued until they

colonial backwardness and globally uneven developmentit also stands apart lay bare their own status as conventions. This one in particular, the location of the

from our earlier examples for at least two immediate and related reasons. First, it self within a concentric model of political geography, gets tested and exposed as
gives us a more thorough objectification of the bildungsroman: This protagonist Stephen doggedly exits the circles o f family, church, school, and nation.

not only embodies the displacement of action by thought, but he also theorizes Joyce inventories the stock conventions of the bildungsroman in every episode
an entire aesthetic program aroimd the principle o f stasis or arrested develop of the novel, but some episodes in particular give us a deeper sense o f how he

ment. Joyce sets Stephens ideas about aesthetic stasis into the historical context of interrupts the forward motion of the soul-nation allegory. Chapter 1, for example,

emergent Irish nationhood, giving us a full demonstration of the ways in which takes up the motif of illness as an antidevelopmental tool (one used to fine effect

modernist experimentation can denaturaUze the soul-nation allegory o f the by Woolf in The Voyage Out). Stephens early illness at Clongowes Wood College,
like Rachels late illness in Santa Marina, seems placed in such a way as to suggest
Goethean novel.
Second, as we take up the case of Joyce, we move from ambiguously positioned that it is a psychosomatic reaction to narrow ideologies of gender and class. First

exiles and dissidents within the British metropolitan or colonial sphere to a writer of all, his fever follows an early incident of sexual panic, echoing Rachels retreat

generally taken to represent the colonized population. Even so, we should from the implications of compulsory heterosexuality. And his bout of unfitness

recall the methodological caveats introduced by the editors of and contributors ends, significantly, with the death of the national hero Parnell; it seems therefore to

to Semicolonial Joyce, a book that refines our understanding of the postcolonial manifest a disorder not just of body but of spirit, a malady rooted'in the problem

Joyce. Ireland represents a special case of what Joseph Valente has called metro- of national destiny.
colonial status, and Joyce (or his alter ego Stephen) a special case of the highly From this early point on, Stephen seeks to disburden himself of Irish icons

educated and cosmopolitan Irish intellectual. If Stephen understands himself while Joyce establishes a persistent tension between national spaces or traditions

as p a r tia l heir to a baleftxl legacy of colonial impositions (witness the tundish and the flow of subjective or private time. Whereas in the traditional bildungsro

scene), he also takes the iconic figure of the credulous Irish peasant to consti man, national territory and national history are often the narrative and episte

tute the true subject of both British and Roman conquest. With this in view, we mological containers that orient the hero in space and time, here the hero insists

can say that Joyces work appears here as a new variation on this studys governing that he must break out of the cage of national identity in order to access some
theme, that is, the novel of subject formation in the age of empire. Reading Joyce fresh, unfiltered knowledge of his place in the sensual and social universe. Read
and W oolf in semitandem, we can see important differences that can be ascribed back against the history of the bildungsroman as the genre o f European modern
to the divergent historical experiences of imperial and colonial cultures, but we ization, Portrait seeks to update and to objectify long-standing generic formulae,
can also appreciate the striking fact that, on both sides of the colonial divide. dislodging the soulmaking project from the moralizing time of national history by
TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 147
146 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

revealing the Irish national project as a belated, flawed, and often debilitating basis timeis subjected to a remarkably thorough articulation into two broken halves.
for Stephens aesthetic education. All development, all the time, is the same, finally, as the absence of development.
Like Woolf, with her feminist dissonance from traditional British ruling class This is no mere narrative ruse or modernist gimmick, but also a deep, if deeply
education, Joyce in his apprenticeship-as-arrested-development fiction wages a oblique, commentary on the pdstcolonial nation whose self-fixlfiUment is itself
campaign of revisionary reading and writing, always registering the particular perpetually deferred because it is perpetually under development. The fissile logic
prQt>lenis of the Irish artist or what Seamus Deane has called the provincial intel o f Stephens coming of age, always happening and thus never-happening, corre
lectual (Celtic 75-91). Traumatic repetition and ritualized behavior shape Ste sponds quite exactly to Joyces vision of Ireland as a radically unfinished project.
phen and give Joyce the occasion to expand the logic of serialized experience in In "Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages, Joyce ventures the following conditional
several directions. His mai^ner of cutting against the tyranny of plot differs from "portrait o f a true Irish cultural renaissance:
W oolfs; he assembles his Portrait as a series of recurring motifs that mak^e^ch
It would be interesting, but beyond the aims I have set myself this evening,
of.the five chapters seem like retellings of the same story as mu^h-as'phases in
to see what the probable consequences would be of a resurgence of this
a single story. The contest between plot development and symbolic repetition
people; to see the economic consequences of the appearance of a rival,
always on (display in the novel to some extent, as J. Hillis Miller has demonstrated
bilingual, republican, self-centered and enterprising island next to England,
so elegantlybecomes more overt than usual here in Joyces schematic plot. Joyce
with its own commercial fleet and its ambassadors in every port throughout
uses serialized motifs to undercut linear emplotment, just as Kipling uses episodic
the world; to see the moral consequences of the appearance in old Eixrope
and spatial form, Schreiner allegorical interpolation, Conrad impressionist
of Irish artists and thinkers, those strange souls, cold enthusiasts, artisti
description, Wilde aphorism and dialogue. Wells discursive or didactic commen
cally and sexually iminstructed, full of idealism and incapable of sticking
tary, and Woolf lyric or elegiac interludes. Even now it is surprising how thor
to it, childish spirits, unfaithful, ingenuous and satirical, the loveless Irish
oughly Joyce uses repetition and recursion to make a novel whose end circles back
men as they are called.
to its begiiming. If Hugh Kenners celebrated reading of Portrait reveals that the
(Occasional 125)
first few pages of the text anticipate all that will follow, Michael Levensons reveals
that the final few pages recapitulate all that has come before (Shape, of a Life Since the frame of reference for Stephen in Portrait is not the actual emergent post
1026). Taken together, they remind us that Joyces novel works by superimposing colonial nation, but an idealized Ireland o f an indefinite future, it follows that the
linear and circular form. temporality of the national allegory is the time of pure potentiality, an adolescent
Levenson notes that the diary form that takes over in the final chapter implies, counternarrative of national destiny made to fit those childish spirits, Irish artists
by its very nature, that Stephens life story is, page by daily page, a never-ending and thinkers.^5qhis picture of Ireland as a nation of great potential but unworthy
one (10x9). Pericles Lewis offers a similar account of the novels potentially infinite political self-formation in the present mirrors, and perhaps structures, the novels
plot: Joyce converts the disillusionment plot structure from a single, momentous portrait of Stephen. The fundamental split in Joyce between a sardonic rejection of
event in the life o f the protagonist into an indefinite process,' coextensive with Irish nationalism in practice and a playful utopian interest in a renascent Ireland
life itself (30). As Joyce prepares his hero to exit the nation, he shifts from a takes aesthetic form in Portrait as the plot o f incomplete formation for both hero
closed to an open genre (novel to diary). This gesture, like others we have observed and nation.
in Gontad, Kipling, Wells, and Woolf, cinches the modernist novels revision of At the pragmatic level of composition, though, the novel has to blend the
national closure in the bildungsroman, throwing open the gates to the potential uninflected temporality of mere becoming and the shaped temporality of dis
narrative infinities associated in all of these texts with colonial modernity. crete experience; the result is Joyces epicyclical scheme of five chapters split
The notions that Stephens life is not a (linear) narrative and that Stephens life between repetition and progress.Facing such a temporal scheme, many readers
is only narrative, that is, an infinite narrative with no cdosure, are, of course, mir have seen Portrait as a fairly conventional bildungsroman at bottom, propelled
ror images of each other. Portrait thus stands as the clearest example of a met- by the careful work Joyce does to age the style and diction of each chapter in
abildungsroman in which the central, most in(iispensable devicedevelopmental apparent correspondence to Stephens growth. Yet given the mainstream critical
TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 149
148 Ul^^EASONABLE YOUTH

Stephens preference for phantasmal comrades over against any functional male
consensus that Stephen remains a consistent target of Joyces irony, it makes equal
subgroup not only marks out a key point of departure from the Goethean proto
interpretive sense to say that the novels changing style marks a limit in Stephens
type of the bildungsheld, Wilhelm Meister, but it also serves to emphasize to read
maturity, perhaps even that stylistic advances throw into relief the recursive ele
ers a particular crisis of Irish masculinity in which both rebellion and authority
ments o f the plot and the persistently adolescent features of Stephens thinking.*^
can, it seems, only be articulated in terms pre-scripted by the stereotype factory of
Taking the force o f style, plotting, and characterization together, we might say
ttfe.Anglo-Irish colonial encounter. Stephens double bind in the face of patriarchal
that the novel warps,and defamiliarizes the conventions of the novel of progress,
^ d national/imperial authority comes into sharp focus during the trip to Cork
but does not destroy them. Where Conrad uses embedded subnarration and
with his father in chapter 2. Stephen proudly recoils from his fathers coarse bon
ppnderous description to break the flow o f plot, Joyce follows Stephens mental
homie, leaky libido, profligate drinking, and masculine bravadoall o f which are
voice into a minute rendering of sensory and cognitive experience and, under
accentuated as father and son rejoin the fathers old mates in Cork. The acid com
neath that, a prismatic ac/count o f language itself. Stephen does not just recall,
mentary o f Stephens interior monologue conveys familiar adolescent d is^ st at the
but reenacts, revises, and revisits events and the words used to store and^isbort
foibles of the older generation, but this clichO of youth takes on greater force when
them in the mind. Once stationed outside the lines o f Goethean destiny, Ste
Stephen refuses to be identified not just with his father but with his grandfather.
phen exhibits signs not just o f arrested, but also of accelerated, development:
Joyce embeds the drama of disfiliation within a legible array of national types and
He is by turns premature and immature, jtivenile and fusty. He leapfrogs ahead
stereotypes, so that it expands into a wider story of Irish national and colonial dis-
o f his time, then treads the temporal waters. In essence, the figure of Stephen is
^ a t i o n (98-101). Simons friends hector shy Stephen throughout the scene until
recalcitrant to the standard narrative sequence o f youth-into-age.* Mixed tem
one unnamed Cdrkman asks hini which of two Latin slogans is correct: Tetnpora
poral effects in Joycewhat we have described in other texts as the co-presence
'mutantur nos et m utam ur in illis or Tempora m utantur et nos m utam ur in illis
o f over- and underdevelopmental logicdisorganize the socialization plot in
(100). Seamus Deane renders the line as Circumstances change and we change
several ways at once.
vdth them and suggests that the comparison of the two phrasesboth grammati
Few things happen once in Portrait. Repeated and remembered episodes (the
cally co rrect-is merely academic (Portrait 295). But the sUght variation, when
square ditch at Clongowes, for example) offer a psychologically realist depiction
viewed through the central lens of the soul-nation allegory, takes on an interesting
of a layered mind developing its recursive path through life and give the plot its
inflection: Times change and we change with them or Times change and we are
strongly patterned symmetries. Within the diegetic frame, Stephen conducts a
changed by them. The shift from a parallelism implied by with to the causality
proud and holy caippaign to separate himself from the crowd, to force his social
implied by by contains in a grammatical nutshell an entire open question around
ization narrative onto, a separate and privileged track. Stephens hyperindividuation
which Portrait as a late or metabildungsroman might be said to revolve: Is the self
parodies self-formation as an aesthetic and social value; he ^ o s e s the epigenetic
a product of its historical circumstances or a self-producing, self-authoring entity
logic of the bildungsroman ideal by dwelling on the mythic act of self-creation.
restrictedbut not wholly formedby its circumstances?
Stephens ludic fascination with self-authoring continues, of course, into Ulysses;
In particular, Stephen wonders whether- he can break from the traditions and
here it takes the form of a callow, even arrogant, mission to shrug off the burdens
values embodied by his bluff and rivalrous jackass of a father. Is rebeUion-already
of identity politics and group formation. In chapter 2, a precocious Stephen has
cataloged by Arnoldian ethnology as a cliche o f the Irish soul, already jocosely
already turned rebellious moods into personal policy by rejecting the standards of
dismissed by his father as a toothless adolescent p o se -e v e n possible for Stephen
middle-class Irish Catholic male identity. Asked to play the role of gifted redeemer
under these conditions? How to rebel within an Irish nationalist culture of failed
to a series of corrupt. M e n , or dishonored institutions, he tries instead to deny the
rebellion? Watching his father and friends drink a self-satisfied toast, Stephen
din o f all these hollowsounding voices, the voices telling him to be a gentleman, a
imagines a crisp break between the generations:
good Catholic, a devout son to a bankrupt father, a decent mate to his fellows, and
a hale, manly patriot to champion poor Irelands fallen language and tradition
An abyss of fortune or of temperament sundered him from them. His mind
(88). To save himselfto become himselfStephen vows to join the company of
seemed older than theirs: it shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and
phantasmal comrades (89).
150 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 151

regrets like a moon upon a younger earth. No life or youth stirred in him as experience and outer signs, a problem chilled and condensed into an impersonal
if had stirred in them. He had known neither the pleasure of companion verse form. Stephen articulates via Shelley a problemam I overdetermined or
ship with others nor the vigour of rude male health nor filial piety. self-determining?that cannot be resolved." Joyce thus positions Stephen not
(101-2) simply as the typical protagonist o f a disillusionment plot, a rebel in the face of
bourgeois compromise, but also as a belated subject who marks the breakdown
Where the youth o f his fether and his ilk is of the conventional, phased kinddiscrete
of the core soul-nation allegory. In particular, Stephens capacity for masoch
and free and pleasurableStephens is an xmpredictable, idiopathic style of youth,
ism allows Joyce to describe subject formation in terms of an overidentification
riddled with inhibitions, devoted to abstract rewards of aestheticized intellection,
with authority, and thereby to balance out the rebellious Luciferian streak of Ste-
and elastic in its temporality. Failure to be youthful here means failure to observe a
phenr non serviam. Reading Portrait this way, we can understand afresh some
proper youth-age sequence; failed youth also provides the aegis for Stephens sweep
of Stephens self-glorification and self-mortification; they make sense not just as
ing rejection of male companionship and homosocial bonds. Stephens alienation
adolescent emotionalism but as signs o f Joyces attempt to modernize literary
from the spectacle of youth as pre-manhood constitutes a serious felling away from
character. With recent colonial, semicolonial, and postcolonial Joyce criticism in
the homosocial Goethean subsociety, understood as the key .agent of social recon-
mind, we might say that P ortrait casts the struggle of Irish national emergence
dilation for the bourgeois-bohemian apprentice., If the Goethean hero (recyded,
as a historical condition for Joyces noveUstic critique of the European novel of
for example, in the Dickens novd) seeks paternity everywhere, Joyces hero seeks to
progress.
reject paternity everywhere, daiming proud exclusion from the homosocial clique as
If Stephens rebellious individualism and Joyces modernist will to innovation
well as the national patrimony. For Stephen, naturally, this obsessive and disfiliative
take the form o f an adolescent indifference to the narrative conventions of mor
plot cyde has the effect, as the passage makes perfectly dear, of scrambling both the
alized, nationalized progress, they must then confront the temporal registers
sodal repertoire and the organicized timetable of youth-maturity.
that fall outside the model of shapely progress: static and infinite time. And these
Stephen, operating only semiautonomously from the Indirect discourse of the
are not just theoretical markers of time in Portrait, but take theif place inside the
narrator, casts this social fracture as a temporal break between himself and his
rhetoric and ideology of the very authorities against which Stephen attempts to
own past:
rebel, that is, the colonfal and imperial centers of patriarchal power. Stephens
His childhood was dead or lost and with it his soul capable of simple joys, volatile self-understanding in relation to those sources of patriarchal authority
and he was drifting amid life like the barren shell of the moon. accounts in part for the length and detail o f Father Arnalls hell sermonan
episode during which Stephens propensities for self-mortification and self-
A rt thou pale fo r weariness
glorification blur into one. What makes that long passage even more germane
O f climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
to Stephens place at the center of a colonial novel of arrested development is
Wandering com panionless . . . ?
that, as Tobias Boes has aptly noted, the priests vision o f hell is development
He repeated to himself the Unes o f Shelleys fragment. Its alternation of sad at a standstill (Portrait 777). Indeed, Joyce lingers on the infernal rhetoric so
human ineffectualness with vast inhuman cycles of activity chilled him, and as to give Stephenand readersa foretaste o f eternity itself: ever never ever
he forgot his own human and ineffectual grieving. never (143). Eternal damnation, in other words, feels like pure narrativity with
(102) no closure.
Stephens lunar self-im ^e implicitly refutes the Tempora m utantur of the crony But the rhetorical reach of Father Arnalls sermon extends beyond hell to an
from Cork: Where that motto speaks to the integrated and reciprocal relation alternative language of destiny too:
between the subject and his times, Stephen becomes the companionless moon,
quite out of joint with his times. Time has gone on and brought with it its changes. Even in the last few years

Stephens interest in the Shelley fragment centers on the alternation, not what changes can most of you not remember? Many of the boys who sat
integration or synthesis, between human and inhuman activity, between inner in those front benches a few years ago are perhaps now in distant lands, in
152 UI^SEASONABLE YOUTH TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 153

the burning tropics or immersed in professional duties or in seminaries or pecuUar to epic art (Historical Novel 303). The modern epic genres of historical
yoyaging,over the vast expanse of the deep or, it may be, already called by and realist fiction, that is, require the average or middling hero, but Stephen can
the great God to another life. not operate like a Scott hero because he is not a historiographical iimocent. He
(117) kqows too much and, what is more, he takes history too personally. He cannot
function as the unwitting embodiment of historical forces but must be a kind of
This qfficial and clich^d accoimt of the boys pathways to adulthood emphasizes ser delectator of historical possibility, positioned at the far side of a century chock-full
vice in two alien hierarchies, the Catholic church and the British empire. More to o f historical fiction canonized in the wake of Scott for its ability to narrate collec
the immediate point, it describes futuresprofessions, priesthood, death, and impe tive destiny imder the sign (however naturalized) of the nation.^'
n d adventurethat are grand callii^gs, tilted toward the romanticized extremes of ^ Even more particularly, we can think of Stephens aesthetic individualism as a
adventure and of destiny. Life, it seems, is a mission and a project, and the diction mark and symptom of a colonial intellectuals suspicion of the logic of the repre
(distant... vast... expanse... deep... great) directly echoes the endless, boundless sentative type. In a series of related essays, David Lloydhas, for example, proposed
qualities the sermon associates with eternal hellfire. The future stretcjiesto far hori that nineteenth-ceptury European litqrary cultures projected their own moder
zons rather than attaching to fixed and stable places. The extr^fitional authorities nity and centrality through the logic of the representative or archetypal soulan
that dominate Portrait have their own versions of infinity: the empires endless Great extension of a German-idealist concept into contact zones and peripheral regions
Game of imperial expansion and the churchs boundless rhetoric of hell. Nowhere in Europe and beyond (Arnold, Ferguson, Schiller 161). Portrait modernizes the
in Portrait is the language more clearly anatomized for the wayTn which it connects historical novel for a new century of devolutionary and decentering social and
destiny and adventure itself to the twin imperiahsms o f Rome and London and to political movements, that is, for historical forces and events that cannot be fit to
the bad infinities (spiritual, spatial, existential) that they seem to represent. The ser Lukdcss unilinear metanarrative of national emergence. One might say then that
mon is a lurid, sensually rich version of a never-ending story: precisely what a novel Joyce uses Stephen to update the symbolic function of the Scott hero for a het
of arrested development threatens to become if it generates no inner checks. To get erochronic world of alternative modernities. Scott Klein, working from Stephens
outside the soul-nation allegory o f nineteenth-century convention is thus to risk apparent allusion to Scotts Bride o f Lam m erm oor in chapter 5 of Portrait, has
confrontation with or suspension in a demoralized, nonprogressive temporality developed a thorough and convincing reading of Scotts relevance to Joyce. Klein
the empty chronos that is the dark other of the bildungsroman itself. notes thai- Scott operates in the text as a transcended double, one whose fictional
As in the novels explored in previous chapters, Joyce must find a way in Por mode of romantic historicism Joyce cannot and would not wish to recreate, but
trait for Stephen, as a figure, to remain poised between the Scylla o f pat and linear whose problem o f national culture and national emergence within the British
national Bildung on the one hand and the Charybdis o f shapeless or empty time on empire prefigures and influences Joyces own (Scotland after 1800 anticipating Ire
the other. At the thematic level, this means giving fictional form to an alternative land after 1900) (loiS-zs).^* Taking Bride rather than, say, Waverley, as an inter
ideal o f Irish nationality outside the prescriptive and restrictive canons o f official text for Portrait is significant, Klein observes, because Bride has a less clear, less
nationalism.^ The complexity of Portrait and its reception by postcolonial critics resolute closural plot and thus conforms less readily to the Lukdcsian model of
especially has always been that Stephen seems to be a nationally representative the m i d d l i n g hero whose quest mirrors and embodies larger historical forces. It
type who also rejects nationalism (if not nationality); that is, he can be read as anticipates the Joycean plot, in other words, in the mode of what Klein calls ironic
representatively or typically Irish only in his paradoxical disavowal of the burden historiography (1028). What this intertextual aside reveals about Portrait, I think,
of Irishness. The novel thus preserves and cancels the apparatus of the soul-nation can be framed in the terms outlined so far in this way: Joyce operates in the novel
allegory, splitting the national hero between residual and emergent times, between under the aegis o f national allegory, but not of developmental historicism, with
recursive patterns and sequential narration. In making Stephen a specialized talent the result that all the buried correspondences between soul and nation are brought
and a highly self-conscious historical thinker, Joyce breaks with the Lukdcs-Scott to the surface and exposed as semifunctional, sometimes ironized to the point of
model of the typical realist or historical protagonist since, as Lukdcs suggests, near breakdowii. It is important to emphasize that, however much the would-be
a biographical portrayal of a genius . . . conflicts with the means of expression iconoclast Stephen imagines himself escaping or opposing nationalism as a creed.
V TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 155
154 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

the enunciated and narrated self from the point o f view of minor literature or of
he cannot escape the force of nationality as an epistemological precondition for
a colonized relationship to language.^'* The inversions of Portrait violate develop-
historical being.
_ijiental time; they alsoas the masochistic and self-negating elements of Stephens
If Joyce updates and dialectically transcodes the mode of Scottian historicism,
subject formation suggestaddress a type o f self-alienation endemic to the colo
the procedure unfolds at several levels, with the Irish urban novel self-consciously
nized position. Faced with this predicament, Stephen self-consciously assumes the
breaking from the gentrified codes of Victorian English fiction; the plot o f sexual
mantle of the Irish artist but allocates the burden of Irish iconicity to the people
irfesolution opposing both standardized marriage and gendered socialization; the
vo u n d him (particularly women). Both crones and cronies figure in this game,
plot of national irresolution opposing the mythic emergence o f the nation as the
as Stephen measures his adolescent national ideals against the failings of harridan-
political expression of the people; the narrative o f the egoistic cosmopolitan artist
ish Cathleens, secondhand aislings, clay-footed men, and vainglorious or politi-
breaking from the convention of the representative (national) protagonist; and the
'cally correct fools that populate his Dublin. Stephens oedipal/anti-oedipal anxiety
Kunstlerroman centered on a passive, even decadent, artist-antihero .s h if tin g away
about maternal and sexual plots involving women, most of which cast him as the
iErom the tale of the Political Action Hero ^ la Scott. The national coding of these
passive or childlike object of a devouring other, are as bound up with his disaf
shifts is significant: Joyce sees in Scott a Celtic precursor working inside the greater
fected patriotism as are all the episodes of disavowed male homosociality.
British or Anglophone sphere, but he even more openly identifies with a Flauber-
Inspired by his mate Davins story of a lonely Irish peasant woman on the road
tian (or Wildean) lineage as against the classic English bfand of realism.
side, Stephen elaborates Davjns adventure into a fantasy for his own private sense
Such a reading certainly resonates with Joyces stated understanding o f the dif
of national mission, seeing in his minds eye the woman as a type of her race and
ference between Irish and EngHsh literature, particularly in the case of the novel.
his own, a batlike soul waking to consciousness of itself in darkness and secrecy
For Joyce, the signal instance o f English realism is Robinson Crusoe, the novel of
and loneliness. But in the next moment, Stephen quickly dispels this vision by
self-formation and of British colonial modernity par excellence. Crusoe is pro
concentrating on a real Irish girl, a flower seller of ragged dress and damp coarse
phetic, Joyce states, o f the centuries of British expansion and colonization that
hair and hoydenish face (198). Even so, he remains taken with the motif o f the
followed it. As Joyce notes in his 1912 lecture Realism and Idealism in English
batlike soulhis and the womansfolding into his personal mythology the idea
Literature, Crusoe inaugurates the great tradition of English stories centered on an
of himself as the savior of a shrouded people. He effects a Cartesian separation
emergent self working in tandem with colonial and economic modernization:
o f the body and mind of Ireland, assigning the former to the predictable female
The true symbol of British conquest is Robinson Crusoe who, shipwrecked icon and reserving the latter as the basis for his own Parnassian intervention. In
on a lonely island, with a knife and a pipe in his pocket, becomes an archi other words, Stephen projects himself beyond the logic of the hero who embodies
tect, carpenter, knife-grinder, astronomer, baker, shipwright, potter, sad national destiny by imagining himself as the artist who conceives it. This requires
dler, farmer, tailor, umbrella-maker, and cleric. He is the true prototype of not only a kind o f self-removal and spiritual exile, but a thwarting of the narrative
the British colonist. conventions of the historical novel and the bildungsroman alike. Stephens mode
(Occasional 174) of feshioning a destiny is to imagine the awakening o f an other; he routes his con
cepts of the future through passive fantasies of self-negation. Joyce thus estranges
Crusoe, the hero o f modern British imperialism, is also the hero of EngUsh real
the Goethean project o f self-formation, introducing in its place a colonial dialectic
ism. He is the maker of his own destiny, literally and physically, and the activist
o f self-possession vexed and vitiated by self-dispossession.
archetype of what Hannah Arendt calls homo fa b er (man the maker), to which
If profound doubts about Victorian womanhood led W oolf to look askance
Stephen is the ironic colonial antitype. Indeed Stephen seeks both to invert and
on the generic ideals of the bildungsromanand to graft a colonial m otif of
to usurp the role of homo faber in the antidevelopmental story of Portrait, first by
failed self-possession into her first novelthen for Joyce we must imagine that
esfabhshing the passive antihero, then by converting that antihero into a symbolic
a more direct sense of colonial history conditions the critique of male destiny
smith, a forger o f national myth, a Daedahan hero for an unheralded race.
as the symbolic proxy for national emergence. Joyce isolates and reorganizes
If Joyce transvalues the concept of homo faber in Portrait, it is not just to play
that symbolic tie between and soul and nation, particularly with regard to its
on the colonial dynamics o f active/passive heroes but to explore the problem of
:S6 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH* TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 157

traditional narrative destination o f self-fulfillment or self-possession. It makes national capital to the hero who wishes to leave behind a provincialized nation for
strict formal sense that P ortrait must hang fire on Stephens coming of age rather the metropolitan center.
than produce a straightforward or traditional postcolonial novel o f emergence But flight never qui(e wins out over nets in Portrait. From the perspective of his
(which is what a strictly nationalist cause might see as the desideratum for the own expatriated status, Joyce can see that the art of the Irish genius is an art made
Irish novel in 1916). As a result, Portrait, with all its idiosyncratic elements mark not from what Cranly jeeringly exposes as a bogus ideal of unfettered freedom,
ing It off as a creative response to particular aspects o f Irish experience, also but from the tension between self-determination and social conditions (267). Joyce
takes' part in a larger modernist project, the critical dismantling of the temporal does not condescend to Stephens ideal of q radical individuation that would save
and allegorical givens o f the historical bildungsroman centered in the European him from the burdens of the young Irish artist, but neither does he accept the idea
nation-states. j ' that a. workable aesthetic can emerge for Stephen from his dreams of companion
The modernizing frame of the industrial nation-state allows the ideal or clas less exile. Moreover, Stephen himself offers an oblique aesthetic rationalization
sic'bildungsroman to project a certain synchronization between economic and o f paralysis a? stasis, valuing the Aristotelian principle of arrest as against the
emergent modernity as the joint horizon of closure. Joyces P o r t r i ^ , ^ contrast, kinesis of plot (desire/loathing).*^
is an object lesson in the disjunction between Irelands political modernityas Of course, Stephens theory o f aesthesis is a tragic-dramatic one, not a narrative
ratified by the march toward independent republic statusand its economic one: It is therefore outflanked by or subsumed within the narrative frame. This is
conditionsa breach mediated by the cultural and aesthetic projects o f the Irish not just a theoretical or generic fact about novels; but the topic of what appears to
Renaissance. But as a putative novel of development Portrait h is a special status be some of Stephens most scholasticist contemplation. Dfawing from Aquinas,
within the Revival or Renaissance era; in its rewiring of the bildungsroman into he hypothesizes that even when two people or two cultures apprehend different
a novel of pure adolescence it continually signifies the problem of Irelands own objects according to different scales of beauty, both are proceeding through cer
partial or alternative modernity. tain universal or fixed stages. . . of all esthetic apprehension (227). His analysis,
From Dubliners on, Joyce is a keen and cold observer of economic underdevel in other words, depends on breaking the instant o f apprehension into a process
opment, and of the contradictions between debased and debasing economic con of stages, so that he recaptures a narrative sequence out of what would seem to
ditions on the one hand and the highflying rhetoric of Irish cultural modernity on be a moment in time. Not surprisingly, Stephens reflections on aesthetic process
the other. As he notes in "Ireland, Island o f Saints and Sages, The economic and conjure for his friend Donovan the thought of Goethe and of Lessings Laocoon
intellectual conditions of his homeland do not permit the individual to develop (229). Donovans allusion may be shallow, but Joyces is not: Stephen is working at
{Occasional 123). Irish literary and historical studies of the last many years have questions about the relation of temporal to nontemporal art in the line of Lessing
centered on the various kinds o f anachrony produced by the specific colonial, and Goethe just as Joyce is attempting to interpolate antinarrative elements into a
semicolonial, or metrocolonial conditions of Irish modernity, with special atten conventional narrative genre. If Lessing stands'for the attempt to separate art into
tion to the variations between Irish modernization processes and the norms or plastic and poetic (spatial and temporal) media, Goethe stands in a sense for the
standards set by Euro-American narratives o f reformation, liberalization, indus- synthesis of the spatial and the temporal in narrative form. Th& ghost of Goethe
triahzation, secularization, and urbanization. In Attridge and Howess Semicolo presides quietly over Joyces attempt to square developmental and antidevelop-
nial Joyce, one of the best recent treatments of these questions within Joyce studies, mental time. As in the cases of Wilde, Conrad, and Schreiner, Goethean allusions
Marjorie Howes, Luke Gibbons, and Enda Duffy all address uneven development Signal a formal problem and a historical predicament to which the novel of imsea-
in Irelandwhat Howes defines as the geographical expression of the contradic sonable youth seeks to respond.
tions of capital (6i).^ In Dubliners, Joyce frames that contradiction spatially using Even among the stalled-adolescent protagonists already addressed in this
the famous structuring m otif o f paralysis. In Portrait, he uses scenes of transit study, Joyces Stephen stands for the diagrammatic clarity with which he reorga
through Dublin to underscore his parodic inversion of the Goethean soulmak nizes the humanist motif of Goethean destiny. His story is almost entirely built
ing narrative and its cosmopolitan-elite modes of travel. And toward the end, he from minutely subjective responses to the call of the future: His action is its con
emphasizes a shift in scale from the hero who leaves behind the provinces for a templation. After the spiritual retreat of chapter 3, a cross and stupefied Stephen
158 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH ^ TROPICS OF YOUTH IN WOOLF AND JOYCE 159
, \

consumes a greasy meal and feels himself a mere beast that licks its chaps after his soul, he seems almost to make a sly address to the formal problematic of the
meat. This was the end. he thinks, and gazes out at dull Dublin: novel itself:

Forms passed this way and that through the dull light. And that was life. It was an elfin prelude, endless and formless; and, as it grew wilder and
The letters o f the name of Dublin lay heavily upon his mind, pushing one fester, the flames leaping out of time, he seemed to hear from imder the
another surlily hither and thither with slow boorish insistence. His soul was boughs and grasses wild creatures racing.
fattening and congealing into a gross grease, plunging ever deeper in its dull (179)
fear into a sombre threatening dusk, while the body that was his stood, list
On, the surface, this music reflects Stephens wayward instincts, but the flames and
less and dishonoured, gazing out of darkened eyes, helpless, perturbed and
hoofbeats ofun amorphous and boundless energy also describe the Joycean narra
human for a bovine god to s|are upon.
tive itself, straining to manage the infinite with some token of the finite. The lan
(119-20)
guage of Stephens grandiosity is the same language that records for the reader the
Listless and dishonored, Stephen Dedalus stands as an anti-heto-^evoid of danger of formlessness: if Stephens horizons are ever-enlarging and evfer-receding,
enterprise and motivation and hopeall the qualities that d e ^ e the protagonist no lines can finally be crossed, no act fully realized. His own experience stands
in a novel of progress.^ His soul resonates to the world putside his window. The and remains as an elfin prelude to some larger achievement. By this light, the
dullness and dusk o f the city are assimilated to him as features of his own self, novel itself comes to seem an elfin prelude not just by extratextual reference to
reflecting the shared inanition and squalor of ego and city. Disaggregated, the let Ulysses, but by its own operations, in which momentshowever epiphanickeep
ters D U B LI and N go hither and thither without purpose or directiona perfect melting into their own failed immanence, paling before the vast potentialities that
symbol of the vectorless anachrony of Dublin, signifying moreover the lost anima extend out o f them, and beyond them. If Portrait devolves, from this perspective,
tion of Stephens soul and the sUppage from a novel o f development to a novel of into a long ironic prelude, it is equally true that W oolfs Voyage O ut reads like an
antidevelopment. extended, bathetic denouement; both are novels without arcs, and the missing arc
Joyces techniques for rewiring the bildungsroman are. as we have seen, is the sign o f a cancelled historicism concretized in fictions that feature both youth
inflected by a distinctive Irish experience of colonial modernity, but he also and death, but Httle progress in between.
inherits many of the same historical and literary-historical conditions that Since a novel that never ends (and never begins) is an impossible artifact, an
shaped the work o f Woolf, Wells, Wilde, Conrad, Schreiner, and K ip l i n g , in all antidevelopmental fiction must in some sense adapt the metabildungsroman strat
these cases, prolonged or lingering youth embodies an antidevelopmental logic egy of writing not beyond, but about, the contradictions of the national coming-
that registers not only the moralized or eschatological time of the nation and its of-age tale. The antidevelopmental logic so thoroughly tested in Portrait situates
imperial extension (development to a fixed point o f political actualization), but Stephen at a modernist switchpoint where a double temporal register is needed,
the open-ended and boundless time o f capitalism in the age of empire. Seeking one that incorporates without synthesizing the moralized time of progress (soul
to assimilate the open yet uneven form of postnational development, Joyce must and nation) and the empty time of pure chronos, manifested in the endless revo
confront the same kind of closural problem that bedeviled most of these earlier lutions o f global modernity. But if this is a logic immanent to the text, it is not a
writers: What kind o f terminal plot makes sense in the face of a never-ending resolution or synthesis available to Stephen Dedalus himself. Arrested forever at
narrative of modernization, especially once the chronotope o f national Bildung the threshold of flight, Stephen is interred in his diary, not self-actualized by it or
has been demystified or disqualified? More precisely, what kind of narrative in it."^ In this sense, even with his Promethean intellect afire, Stephen is more akin
maneuvers can represent both the infinity o f world-historical development and to the blinkered, ill-fated Rachel Vinrace than it may appear, closer in his frozen
the residual time-shaping power o f the organicized nation (and its symbolic youth to death than to life.
familiar, the biographical novel)?
In one o f his visionary moments, Stephen seems to recognize the root problem
in the narrative o f endless becoming or pure potential; hstening to the music of
VIRGINS OF RMPIRE; THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN l6l

empires. That devolutionary shift features centrally in Rhyss Voyage in the Dark
(composed mostly before 1914, but published in 1934) and in Bowens The Last
September (published in 1929). In both novels, autobiographical protagonists fail
to achieve a stable social role ratified by adulthood, and their firozen adolescence
Sfeems to correspond to the retarded modernization of two colonial contact zones,
the Anglophone Caribbean and post-World War I Ireland. The two novels feature
stepdaughters of the plantocracy, Anna Morgan and Lois Farquar, girls whose fates
register the anachronistic logic of colonial modernity and open tip narrative space
for stylistic experimentation.
Before proceeding with the cases o f Rhys and Bowen, it might be worth reflecting
briefly on the difference that gender makes to the analysis of the revisionary mod
6. Virgins of Empire: ernist b'ildungsroman. If we update the classic feminist accounts of the problem of

The Antidevelopmeiital the Victorian female bildungsroman (Abel, Hirsch, and Langland, Fraiman, Gilbert
and Gubar, Showalter) to include the problem of the metropolitan peripherythat
Plot in Rhys and Bowen is, the global as well as the national provinces, it becomes quite startling to consider
how many important women writers of the late Victorian and modernist periods
embed the representation of patriarchal social structures within plots centered on
I was thinking Im nineteen and Ive got to go on living and living and living. the underdeveloped pockets of colonial modernity. With Schreiner, Woolf, Rhys,
Rhys, Voyage in the D ark and Bowen as our key examplesand we might add Katherine Mansfield and Miles
Franklin on the early side as well as Janet Frame and Doris Lessing on the late
After every returnor awakening, even, from sleep or preoccupationshe and those home
sidewe find a set of Anglophone women writers working at the social and geo
surroundings still further penetrated each other mutually in the discovery of a lack.
graphical edges o f British modernism.' All of these writers conceive the history of
Bowen. The Last September
colonial contact zones in ways that expose with renewed feminist vigor the inher
ited problems of the nineteenth-century coming-of-age plot. Their fiction rewrites
Goethean models of male destiny, exposihg as uncertain and uneven the promises
of progress that were knitted into the narrative code o f the (male) bildungsroman.
Gender and Colonialism in the Modernist The antidevelopmental principles of plot construction thaf I have traced so
Semi-Periphery fer in this study tend to index a resistance to the twin teleologies of the classic
bildungsroman, adulthood (understood as a fixed social form of subjectivity
From George Eliot (i860) through Olive Schreiner (1883) to Virginia W oolf (1915), achieved by social reconciliation) and nationhood (understood as a fixed social
this book has followed a genealogical line in which plots o f truncated girlhood form o f collectivity achieved by political modernization).* The early novels of
work to spare protagonists from the social limits of womanhood and in which Schreiner and Woolfand, as I will suggest, those of Rhys and Bowenexpose
despite manifest differences of epoch and stylethere seems to be a deep sym- the interconnected languages of male vocational destiny and national-imperial
bohc substrate connecting provincial girls to stalled or uneven modernization in destiny with acute precision; they expose, in the process, the ideological under
the rural/colonial peripheries of the Anglophone world. In this chapter, we turn pinnings o f the bildungsroman as the realist genre o f socialization and moderniza
to two more writersJean Rhys and Elizabeth Bowenwho extend that lineage tion. While the revisionary motif of arrested development installed at the center
into interwar modernism, into a crepuscular historical phase where the emer of these later modernist works cannot, in a symbolic or counterdiscursive revolu
gent logic o f postcolonial nationalism signals the break-up of the old European tion, utterly break down the symbolic value and social expectations attached to

160
162 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
VIRGINS OF EMPIRE: THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 163

thebildungsroman, it can lay those inherited conventions bare and interrupt the
iconic. In addition to this shared history, Rhys and Bowen display many affinities
progressive l9gic governing both personal and national evolution. It can, in other
words, address the ideology o f the genre from w it h i n 3 of biography and literary theme that invite critical comparison. Both lived from the
1890s to the 1970s, a life span that covers all the major stages of devolving British
Working in this frame of analysis, we can identify a number o f Victorian and
power, from the Boer War and Home Rule, through to'the Suez crisis and Asian/
ntodernist women writers who gravitate to a double critique o f the bildungsroman,
African decolonization. Both Rhys, the Welsh-Dominicah Creole, and Bowen, the
questioning the logic of the representative protagonist who embodies collective
Anglo-Irish heiress, wrote in English but experienced England as a kind of alter
fete and exposing the progressivist tilt of plots organized by that logic. Skepticism
native territory to their home islands and frequently portray characters who feel
toward the ?oul-nation allegory crops up everywhere in nineteenth-century wom
suspended in the space between metropole and colony.
ens fiction. This is no surprise given that women were barred from or disadvan
Moreover, in their mature fiction, Rhys and Bowen both describe a particular
taged within so many aspects of'civil society and that traditional feminine icons of
interwar territory of exile: hotel rooms and boardinghouses located at the edges
nationhood were so often presented as symbolic proxies for womens actual eman
of various European metropoles and demimondes. Women protagonistseven
cipation. For Eliots Maggie TuUiver, as for Schreiners Lyndallan^,.as we will see,
those with some meansoccupy the uneasy position of the lonely 6migr6 liv in g
for Rhyss Anna Morgan and Bowens Lois Farquarthe ipiprobability and even
outside the secure territories of home, nation, and family. Although the m otif of
impossibility o f a fully-fledged bildungsroman plot corresponds to the problem of
the metropolitan wanderer might seem to stand at the center o f most canonical/
living between two historical chronotopes. Rather than embodying the cusp of a
conventional accounts of Anglo-American modernism, neither Rhys nor Bowen
ippdernizing process, after the feshion o f a Walter Scott hero inXukdcss model of
has enjoyed secure canonical status within modernist studies for very long. For
historical fiction, these protagonists in their very adolescence seem to embody the
many years, particularly before the academic rediscovery o f W ide Sargasso Sea,
futurelessness of a particular provincial or colonial class.
Jean Rhys stood as a somewhat dated Left Bank writer who had once been Ford
Rhys and Bowen both wrote with an acute awareness of a fallen, ex-British world
Madox Fords lover and profeg^e, while Bowen endured a long semicanonical
of the settler plantation class in the West Indies and in Ireland.'* Their experimental
twilight in the shadow o f Virginia Woolf. In the last twenty years, the fortunes and
fictions register not just the post-Victorian vogue for achronological plotting, but
literary reputations of both writers have risen, and, while it is not my purpose to
a profound, sometimes tragic, sense of dispossession, one that cannot and should
spread the modernist honorific fer and wide as a way of conferring status on this
not be reduced to special pleading for a politically disgraced settler class. Far bet
or that writer, I do in this chapter pursue an implicit argument about the f o r m a l
ter, I think, to read these novelists in relation to a historical complex comprising
innovations o f both Rhys and Bowen that might draw them closer to the circle of
both the residual power o f the European colonial empires and emergent power
high modernists that includes Conrad, Woolf, and Joyce.
of a neocolonial world-system organized into anthropologically separate cultures
The early novels of Rhys and Bowen examined in this chapter offer a particu
yoked to politically discrete nations. Despite their patent stylistic differences, and
lar colonial and youth-fixated version o f a larger problem of social reproduction
despite the important historical differences to be assayed between the postslavery
associated with the novel o f disillusionment beginning in the later nineteenth cen
Caribbean economy and the neofeudal Irish land system, Rhys and Bowen come
tury. As Edward Said notes, the world of high modernism seems to highlight a'
to the historical predicament o f the Anglophone plantocracy at the end o f empire,
pervasive crisis of reproduction so that the familiar Victorian orphan plot morphs
and to the aesthetic problem of the novel at the end of Victorian social realism,
armed with certain overlapping perspectives. and branches into recurrent motifs of sexual impairment, celibacy, sterility, and
abortion (The World Both Rhyss Anna Morgan and Bowens Lois Farquar
Both Rhys and Bowen often return, in their fiction, to the vulnerable social
are the nieces o f imperial planters who represent a class that cannotor at least
situation of the belated offspring of the colonial plantocracyorphaned and dis
does notreproduce itself. But something more specific is afoot here in this com
inherited children with a precarious foothold in a class that itself has a precarious
parison, something that links the colonial backgroimd these writers share to the
foothold in history.* Their characters are the progeny o f houses falling to ruin in
familiar foregrounds o f their fiction, in which domestic spaces are so often unset
the valedictory phase o f colonial settlementthe phase of withdrawal and col
tled, where the home territory is always shifting, often evaporating, rarely defend-
lapse. For both, the image of the plantocratic manor house going down in flames is
able. Rhys and Bowen are writers acutely attuned to the shocking, but muffled and
VIRGINS OF EMPIRE: THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 165
164 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

pgrhap j politically unmournable, predicament of dispossessors dispossessed. Still, of. this historicd contradiction in modernist plots produces the metabildung-

they are not Just chroniclers of a class or caste (the plantocracy) going down in .srntnan, a coming-of-age tde with its inbuilt progressive time spliced to other

^s1;9j:y; they are authors of fictions in which the problem of failed modernization 'temporalitiesstatic, regressive, accelerated, syncopated.

trans/prms, into a pervasive critique of coloiual modernity rather than remaining, In this study so far, we have explored a set o f writers with widely differing

a t ^ e leyel of political affiliation, a settler-class paean to a vanishing way of life. aesthetic projects and ideologicd backgrounds, building the argument around a

To interpret these novels beyond their mixed class/nation sympathies is to try limited model of generic and thematic convergence in their fictions of adolescent
to refurn to the interpretive stance described from the outset as political formal fixation and late colonid modernity. It is especially fitting then to turp to ^ y s

ism in an effort to avoid reductive or intentionalist conclusions. Rhys and Bowen, and Bowen as semi-peripherd modernist writers, for they staiid as hyphenated

like Schreiner and Woolf, contim|e to attract critical interest because they are dif lAnglo-Trish) or creole (Welsh-Dominiqan) intermediaries between waiters with

ficult to pigeonhole with ideology critique, and the .compHcations only multiply more obvious points of identification as either colonizer or colonized. With Rhys
when we try to remain attuned to gender and sexuality as well as to race^nd colo- Uid Bowen in view, we can extend the claims of the early chapters to suggest that
nidism . Just as one can read Schreiner as sympathetic to Boe^ nationahsm and the problem of colonid timelessnessand its inscription into models of stunted

Woolf as heavily implicated in British ruling-class vdues, it is quite possible to youthpresents itself as a structurd condition of the age of empire rather than

see both Rhys and Bowen as invested in nostdgic cojoiiid formations. Within the ,a ruse o f either colonid or anticolonid reason. The variety of texts and writers
recent history of Bowen reception, for example, Seamus Deane triggered a key ^||ready examined suggests, I think, that from many different geopoliticd vantage

round o f debate by cldm ing that Bowens fiction betrays a conservative interest ppints modernist fiction seems to apprehend in the language of uneven devel
in the Anglo-Irish settler world of Ireland. Many Bowen critics think Deane does opment a broad and deep crisis in the European historiography of progress. For
poor justice to Bowens work. Along similar dines, in a recent reconsideration of jRhys in particular, as a transatlantic migrant writer cldm ed for both modernist

Rhyss Wide Sargasso Sea, George Handley summarizes an ongoing divide in Rhys and postcolonid capons, our interpretive models cannot themselves devolve into

criticism: On one hand, scholars such as Susan Stanford Friedman (in Beyond ^simple reinscriptions of terms like center and margin, or colonizer and colonized.

Gynocriticism) and Gayatri Spivak see Rhys largely as a postcolonid writer pro , Nor should we, however, celebrate Rhys on the mere grounds that she is a poly

ducing a counterdiscourse to the established power of British imperidism; and, morphous border-crosser and category-breaker: Categories and borders are not
on the other hand, scholars such as Peter Hulme and Handley himself see Wide in themselves bad. Ih e point, rather, is to use powerful literary figures like Rhys

Sargasso Sea as fundamentally sympathetic to the planter class ruined by Eman do challenge ossified models o f the West/non-West by trying to understand the

cipation (Hulme qtd. by Handley 150). Faced with Rhyss apparent vacillation Jntercplturd formation of modernism within a particular phase in the rise and fell

between sympathetic nostdgia for the plantocratic world of the past and semibur- ,pf the colonid world-system. More specifically, if we can reread Rhys in relation

ied indictments of its racist and patriarchd politics, Handley and most critics have to a variety of Anglophone modernists (WUde and Conrad, Bowen and Joyce), we

settled, reasonably enough, on a kind of tragic strdn in Rhys that sees those two can work agdnst the idea of an old high modernism o f the center and some new
ideologicd poles as permanently disjunct. alternative modernisms of tfie periphery. It is not that the old high modernism was

In my view, the frozen adolescence of Rhys protagonists such as Anna Morgan European until the new modernisms came dong to chdlenge and reshape it: The

in Voyage in the Dark or Antoinette Cosway in W ide Sargasso Seaor of a Bowen old high modernism was dways a formation shaped globdly and by forces that

protagonist like Lois Farquarcaptures not just a tragic dichotomy of colonid included, from the start, anticolonid resistance movements. To do justice to the

politics or a stock plot of fem de self-renunciation, but a profound contradic stark yet b r i s tlin g qudity of Rhyss language is to remind ourselves that modernist

tion within the gender and colonid systems o f modernityone with deep-seated literature has the capacity to register in aesthetic form a complicated world situa
implications for modernist narrative form. The contradiction, fidly-fledged and tion in which both European and non-European historicd experience shape each

highly visible during the last era o f high British imperialism, is between the mod .other. If Rhys writes as a symbolically disinherited niece of the old West Indian
ernizing, developmentd discourses of emancipation-and-empire and the exoticiz- plantation, she nonetheless, in the dembic of her art, produces fiction in which

ing, underdeveloping practices of patriarchy and imperialism. The formalization the reorganization of the entire systemand not just the death of a classcan be

I
166 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH VIRGINS OF EMPIRE: THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 167

apprehended. It is indeed, only against the grinding forward motion of an unevenly "existential and political gap. Indeed, to focus on Annas self-discontinuity in relation
develope4 world-system, of new nations and emergent social categories, that the to the geography of exile and colonial displacement is to address a touchstone in
forestalled maturity and postponed modernity of the Rhys-Bowen heroines, those Rhys criticism, particularly as it combines feminist and postcolonial approaches
virgins of empire; can be grasped. to the problematic selfhood of Anna Morgan and other Rhys protagbnists. Most
headers of Voyage in the Dark pay close attention to Rhyss fashioning o f Anna as
*a dispossessed white creole whose unfitness for national (and racial) belonging
Endlessly Devolving: Jean Rhyss Voyage in the D ark in England redoubles her sexual unfitness as a young woman without proper con
nections. Rhys exphcitly casts Annas crisis o f identity as a geographical problem:
It is not just the most immediate but also the most striking fact about Jean Rhyss *^offietimes it was as if I were back there and as if England were a dream. At other
Voyage in the D ark that it begins, and ends, on the point of beginning again: Born times England was the real thing and out there was the dream, but I could never
again on the first page of the novel and starting all over again on the laSf, Anna fit them together (8). Although passages like this can be read as establishing the
Morgan is a startling young protagonist who dwells not in tho'Cturreiit of progres basic theme of exile or cultural alienation, there is more to say here beyond observ
sive time but in a dark perpetual present of disorientation and disintegration (7, ing that the spUt between metropole and colony frames Annas sense of loneliness
188). The ending of the first published version seeills in a sense to parallel that of and dislocation.
Joyces Portrait, in which an urbanteenager vows (to himself) to start again, to go First, the disorientation effect determines the fact that Annas selfhood cannot
forth for the millionth time. Although the tone of Stephens diary differs sharply be developed or domesticated. Living in disjointed space seems to break the accu
from that of Annas delirious inner monologue, both novels seem carefully con mulative model of identity-formation over time, so that Anna dwells in a kind of
structed to produce a recursive or circular effect, to produce rhythmic repetitions vortex of selfhood:
that cut against the narrative trajectory and, o f course, to interrupt and retard the
I am hopeless, resigned, utterly happy. Is that me? I am bad, not good any
standard process o f maturation. The perennial problem of assessing Joyces irony at
longer, bad. That has no meaning, absolutely none. Just words. But some
the end of Portrait leaves us, like generations o f readers before, wondering how far
thing about the darkness of the streets has a meaning.
Stephen has come in his voyage and whether he is abandoning or reiterating the
(57)
callow flailings of a precocious teenage aesthete. About Anna Morgan, we can have
little doubt: Her journey cannot be understood as one df destiny, fulfillment, or This postcoital dizzy spell is a telegraphic message to readers, showing that Anna
social adjustment. O f course, Rhyss original ending had Anna dying on an abor is profoundly alienated from any available moral and psychological schemes for
tion table at age nineteen, a symbolic victim (like W oolfs Rachel Vinrace in The self-formation. She attempts to stabihze meaning in the darkness of the streets,
Voyage Out) o f the late Victorian sex-gender system. Rhys, Joyce, and Woolf were a m otif that anchors Anna, and her new urban world, not so much to meaning as
all writing their stalled bildungsromane in the 1905-1914 period, though Rhyss was to its absence.
not pubUshed until roughly twenty years after Joyces and Woolfs. In these three Voyage in the D ark reinforces the recursive logic of Annas nonprogress with
novels, the plot of frozen youth breaks the tempo of harmonic growth, and bour relentless, one might even say compulsive, rephcation at every level o f the text:
geois social adjustment is not a possible, indeed barely even a plausible, narrative grammatical, stylistic, imagistic, structural, psychological, and sociohistorical.*
outcome. Consider this typical slice of syntax as Anna takes stock o f her situation: And
In Voyage in the Dark, Anna Morgan feels herself to be outside the norms not the cold nights; and the way my collar bones stick out (17). Dropping verbs and
just of middle-class womanhood but of Englishness. Annas inner voice strains actions out of the narrative grammar, Rhys renders daily experience as a litany
to reconcile places and spaces, but fails; there is, for her, no common ground or of recurrent sensations that harrow Anna and press her inside a thick, foggy
frame of reference between Western Europe and the West Indies and thus no way medium o f static time. She can gain no footholds in the accounting o f her own
to compare experience transatlantically. Here is one reason that Rhyss work has sensation o f time, but must suffer through sporadic bouts o f illness and bodily
gained so much traction in the last twenty years: It narrates exile as an imrepairable collapse: When you have a fever you are heavy and light, you are small and
l68 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
VIRGINS OF EMPIRE; THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 19

swollen, you climb endlessly a ladder which turns like a wheel (33). Endless chronic dislocation from any space. Worse still,.she cannot even track and stabilize
and originless, Annas inner worlda true stream of consdousnessseems con spatial difference as an epistemological or psychological category. The text insists
structed to reveal 'how pat and shapely are the normal models o f character in on this point, showing us that Anna can only blur the boundaries of space, pro
English fiction. In a major initiation scene, Anna, barely afloat as a chorus girl, ducing an illusion of boundarylessness to match her temporal sensations of end
braces herself for a first sexual encounter with Walter, whom she hopes will pro lessness. The plotline movesone hesitates even to say advancesin a series of
tect and provide: Like when they say, A s it was in the beginning, is now, and cinematic and spatial dissolves, shading from one rented room to another, mea
ever shall be, world without end. (41). Anna readies and steadies hersdf for suring Annas de-formation in terms of her incapacity to distinguish place from
trauma, but this trauma cannot function as a soul-shaping event, a negative rite place. The problem is evident from the start: The towns we went to always looked
o f passage; instead it hits Anna as ye;t one more damaging event in a dizzying JOexactly alike; You were perpetually moving to another place which was perpetu-
sequence without beginnings or endJ. Sex is the trauma that voids the concept ly the same (8 ). But it becomes more desperate:
of destiny in the novel; in its wake, Anna cannot gather or bank her experiences
into a repository o f personal identity: "Its funny when you feel as if ypu dont I kept telling myself, Youve got to think of something. You cant stay here.
want anything,more in your life except to sle e p ----- Thats w h ^ y o u can>hear Youve got to make a plan. But instead I started counting all the towns I had
time sliding past you, like water running (113). been to, the first winter I was on tourWigan, Blackburn, Bury, Oldham,

Rhyss language of stasis and endlessness means that Anna caimot recognize
Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Southport. .. I coimted up to fifteen and then
herself as an integral subject developing continuously in time. The shallowness of slid off into thinking of all the bedrooms I had slept in and how exactly alike
her .experience, though, is not simply the product of sexual and social t r a u m a in they were, bedrooms on tour. Always a high, dark wardrobe and something
England; she was already lost and alienated in post-plantation Dominica. So strin dirty red in the room.. . . And then I tried to remember the road that leads
gent is the novels antiformational logic of character that even the merest colonial to Constance Estate.
nostalgia is removed as source or ground of a functional expatriate identity. A n n a s (150)
disorientation and her failure to mature or progress are symbolically rooted in the Toggling back to Dominica, Anna finds herself, again, stranded among spatial
massive anachronisms produced by late colonial life in the West Indies, so that multiples with no fixed landmarks: Everything is green, everywhere things are
the uneven modernization of Annas childhood echoes and anticipates the uneven growing (151). This blurring of figure and ground and lack of whole or framed
development o f her own psyche. Neither Anna nor Dominica appear to go for spaces always underscores the parallel absence of stable temporal markers that
ward in time: They are stuck at a threshold, unassimilable to the progressive time might be used to break off one meaningful segment of time from another. Dis
of modernity, much like the adolescent slave girl Maillote Boyd, whose frozen-in- rupting the protagonists ability to experience finite space and discrete time,
history documents are part of Annas thought-collage (56).* Rhys strikes with surgical precision at the heart of the Goethean model of self
In this antiromance of colonial childhood, Anna remembers a sensually rich formation, in which temporal progress is always legible in the form of spatial
but socially isolated past in post-emancipation Dominica. When Anna lapses, or meaning.
plunges, into childhood reverie, we find ominous notes o f racial antagonism and The Goethean subject transforms himself as he crosses borders, takes account
soqal insecurity that redouble rather than relieve her English alienation. An avatar of spatial and cultural markers of difference, and contemplates the developmental
of both a life (hers) and a way of life (that o f the old plantocracy) that have no way processes of which he is both connoisseur and embodiment. It is hard to imagine a
forward, Anna is adrift in history. Like Maggie Tblliver before her (and like Lois more thoroughgoing inversion of that model than the figure of Anna Morgan, for
Farquar in the section to come), Anna is a frozen youth who figures the future- whom travel through Atlantic and urban spaces marks a series of dispossessions
lessness produced along the margins by the future-making machinery of global rather than a process of self-possession. Urban space swallows rather than sustains
capitalisms rhetoric of development. Annas interiority; environmental determinants shape her will in a thoroughgoing
Annas homesickness rises to the level of Lukdcss transcendental homelessness; naturalist plot that extends beyond the passive, disillusioned heroes of Flaubert
she suffers not a, displacement from familiar to alien spaces, but a pervasive and into the downtrodden heroines of Zola. Rhys tips her readers to this literary debt
VIRGINS OF EMPIRE. THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 171
170 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

T.ikff another antidevelopmental writer o f the period, Kafka, Rhys tracks her
in the opening scenes, where Anna reads a copy o f Zolas Nana, her anagrammatic
protagonists mental life along surfaces and from the outside, with eerie flatness,
precursor in sfexual victimhood. Immediately, Annas friend Maudie rejects the
as if interior monologue were being conducted by a monitoring consciousness
prestige o f the genre, imagining aU the lies entailed in the project of a man writing
detached from the body in which it resides.'"* Psychological realism is reduced
a book about a tart, though literature in general is bogus to Maudie: All books
to a set o f behaviors, perceptions, functions, and appetites without an organiz
are like thatjust somebody stuffing you up (lo). Anna may not be so sure, but
ing will; action is systematically stripped o f the self-forming ethos enshrined
she* shares enough o f Maudies skepticism to mark herself out yet again as an anti
in classic nineteenth-century realism. What Rhys describes here is a mind
type of the Victorian or classical bildungsheld: She finds that she cannot or will
trapped in a (female) body trapped in a (dingy) room trapped in a (metro-
not shape her mind and destiny based on the vicarious data transmitted to her
politair)-eity. Mobility, the Goethean m otif o f managed spatial difference, and
through literatureU nlike Conrads Jim, who stuffs himself up on adventure tales
interiority, the psychological project of depth formation, are comprehensively
but cannot enact a Goethean integration between heroic self-image and degraded
removed from the picture just as they are remorselessly travestied in Kafkas
social conditions, Anna does not even really initiate the romantic process o f self
M etam orphosis.
making. '
In Kafkas dark naturalist fable of ynbecoming, obUque forms of sexual and
Rhys refuses the literary scene of instruction so thoroughly, in fact, that Anna
economic competition drive the perverse family romance of the Samsas. Much
cannot read Nana: The print was very small, and the endless procession of words
more overtly in Voyage in the Dark, Rhys highlights Annas vulnerability to a sys
gave me a curious feelingsad, excited, and frightened. It wasnt what I was read
tem of harsh sexual and economic competition, among women and between the
ing, it was the look of the dark, blurred words going on endlessly that gave me that
sexes. As she watches hei; hungry and morally hysterical flatmate Ethel watch
feeling (9). Here the echoing repetitions take on the stilted quality of a Gertrude
ing her, Anna notes: Feelers grow where feelers are needed and claws where
Stein paragraph: endlesswordsgave mea feeling. . . endlesslywordsgave
claws are needed (107). Embedded in a story o f cavalier male exploitation and
methat feeling. To the disorienting parade of spatiotemporal markers we must
patriarchal privilege, this kind of animal imagery does not mark Rhys as an anti
now add written language itselfyet another endless flow of signification without
feminist, but as a ruthlessly systematic feminist, for whom women as much as
any discrete, finite, or meaningful order by which Anna might situate herself within
men are conscripted into .maintaining a punishing sex-gender system. Annas
a redemptive or even intelligible experience. The stasis of endless flow is rephcated
place in that system is triply determined by her status as an impoverished young
in Annas psyche and sensorium, writ large across the spatial poles of her transat
creole woman, but what marks out Rhyss place in the naturalist strand of mod
lantic world, and writ small in the very language of the text, and within the text.
ernist writing is her attention to the biological dimensions'of her economic situ
The repetitive cadences of Annas inner monologues keep us at the phenom
ation. Annas racialized and sexualized body disqualifies her from a narrative of
enological surface o f her mind, just as her way of reading Zola almost parodically
social mobility and self-improvement, so that Rhys offers us one of the clearest
avoids the depth of the text, so that Rhys chips icily away at the motif of cultivated
examples of a biopolitically organized inversion o f the novel of progress. If in the
interiority in the Uterate middle-class protagonist. Unlike other fallen women in
Victorian female bildungsroman girls confront a socially circumscribed destiny
the naturalist line, such as Hardys Tess, Anna Morgan meditates very directly on
as they come of age, here Annas nondevelopment is conditioned by unmovable
her lost agency and interiority, as discrete experiences feel denuded of the magic
forces wired to the body.'
connective threads of destiny:
The interimplication of Annas racial (national) and sexual (gender) status is

O f course, you get used to things, you get used to anything. It was as if I had made clear not just by the fact that Englishmen and Englishwomen code Anna as

always lived like that. Only sometimes, when I had got back home and was a creole sexpot, but by the harsh education in femininity meted out by her step
mother Hester. In both Dominican flashbacks and English present-tense scenes,
undressing to go to bed, I would think, My God, this is a funny way to live.
Hester confronts Anna with a stark choice: She must decide to be either lady or
My God, how did this happen?
nigger. After a girlhood of fluid relations to the colonial color line, sexual initiation
(4 0 )
UNSEASONABLE YOUTH VIRGINS OF EMPIRE: THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 173

brings the trauma o f enforced racial identification. Here is Annas most overt This temporalization of womens social existence according to a narrow life cycle
resistance to;coming o f age itself; o f sexual value was not an entirely new aspect of British fiction in the interwar
period, but Rhyss capacity to unmask its force and pose its devastating effects
Being white and getting like Hester, and all the things you getold and sad
against the narrative values of autonomy and progress must have seemed strik
and everything. I kept thinking, N o . . . N o . . . N o . .. And I knew that day
ingly modern in 1934. It stiU does. If Rhys details the short-circuiting of virgin
that Id started to grow old and nothing could stop it.
ity, Bowen, as we will see, narrates its endless prolongation. Both describe virgin
(7 2 ) protagonists caught on the cusp o f sexual adulthood in ways that are conditioned
Rhys describes a common colonial situation, reminiscent of Kims impossible choice by their identification with a plantation class likewise caught on the cusp o f moder
at the eild of Kiplings novel, in ^hich the colonial childs attainment of racial and nity, unable to adapt to a new, postcolonial phase o f its historical existence.^ It is
Sexual adulthood requires a disavowal o f cross-racial or cross-cultural intimacy. Kim in this sense that I describe the Rhys and Bowen protagonists as, in the tide of this
maintains his innocence to the end as Aima cannot, though in both cases the narra chapter, virgins of empire.'
tive of arrested development captares the protagonists symbolic refusal to commit Rhyss girls and young women are deeply shaped by the economics of sexual
to an adulthood based on racial exclusion and colonial respectability. Having identi value and sexual purity in ways that resonate strongly with the commodity value
fied and socialized with slave descendants in her girlhood, Anna nonetheless cannot and virgin purity o f untralficked and exploitable economic value in the colonial
maintain a sympathetic coimection to nonwhites given the polarized racial politics of world. That connection between exploitable sexual and economic value animates
Dominica. Nor will Rhys indulge in a woman-native allegory of social marginalization much of the dark critical energy in Rhyss fictions of exiled colonial women, from
despite the feet that Anna is repeatedly coded as un-English and subwhite.' Indeed, Yoyagt in the D ark all the way through to Wide Sargasso Sea. In Voyage, Rhys bril-
at each disarticulated stage of the novel, Anna remains outside both the Domini liantiy dramatizes Annas intuition that British export-commodities bespeak and
can caste system and the English class system, consigned to identifysporadically to embody a discourse of racial and sexual purity that excludes her desire, if not her
be surewith those who do her harm (especially moralizing white women such as body, from the start. Here advertising copy shapes her interior monologue:
Hester). For Anna, the incomplete and impossible transition fix>m nigger to lady
What is Purity? For Thirty-five Years the Answer has been Bournes Cocoa.
assures her social vulnerability and perpetuates her adolescence.
Thirty-five years . . . Fancy being thirty-five years old. What is Piurity? For
Unmoored from the neofeudal gender norms o f the plantocracy, and stranded
within a new and viciously commodified English sexual system dusted with post- Thirty-five Thousand Years the Answer has been.

Victorian hypoCTisy, Anna is a hapless ingenue, both mis- and undereducated.'* (59)
She undergoes an instant and violent conversion from virgiif to concubine. The
Already we can see that Annas sense of subjective destiny has become, imder the
first movement of the novel describes this cruel short circuit from sexually inex
pressure o f her own reification as a usable object, warped and unfulfillable; the
perienced to sexually devalued. Through the eyes o f the upper-middle-class men
ellipsis in the text marks out a bitter joke that need not even reach its conclusion
who exploit her, Annaa teenagergoes from being only a baby on the night
to hit its mark.
of her first sexual encounter to being hard some few months later (51,174). And
Sexual and colonial commodification intersect even more vividly toward the
in the shortness of the circuit, Rhys imderscores the fact that a brutal sexual (and
end of the novel:
racial) system of objectification and commodification is what determines Annas
missing narrative of emergence and development. Like Gregor Samsa, Aima can I got into bed and lay there . . . thinking of that picture advertising the
wake up and find herself transformed, but she cannot participate* in a plot of self Biscuits Like Mother Makes, as Fresh in the Tropics as in the Motherland,
transformation. The quick switch from virgin to tart is replicated in the original Packed in Airtight Ti ns. . .
novels equally quick line from youth to death, a line that shows female socialization There was a little girl in a pink dress eating a large yellow biscuit studded
as a negative process of reduction and decline, from body to commodity (virgin), with currantswhat they call a squashed-fly biscuitand a little boy in a
from commodity to declining commodity value (tart), and from there to death. sailor-suit, trundling a hoop, looking back over his shoulder at the little

1
174 UNS^SONABLE YOUTH
VIRGINS OF EMPIRE; THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 175

jir l. TJiere was a tidy green tree and a shiny pale-blue sky, so dose that if the repetitive, subjectless statements strung together in a way that turns narrativity
little girl h^d stretched her arm up she could have touched it. (God is always itself inside out: [And] it was the wall that mattered; and that used to be my
near us. So cosy.) And a high dark wall behind the little girl. idea; and it is like that too (149).
Underneath the picture was written: j pngland, for Anna, actually embodies its own ideolpgical,self-projections, in
part because its citizens seem to enforce the social divisions implied by the wall
The p a st is dear,
in the biscuit ad, a process of enforcement that leaves Anna frozen out and frozen
The future clear,
between varieties of phantasmatic girlhood without social accommodation. In this
And, best o f all, the present.
p b t of stunted youth, Rhys underscores her characters reduction to commodity
But it was the wall that mattered. logic in the sexual economy and to colonial difference in the nation-race matrix of
And that used to be my idea or what England was like. t^interw ar metropolis. As we saw in Wellss Tono-Bungay, the modernist novel of
And it is like that, too, I thought. untimely youth is a powerful symbolic tool for unveiling the process of reification
-<148 - 4 9 ) as the humanist language of novelistic subjectivity gets rewritten into the warped
and empty time of commodification. Voyage in the D ark gives us an even more
The pastoral and domestic elements of this picture of cpmmodified innocence bitter rendering of the same problem: Reification displaces self-making, and the
recapitulate all the key themes in Annas voyage, rendering them in terms of a m a n ip u la tiv e rhetoric of mass consiunerism displaces the formative power of the
bright, hyperreal, hack imagery we have been trained to see always in dark and (^d high culturenow seen as stuffing up. It is fitting then that the women against
satirical terms. Theres a precision to Rhyss language here that extends the mean whom Anna measures herselfthe nameless women who manage to keep their
ing o f the Bournes Cocoa advertisement: The airtight tins of domestic biscuits eyes fixed on the future and seize for themselves some simulacrum of a secure
packed with their visual icons o f gender proprietycan be transferred fresh from social destinyare entirely inside the commodity s)^tem. Their clothes "were
Motherland to Tropics (and back again). The overlapping power of commodity like caricatures of the clothes in the shop windows (130). In a set of strikingly
imperialism and maternal ideology produces for Anna an instant hollowing-out of prescient passages set against the backdrop o f urban consumerism, Rhyss Anna
her imagination; they block her ability to project herself into prevailing narratives pjjserves the more or less complete emptying out o f narratives of self-fashioning
o f innocent Englishness. l?y the power of fashion itself.
Even more striking, given how superbly Rhys has framed Anna as trapped in In such a context o f deep economic naturalism and post-Victorian reduction
an endless, indiscrete flow of unmarked time and unbounded space, is the visual of the body to signifiers of race, citizenship, and sexuality, Annas voyage in the
capture of shapely time and moralized space in this image. The tidy green tree dark operates as a negative allegory of socialization. But even as it turns the old
echoes in contrast with the green green everywhere of Annas Dominican jungle Goethean model of self-formation on its head, Rhyss novel cannot but reincorpo
past and with the endless procession o f gray English towns in Annas present. 'The rate some o f the temporal elements and generic conventions of the bildungsroman,
cozy sense of God and the high dark wall works together to cut off the elect from or at least of the organic model of time institutionalized in that genre. As in our
the disgraced, the educated from the abandoned, underscoring Annas utter dis earlier readings, so in Voyage in the D a rk A novel of stunted or frozen youth must
orientation in space and time and her vulnerability to the alternately carceral and confront the problem of closure at some point, and it is at that point that a metabil-
bewilderingly open spaces of the metropole. The rhyming jingle gives a cartoon dimgsroman has to expose the oddity of a biographical novel stripped of the aging
version of harmony between a dear past and a clear future, as if to suggest in ersatz plot. Without a g in g , the novel of untimely youth calls attention to its final prod
miniature the devastating absence of a narrative of self-formation in Annas life. ucteither a youthful body or a youthful corpseas the antitype of the socially
The diagrammatic clarity of this negative encounter between subject and image reconciled adult. My guiding claim has been that both outcomesthe eternal
registers in stark terms the anti-Bildung elements of Voyage in the D a rk stripped adolescence of Kipling, Wells, or Joyce and the sudden death of Schreiner, Wilde,
agency and eviscerated temporality, which write themselves into the very syntax Conrad, and Woolfrepresent a single and definable modernist project. Both
of the sentences Anna forms as she reflects on the biscuit ada triple shot of flat. sets of novels seek to explore unconventional or stylized models o f emplotment.
176 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH VIRGINS OF EMPIRE>THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 177

dissident or bohemian models o f socialization, and nonteleological or nonlinear collage-effect bleeding in and out of the proper subjectivity of Anna Morgan, Rhys
models of kistorical development (particularly as situated within a global system modifies her presentation of a rounded Anna! with a commitment to reframing
of colony and metropole). Rhys, for her part, produced both corpse and youth. Anna as a symbolic device. At such moments, Annas allegorical function out
In the original unpublished version o f Voyage in the Dark, Anna Morgan dies in strips her merely characterological one. Specificallyand since so much of Annas
thb final chapter. But Rhyss editor prevailed upon her to change the ending, with embodiment of nondevelopmental time is coded in relation to her West Indian
the result that the pubhshed novel concludes with Anna swooning in pain after a backgroundwe might say that she is at times an emblem of colonial/creole
difficult abortion. experience rather than a psychologically unified product of that experience.
Both endings in fact announce the novels commitment to antidevelopmental Like the colonifes described by Schreiner, Confad, and Woolf, Rhyss Dominica
time, linking it back to the worl^'of W oolf and Schreiner (whose first title for is a virgin, land stripped of resources and turhing into a nonproductive space: Its
African Farm was a series of Abortions) and forward to the work of Elizabeth dwindling contributions to the modern world-system are out of step with a model
Bowen. As in those cases, this novel sets the story o f failed or missed matura of continuous integration and capitalist development. Economic anachronism
tion against a wider backdrop in which a colonial society fails to come of age the failed modernization of the plantation mode of productioncolors Annas
in time with a Eurocentric narrative o f global modernization.-At the end o f her family experiences and memories. Moreover, the nonaccumulation o f wealth in
story, Rhyss Anna, barred from any foreseeable future, dwells in a delirious and her fallen Dominica seems" to parallel her own nonaccumulation o f experience.
infinitely receding colonial past. Despite the manifest irony of Rhys having been As a figure of nonfuturity, Anna symbolizes the inability of the Creole planta
directed by a (male) publisher to rewrite her novel, the closing abortion sequence tion class to reproduce itself in a post-emancipation, post-plantation, postcolonial
nonetheless offers a satisfying artistic solution to the problem o f A n n a s fate. A world. Even in the fragmentary bits of Annas childhood memory, we can see that
callous male professional (one more version of Annas faithless lovers) oper the folkways of the freed slaves and the manners of the ex-slave owners are part
ates on Anna, etherized upon a table, and asserts biopolitical control over her of an anachronistic way of life (Aunt Jane said I dont see why they should stop
body, excluding it from the sanctioned sexual and reproductive arena o f Eng the Masquerade theyve always had their three days Masquerade ever since I can
lish womanhood. Meanwhile Anna revisits her semitraumatic, post-plantation remember why should they want to stop it some people want to stop everything
colonial past in an extended, italicized interior monologue that comprises most [184-85]).
o f part 4 o f the novel. As Annas world contracts, Rhys tracks the process with Moreover, the colony in this case is not yet a postcolony, let alone a nation, so
shorter and shorter narrative units that collapse more and more into the language that it cannot avail itself o f the language of national emergence by which politi
o f isolated subjectivity. The novel takes us spiraling downward and inward from cal units mark their achievement of modernity in the twentieth century. West
the national tour o f the opening, -to the London cityscape, to the shared apart Indian postcolonies like Dominica are paradigms of colonial belatedness in that
ments, to the isolated bedchambers, to the operating room, to the inner world they continue up to the present to be defined by imperial relations rather than
o f Annas mind. In this Kafkaesque winnowing of A n n a s experiencerendered by territorialized programs of national sovereignty. Dominicas arrest, like Annas,
finally in terms of a merely phenomenological recording of sensations and shards is a symptom of failed self-possession. Rhyss globalization of the motif of the
of associative memoryRhys inverts the worldliness and expansiveness o f the doomed provincial woman, recoded as nationless subject, modernizes the figure
Goethean novel o f mobility and destiny. of the futureless Victorian girl, extending its allegorical function from the intra'-
In the novels fourth part, as in earher sections, Rhyss inner voice repeats itself, national to the international system of uneven development. The plot of Rhyss
fells into gutters and trenches o f the mind, and eddies backward into memory, novel encodes within its nondeveloping protagonist the broad contradiction of
flowing forward without proper punctuation in a last demonstration of the end a colonial-neocolonial system in which progress and modernity are themselves
lessness" o f time, language, and experience that has plagued Aima throughout. almost endlessly deferred for the peripheral subject.
In several o f Annas reveries, Rhys includes segments o f languagefor example, Reading Voyage in the Dark back against the history of the bildungsroman as
archival excerpts drawn from slaVery-era Dominicathat seem not to belong to a genre o f national emergence thus highlights Rhyss particular configuration of
a psychologically realist presentation of Annas consciousness. With this mental the postnational novel of stalled development. But it also underscores a deeper
178 .UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
VIRGINS OF EMPIRE: THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 179

connectioA to what I have so far called the biopolitical dimensions of Rhyss


within the plantation society of a West Indian settler colony. In writing back to Jane
naturalism: the reframing of social marginality and social antagonism in terms
Eyre, W ide Sargasso Sea constitutes itself as an obvious antibildungsroman, though
of biologized categories of difference, particularly race and sex. That is, the bil-
like all the novels under examination here, it combines elements of conventional
dungsroman plot depends on social mobility across class lines; the post- or met-
coming-of-age tale with more recursively and atavistically organized plotlines.""
abildungsroman works to reveal the datedness, the impossibility of such plots
Antoinette/Bertha Cosway, the revenant madwoman of Rhyss story, gets made
of mobility and progress in a biopolitically organized society. As we have seen,
and remade in the text by the historical power of racial and sexual discourses
beginning in the late Victorian period and extending into the epoch of interwar
advanced by colonial modernityand its regimes of economic rationalization. But
nipdernism, both colonial and metropolitan fictions with antidevelopmental plots
this is no simple creole-feminist revenge tale: If Rochester plays at times like a sex
seem to represent with special trenchancy the missing elements of class mobil
ually panicked patriarchal villain, he also emerges as himself a victim of the class-
ity, self-development, and national emergence. Such antidevelopmental plotsof
and-property system of early capitalism in Englaild and the colonial world. Rhyss
which Rhys is perhaps the ultimate artisttend to emphasize the determining role
virtuoso retelling of the burning of Thornfield Hall not only reimagines Brontes
of incorrigible cultural and biological differences, for which the attenuation of the
original, but also establishes it as part of an intercolonial gothic pattern of return,
middle-class upward-mobility novel is both a sign and a syngjtom.
where Antoinette, moving backward through her own story line, compulsively
Annas understanding of the world seems to excludg.all notions of self-forma
repeats the burning of Coulibri, the West Indian plantation of her childhood.
tion and social transformation, as in this memory of church services in Dominica:
Rhyss burning-house narratives anticipate and echo the main plot of yet another
The poor do this and the rich do that, the world is so-and-so and nothing can
antidevelopmental novel of the devolutionary era, Elizabeth Bowens The Last Sep
change it. For ever and for ever turning and nothing, nothing can change it. (43).
tember. Describing the conflagration of an Irish Big House, Bowen chronicles the
Annas naturalist sense of powerlessness, o f social life as a second nature, filters
dramatic endpoint to a long history of colonial settlement in Ireland. As in Rhys,
not only through her English experience, but through her reflections across the
the futurelessness of a peoplethe Anglo-Irish plantocracyshapes and is shaped
Atlantic world of her ken, where biopolitical categories like sex and race seem
by a youthful protagonist who cannot come o f age, a dispossessed daughter who
equally impervious to the language of evolution and development."' Rhys stands
has to embody a vanishing way o f life.
at such a central place in that history of the novel because her work makes visible
the transfer o f racialist and biopolitical thinking between the colonial sphere and
the metropolis: Annas experience as nondeveloping subject, in other words, gives
Querying Innocence: Elizabeth Bowens
readers the subjectively (and harrowingly) framed narrative of the end of the novel
The L ast Septem ber
of progress, its foundering and faltering in a devolutionary epoch where racial and
cultural differences become the model for social antagonism.
The Last September (1929) invokes yet cancels the generic protocols associated
This broader intellectual and historical context helps explain the currency of
with two nineteenth-century novel forms, the gothic romance and the bildungsro-
Rhyss fiction, particularly W ide Sargasso Sea, among readers and teachers today.
man. These we might define briefly and respectively as the genres of regress and
Like Rhyss earlier novels. Wide Sargasso Sea insists on the tragic consequences of
of progress, of female dispossession and of male self-possession."^ Before compar
certain intractable, inherited categories o f race, gender, and sexuality. And it goes
ing Bowens revision of bildungsroman codes to Rhyss, I want briefly to set her
one step further in taking those tragic consequences as an occasion to revise and
text in relation to gothic conventions because, as a belated version of the Irish
objectify the inherited literary conventions of self-making in the European novel.
Big House novel, it must at least implicitly acknowledge the gothic devices that
Indeed it aims squarely at the classic novel of British social mobility and female
had filtered into that national subgenre since the publication of Maria Edgeworths
Bildung, Charlotte Brontes Jane Eyre. Written decades after the first phase o f Rhyss
Castle Rackrent in 1800. One might, moreover, place the Big House novel into a
career. W ide Sargasso Sea expands the West Indian motifs of Voyage in the Dark
wider colonial and historical frame by identifying it as an Irish variant of the plan
into a full-blown version of plantation gothic, a genre that derives meaning and
tation gothic, a characteristic genre of settler-colonialism, found in the plantocratic
sensation precisely from the anachronistic, thrilling elements of premodernity
contact zones from Ireland to the slave economies of the New World, in the works

\
i8o UI^SEASONABLE YOUTH VIRGINS OF EMPIRE; THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN l8l

o f Faul^er and Rhys, and in the Caribbean zombie films of 1940s HoUywood.-* meaning and stylistic originality by taking apart the basic progressive structure
In plantation gothic, colonial violence is generally displaced into domestic battle, of the bildungsroman.
sexual sensation, or hysterical psychomachia. The Last September does traffic in a To read The Last September in this broader modernist and comparative-colonial
set o f familiar gothic tropes (burning house, trapped daughter, locked rooms, mys frame is already to move away from the terms generally sgt by the debate over
terious visitors) but desensationahzes all o f them, telling its story in the intricate, Bowens political and affective relations to the world o f the Anglo-Irish Big House.
indirect language of a novel of manners. In the last fifteen years, that debate has centered on the claiminfluentially made
In this sense, the more apt stylistic comparison for Bowens text would be by Seamus Deane in Celtic Revivalsthat one cannot really avoid seeing Bowens
Forsters A Passage to India, perhaps the best-known example of the colonial novel work as a conservative and nostalgic investment in a dying class. Many Bowen crit-
o f manners. Published just five year^'earlier, it too depicts the drama of devolution Jps, includmg Vera Kreilkamp, have riposted by arguing that Bowen is not so much
played out at the edges of a moldy-chivalric British garrison. In both novels, polite a nostalgic apologist for the Anglo-Irish (here taken narrowly to designate the
exchanges within an immured society take on the symbolic weight of the colonial residual landholding class of the Protestant Ascendancy) as a cold-eyed chronicler
encounter, with various kinds of ettlers and visitors mediating between imperial of their historical doom.^^ We can perhaps shift the terms o f debate now by attend
an^ local values while screening out the most alienating forms o f native pres in g more to the novels formal principles than to Bowens emotional affiliations and
ence. In The L ast September, thf double displacement o f violencefirst privatized apparent political intentions. While Bowen may have imbued the novels autumnal
and sexualized in gothic terms, then shunted into a set o f muffied offstage events scene with a certain wistful appreciation for the civihzation of the Anglo-Irish,
produces a certain effect o f plot syncopation and distention, slowing the pace and the novels plot, language, and characterization in fact tend to encode a deeper
loosening the fabric o f the narrative to allow for Bowens style to emerge in the form and more systematic narrative meaning in which the frozen, virginal fate o f Lois
of proliferating anticlimaxes, close psychological portraiture, oblique descriptions, Farquar indexes the structural contradictions of settler colonialism and the larger
and elliptical swoops in and out o f free indirect discourse.^ In these stylistic fea inevitabilities o f postcolonial nationalism.
tures, Bowens novel resonates with W oolfs novel o f tropical manners. The Voyage Loiss dilated, inverted bildungsroman plot captures, in other words, the
Out. In both, highly mediated colonial encounters provide a temporary basis and historically fixed, pohtically vexed, permanently adolescent status of the Ascen
thematic springboard for the development of a distinctive modernist style. Bowen dancy itself, the anachronistic class described by this novel. Bowen uses a Prous-
(in her second novel) and Woolf (in her first) seem to have found anachronistic tian epigraph to set the terms by which she will condense historical experience
colonial history useful for deforming the biographical plot and for testing middle- into characterization: They had the regrets of virgins and lazy men.^* Lois and
class English mores. her equally virginal cousin, the world-weary Laurence, represent the historical
One should not, in a reconsideration of Bowen, invoke the predictable Woolf dead end of a class that can neither reproduce nor transform itself In this way,
comparison without good reason. In this case, I think, we can gain some insight the language of the book encodes the broken and jagged time of a dying colonial
into the formal principles o f The Last September by observing that its protagonist, modernity into the trope of adolescence, destabihzing the allegory of individual
Lois Farquar, like W oolfs Rachel Vinrace in The Voyage Out, acts as a frozen- and social progress endemic to the classic bildungsroman.
adolescent figme whose own uneven development seems to correspond to the The Last September takes place at Danielstown, a prototypical Anglo-Irish Big
temporal oddities o f the surrounding colonial history. This symbolic exchange House, during the 1920 War. The inhabitants o f this fragile oasis of settler privi
between youthful protagonist and colonial setting situates Bowen within a wider lege are surrounded by and torn between Irish republicans (who elicit their feudal
literary network reaching beyond W oolf to Kipling, Conrad, and Wellswriters and territorial sympathies) and the British army (who are their nominal allies and
not often compared to Bowen. Moreover, it is surely no coincidence that the great social intimates). The central plot concerns an abortive courtship between Lois,
Irish novels o f the two generations preceding BowensJoyces P ortrait o f the a shghtly declassi Anglo-Irish orphan, and Gerald Lesworth, a dim, earnest Eng-
A rtist in 1916 and Wildes Picture o f D orian Gray in 1891both organized their Ush officer. The other Irishthe real Irish (rural. Catholic. Repubfican)Imk
plots around the problematic o f a youth that cannot come of age in the proper at the margins of the text. The Enghsh (mostly bluff army men and vulgar wives),
temporal o rd er.L ik e those novels. The Last Septem ber generates both historical meanwhile, represent rank middle-class materiaUsm. Floating above and trapped
182 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH VIRGINS OF EMPIRE; THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 183

between these |wo forces lie the Anglo-Irish landowners, subsisting almost entirely to be rounded into shape, Loiswith equal dehberationcultivates her youth as
on genteel traditions, autumnal sighs, and tennis parties. The Anglo-Irish charac pure potentiality with no actuality, a state o f suspended animation. Indeed, she
ters frame their relation to the English military occupation in the terms of a host revolts not just against the expectations of adults (what adolescent heroine does
ess eager to ensure a ready supply of gallant dancing partners: It would be the not?), but against the expectation of adulthood. In one typical scene, Lois eaves
greatest pity if we were to become a republic and all these lovely troops were taken drops on her aunt and a visitor, then realizes with horror that the conversation is
away (30-31). about to pin her to her own essence: But when Mrs. Montmorency came to: Lois
Loiss cousin Laurence, who utters the line, in fact maintains an ironic dis is very she was afraid suddenly. She had a panic. She didnt want to know what
tance of half-affection toward both the Irish and English forces. It is this kind She wasrshe'cbuldnt bear it: knowledge of this would stop, seal, finish' one (83). To
of language, however bathed in irony, that has made Bowen vulnerable to read keep the ellipsis of her identity elliptical, Lois interrupts the conversation by shat
ings that place her, with her characters, inside the bubble o f Anglo-Irish privilege tering a water basin and salvaging her formless youth. Even after the basin is glued
and willed innocence. But Bowen has always been a writer given,to tfie scrupu together, the resulting cracks mark the fault line between herself and her destiny:
lous exploration of innocence as an historical and social theme, not to its willful Every time [she saw them] she would wonderwhat Lois was. She would never
performance. In her essay The Roving Eye, she suggests that at the center of know (83). The last four words in the passage are, from a dramatic point of view,
any writers work, underneath all outward complexity, there is a core of naivety. gratuitous. The word never suggests the permanence of Loiss un-self-aware state
Somewhere within the pattern, Bowen writes, somewhere behind the words, a even though Bowen, in a gesture of throwaway realism, givfes us to understand that
responsive, querying iimocence stays intact (qtd. in Lee 2). Hermione Lee has Lois ends up living (and presumably maturing) in France after Danielstown burns
shrewdly observed, in fact, that Bowens novels are full of retarded overgrown to the ground.
juveniles . . . , reckless innocents, characters who havent found ways of compro Bowen uses the technique of anticlimax and the m otif o f inhibited action to
mising with adult society (3).^ render the historical problematic of Ascendancy decline into the idiom of plot
The m otif of the retarded juvenile provides The Last September with its opening and character. In The Last September, these devices work together to produce
note and its governing temporal logic. From the first, the figiurative and descriptive an atmospheric novel of place in which character is always forming rather than
language describes a lyrical interlude in the oiurush of historical and biographical formed, plot always dissolving rather than resolving. Danielstown, Lois reflects, is
time, an interlude whose narrative correlate is the plot o f arrested development. a place where being grown up seems trivial, somehow (140). And when Marda
Thus Lois emerges in the opening scene suspended in a gentle puff of late-summer Norton observes that, at Danielstown, there seems a kind of fatalit)^ Lois shoots
evening air, wrapped in a phrase that marks her off as part of a delectable past: in back: I know (110). Her emphasisboth urgent and resignedindicates that she
those days . . . (3). The motif of frozen time almost immediately takes psycho already understands that the inevitable flipside of her own cultivated (though not
logical form in Loiss own will to youth: She knew how fresh she must look, like at all coquettish) ingenue status is the utter lack of a future (110). With gestures like
other young girls; she wished she could freeze the moment and keep it always this, the novel reminds us that it is not imposed authorial sentiment that shapes
(3-4). The novel thus quickly assimilates the characteristic temporality of Daniel- the Anglo-Irish into the blinkered virgins o f history, but a kind of compositional
stown itself, a cancelled time that encapsulates itself rather than rolling out into and characterological fidelity to the experience of a settler class still posing as
the future (28). In love with indefinition and locationlessness, Lois loiters in the landholders even after history has laid siege to their land.
thresholds and anterooms of the house, and of the text, dodging every sociological The belabored effort to sustain Loiss innocence, an effort undertaken both in
category or spatial commitment that might attach her to an identity or a destiny. and by the novel, corresponds to the belabored effort of the Ascendancy to enshrine
Like the protagonist of The Voyage O ut or, for that matter, of Lord Jim, Lois will their way o f life as a permanent aspect of the Irish landscape. But if we restrict our
remain a nebulous figure at the center of the plot, one whose youth never takes analysis to this point, we will have ignored an even more subtle element of the
on the sharp edges o f maturity. As Mrs. Vermont, an English officers wife, puts novels construction, since it is in fact not only a story o f freeze-dried virginity, but
it: Lois is soI mean, well, you knowvague, isnt she? (46). Where the young of the unsteady, uneven temporal mbc that both retards Lois and then hurtles her
liero of a classic bildungsroman cultivates himself as an object of destiny, a product into the future. After all, no way of life is timeless; no adolescence remains static.
184 UNREASONABLE YOUTH
VIRGINS OF EMPIRE* THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 185

The Last September reveals the impossible future (and present) o f the Anglo-Irish
precisely this combination of falsified time and clock timeespecially when laid
in 1520 by narjat^g the impossibility o f a youth with no end. Since youths essence
bare rather than naturalizedthat defines what we take to be the virtuoso Berg-
is its temporarinessit is by definition a stage or preludea novel that fixates on
sonian innovation o f modernist fiction. The interplay between impassive, linear
youth must always draw attention to its own effort, its own estrangement from the
tirpe and its falsificationsdilation, compression, accelerationin Bowens text
inherited techniques o f the coming-of-age tale. For Lois, youth becomes a spent
syncopates the joint allegory of Loiss deferred matrurity and the Anglo-Irish gen-
quantity, which is to say, an absent signifier marked precisely by its inability to be
t ^ s deferred modernization.
fulfilled through transformation, through self-possession: "She thought she need
Dilation and acceleration, despite their superficial opposition as slow and fast
not worry about her youth; it wasted itself spontaneously, like sunshine elsewhere
time, work together to capture the novels central historical problem, whi,ch is the
or firehght in an empty room (214^. Rather than simply dispense with the pro
anacluronistic persistence of a futureless and suddeiJy foreign planter class in
gressive conventions of the genre, the novel at once invokes and inverts them,
nationalizing Ireland. In my view, the books success can be defined in terms of how
objectifying the bildungsroman tradition without imagining a facile escape from
its influence. ^yejl Loiss persistent youth and voided destiny encode that colonial problematic of
development. Loiss story, her life plotted as a way of hfe, almost exphcitly negates
Indeed, the real temporal essence o f The Last S eptem berp-h oth . a historical
the classic bildungsroman plot of progress and fiflfiUment. Lois remains stubbornly
and a psychological novel is the combination o f dilation and^ compression. Lois,
intransitive and virginal from start to finish. She almost recognizes, and cer
though she seems fixed in her ha2y girlhood nimbus, is also m o v in g rapidly into
tainly experiences, the burden o f enibodying a negative allegory o f acculturation:
the future and growing up very fast (25). As Marda Norton observes: She is in
such a hurry, so concentrated upon her hurry, so helpless. She is like someone being She could not try to explain the magnetism they all exercised by their being
driven against time in a taxi to catch a train, jerking and jerking to help the taxi static. Or how, after every returnor awakening, even, from sleep or preoc
along and looking wildly out the window at things going slowly past (118). This cupationshe and those home surroundings still further penetrated each
quick sketch o f Lois driven against time combines impatience with retrospect, other mutually in the discovery o f a lack.
passive immurement with futile action, perfectly capturing the problem o f Loiss
(244)
youth. What might seem at first glance a familiar, possibly even banal, description
^ s passage, probably the most cited in critical readings of The Last September,
of adolescence as an oscillation between c h il^ o o d and adulthood gains a kind of
resonates with my analysis by confirming the reciprocal (and magnetic) symbohc
historical depth because o f its programmatic association with the colonial legacy
relationship between an unaging youth and an anachronistic colonial setting.
o f uneven development in Ireland; that is, with the anachronistic existence o f the
plantocracy itself. The two resident late-adolescents at Danielstown, Lois and her cousin Lau
rence, seem self-consciously to defer and ironize their own impossible adulthood,
Strictly speaking, then. The Last September is neither a bildungsroman nor an
a problem they charge to the positive futurelessness of their people (153). Bowen
antibildungsroman, but a novel that deliberately splices together the antiprogressive
makes their shared state of mind clear:
time of Anglo-Irish history and the progressive conventions o f the coming-of-age
novel. It stylizes youth, but finally exposes and concedes the necessity of the most But to Laurence and Lois this all had already a ring of the past. They both
basic temporal imperatives in the construction of novelistic plot, of personal iden had a sense of detention, of a prologue being played out too lengthily, with
tity, of national history. Bowen herself provides a clue to her own method in Notes unnecessary stresses, a wasteful attention to detail. Apart, but not quite
on Writing a Novel: Plot must not cease to move forward.. . . The actual speed of unaware o f each other, queerly linked by antagonism, they both sat eating
the movement must be even. Apparent variations in speed are good, necessary, but tea with dissatisfaction, resentful at giving so much of themselves to what
there must be no actual variations in speed (Pictures an d Conversations 171). Later was to be forgotten.
in the same essay: For the sake o f emphasis, time must be falsified. . . . Ag a i n s t
(170)
this falsificationin fact, increasing the force o f its effect by contrasta clock
Bowens rewriting o f the bildungsroman dynamic o f progress follows firom her
should be heard always impassively ticking away at the same speed (188). It is
exacting portrait o f a colonial settler class that cannot reproduce itself. Such a
l86 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH VIRGINS OF EMPIRE: t Ii EANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 187

portrait has a venerable place in the tradition of Anglo-Irish gothic, o f course; as will. She is a protected girl inside a protected ruling class, continually juxtaposed
Victor Sage notes, the gothic has often served as a kind of tacit (and premature) to, but only half exposed to, the social contradictions o f colonial modernity. Her
obituary, an account o f the sterile genealogy of a landowning class: The whole story gives a colonial inflection to the broader generic principles o f the (Victorian)
blood-line has committed suicide, and stolen its own future. It is a conspiracy fepiale bildungsroman, wherein the heroines blocked access to education, culture,
to substitute repetition for development (198). Repetition over development: It and politics produces a vivid contrast to the Goethean ideal of self-fulfillment in
is this formula that Bowen elaborates in The Last September, desensationalizing the public sphere.
the gothic while knitting a recursive and regressive temporal logic into the some When Lois becomes the protected object o f Gerald Lesworth, the English army
what etiolated generic frame o f a late bildungsroman. Both the prevailing sense officer, she recedes further into multiple layers of enforced inanition. Uneasy in
of detention and the queer antagonisms of the previous passage establish a clear h^t role-as-fianc^ethough not rebellious in any simple or especially fierce way
resonance with an earlier moment o f Irish gothic, the Wilde/Stoker phase in which Lois cannot quite avoid the sexual and social trappings of womanhood in a patri
figures of a decayed bohemia (Dorian Gray) or a dying aristocracy (Dracula) dis archal ruling class that is ironically feminized in relation to the British occupiers.**
tort the realist chronology o f youth/age/death. In keeping with her fine sense of Upon declaring that she has no future, Lois immediately and tellingly follows
Flaubertian bathos, Bowen rings a subtler, less lurid change^n that realist chro with this report: I have promised to marry Gerald (258). Gerald, for his part,
nology, compressing progress and regress into a novelistic form whose sense of fully subscribes to the view that Ireland, and women, and, a fortiori, Lois (both
time is both recognizably modernist and wholly idiosyncratic. Irish and a woman) exude a not entirely unpleasant mystique and require his kind
The novel links the temporal problem of nonfuturity to the spatial predicament of protection (125). Nothing irritates Lois more than the fact that Ireland (by which
of the Anglo-Irish, whose disappearing territorial base makes them the quintes she, and Gerald, mean the Anglo-Irish landed class) is treated by the KngliQb much
sential dispossessors on the eve o f their own dispossession. Lois embodies their as a frail woman is treated by a chivalrous gentleman (66).
stranding in time and in space: Ihe. novel makes it clear that Gerald s libido and elevated sense o f mission are
both wrapped up in an English pastoral dream, a kind o f willful innocence that
She was lonely and saw there was no future. She shut her eyes and triedas
neatly matches his projection of ingenuousness onto Lois. But when Gerald seeks
sometimes when she was seasick, locked in misery between Holyhead and
to actualize his fentasy of possession by kissing Lois, she rebuffs him with a bru
Kingstownto be enclosed in nonentity, in some ideal no-place perfect
tally apt scolding: I do wish you wouldnt, Gerald,I mean, be so actuaF (126).
and clear as a bubble.
Once again, the scene resonates very strongly with a key moment in The Voyage
(127) Out, wherein W oolfs arch-imperialist and paragon o f English manhood, Richard
Suspended in the wide and watery gap between Britain (Holyhead, Wales) and Dalloway, imposes a kiss on Rachel Vinrace. In both cases, the formless heroine,
Ireland (Kingstown, County Dublin), Lois almost explicitly decodes the political fearing the impress of a specifically Anglo-imperialist man, seeks to reclaim the
history of her own liminal or negative relation to the land. The classic gothic plot open potential o f her youth, an act that foreshadows her later attempts to forestall
of female dispossession here takes the form o f a bittersweet and personalbut no adulthood in general and marriage in particular.
less historically severe crisis. There simply is no space for Lois; her temporal sta Loiss historical virginity is sustained through a set o f missed encounters with
tus as a stalled protagonist finds a perfect spatial equivalent when she feels herself the troubles of 1920. How is it, Lois wonders, that in this country that ought to
cradled in a bubble, an ideal no-place. be full o f such violent realness, there seems to be nothing for me but clothes and
Although Lois and Laurence, the nonheirs o f Danielstown, both inhabit the what people say? I might as well be in some kind o f cocoon (66). And when, in an
problem o f their classs eternalized naivety, Loiss experience of isolation is exac epilogue deliberately set off from the main timeframe o f the novel, the conflagra
erbated by virtue o f her gender. She has no access to the real -struggles o f Irish tion finally does come to Danielstown, Lois has already been removed to France.
nationalism, a fact that undergirds her inability to achieve any kind of social role or Along the way, as most critics have noted, Lois remains literally blanketed on
personal destiny. Like Rachel Vinrace of W oolfs Voyage Out, Lois combines vague the estate, as gun-runners, peasant spies, and armed fugitives pass her by. At one
talent (can she paint?), dissident sexuality, sporadic self-knowledge, and a listless point, Lois and Marda Norton run into an armed rebel who has taken refuge in an
VIRGINS OF E M PlW THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 189
188 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

abandoned mill. In a moment that is never directly narrated, tod is only recounted fedt that it is present in an objectified or estranged form. The Last September, in

in bare fragments, the rebels gun appears to have gone off, grazing Mardas hands. other words, captures a way of life that cannot survive in a brave new post-British

The whole episode ends abruptly with a hushing-up, and no oneneither charac Empire world o f separated and relativized national units. The Anglo-Irish them

ters nor readerscan be quite sure what has in fact happened in the echo chamber selves recognize, with varying degrees of acuity, that their mannered and manorial

of the old mill (180-83). Here, as in the Marabar Caves of Forsters Passage to India, existence is a relic of British imperialism. This is not just a buried framework, but

colonial antagonists encounter each other with an obliquity that is unmistakable; jiart of a continual and bad conversation betiyeen,the occupying English and the

colonial violence is temporarily broached, obscurely sexualized, narratively dis resident Anglo-Irish. The displacement of colonial encounter (and its real violence

placed, and finally just dispersed into murmuring anticlimaxes until the two sides or violent realness) into bad conversation is a technique that Bowen here elevates

retreat behind the cordbns sanitcjires of a dying'imperialism. % o art; fracking miscues, dropping ellipses, punctuating talk with mutter. This is

Lois, for her part, knows that she has no place in the historical struggle for 9vil strife and national devolution as the stuff of a thousspd awkward cocktail par-

Ireland. She could not conceive o f her country emotionally: it was a way of living, lies, perhaps the most politely apt description of postcolonial fragmentation since

abstract of several countrysides, or an oblique, frayed island ntoofed at the north Forsters drab sisterhood of nations.
but with an air of being detached and drawn out west from the British coast (42). To turn the analysis in that direction, let us return to a crucial scene not often

What Lois cannot conceive ofher countryis of course really not the same col probed in depth by Bowen critics. In it, Gerald Lesworth seeks to explain his role

lective that she embodies (her class). She can only think of Ireland from an Anglo as imperial policeman to Laurence, who turns his waspish intellect to the task of

centric point o f view as a way of living off the British coast. Standing at equal baiting Gerald into a naked and fiituous expression o f Anglo superiority:

and hyphenated distance from both Anglo and Irish, Lois reveals the impossibility Well the situations rotten, but right is right.
of national allegory or national emergence for the Anglo-Irish. The slippery sym ' Why? [asks Laurence]
bolic relationship between the characters and their collective destiny is, of course, Well. . . from the point of view of civilisation. Also you see they [the Irish
not just a submerged technical matter, but an open topic of discussion. Consider republicans] dont fight clean.
Hugo Montmorency, another representative figure of the settler class who bears Oh theres no public school spirit in Ireland. But do tell mewhat do you
the signs of frozen youth (though middle-aged, he has both the churlishness of mean by the point of view of civilisation?
a schoolboy and an unfortunate ability to be young at any time [1 7 7 ] )- In one Ohours___ If you come to think, he explained, I mean, looking back
scene, Hugo, posturing a bit, observes the following: Whats the matter with this on historynot that Im an intellectualwe do seem to be the only
country is the matter with the lot of-us individuallyour sense of personality is a people.
sense o f outrage and well never get outside of it. To this self-fififilling prophecy, Difficulty being to make them see it?
Marda Norton has the following unspokeh response: But the hold of the country And that we are giving them what they really want. Though of course
was that, she considered; it could be thought of in terms of oneself, so interpreted. the more one thinks o f it all, the smaller, personally, it makes one feel.
Or seemed s o ... (1 1 7 ). When Marda trails off, we are forced by Bowen to stay alert I dont feel small in that way. But Im not English
to the fact that the central pretense of modern national identity (thinking of ones Oh, noI beg your pardon.
country in terms of oneself and vice versa) can no longer be counted on to work -T h a n k God!
for this tribalized class residue (or seemed s o . . . ). Dont understand?
At this point we can begin to see the novel laying bare its own principle of com God may. Shall we look for the others?
positionthe idea that Lois and her people are in a reciprocal allegory staged as (1 3 2 )
a story o f historical anachronism and prolonged adolescence rather than of joint
progress. As I have suggested, the antidevelopmental plot coexists with a more Laurence mutters his relief at not being English himself an ostensible insult

traditional and mechanical concept o f clock time; it is not that the traditional to Geralds national pride that he only half hears. The whole exchange unfolds

bildungsroman allegory o f national and personal formation is fully abandoned. as a set of unfinished lines, miscues, and interruptions, all mixed with interior
190 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
VIRGINS EMPIRE; THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 191

monologues that confiise more than clarify the dialogue. This method is typical of
not the Integration, but the disintegration of difference. He assumes an impersonal
Bovyens ,emerging style and takes on exemplary significance in the colonial field
etl^ical posture that is also a tacit historical observation: The clamor of empire wears
o f cpqtaft. She narrates:
away into the cold comprehension of difference. This, I take it, is the buried keynote
Their conversation, torn off rough at this edge, seemed doomed from its of the novels political history. Against Geralds notion of a permanent (Anglocen
very nature to incompletion. Gerald would have wished to explain that tric) civdizmg mission, Laurence offers a glimpse o f natic^al devolution, a strictly
no one could have a sounder respect than himself and his country for posfcolonial gesture in that is neither pro- nor anticolonial, flis beautiful negation
the whole principle o f nationality, and that it was with some awareness of is, in a sense, what others have called the end o f histpry: Someday, soon perhaps,
misdirection, even o f paradox, that he was out here to hunt and shoot the the wars, the political passions, and the cultural projecfe that are dedicated to cross-
Ifish----- Laurence had not hoped to explain, but had wished that Gerald cultural explanation, and integration, will all come to an end.
could infer, that there was a contrariety in the notions they each had o f this What Laurence glimpses or imagines is a burdenless, plotless future o f pure
thing civilization. As a rather perplexing system o f niceties, Laure'ncfsaw it; coexistence, with difference neither annihilated nor integrated (the twin and con
an exact and delicate interrelation o f stresses between being and being, like tradictory goals o f empire), but neutralized into a world map of territorial and
crossing arches; an unemotioned kindness w ith^ing to assertion selfish or i4entitarian divides. His vision of civilizationa mannerly system o f intersubjec-
racial; silence cold with a comf>rehension in which the explaining clamour tive checks and balancesdoes not so much manage the clamorous encounter of
died away. He foresaw in it the end of art, o f desire, as it would be the end of difference as defuse it into a bloodless and static silence. He imagines a cellular
battle, but it was to this end, this faceless but beautiful negation that he had structuremade spatial in the crossing arches imagethat negates difference
M ed a glass inwardly while he had said, Thank God! and removes the dynamic, libidinal friction o f historical encounter. Laurences

(133 - 3 4 ) tacit never again echoes the not yet that marks the closing note o f A Passage
to India: Like Forsters Fielding, though in a less elegiac mode, Laurence sees in
I quote at length because this scene beautifiiUy enacts and anatomizes the fum
empires wake not just national freedom (and not a perpetual round of neocolonial
bling o f meaning across cultural lines. It highlights miscommunication between
skirmishing), but the broken conversation where colonial contact (and associated
someone who believes that civilization occurs in the effort to communicate cross-
^Drms of conflict or desire) once stood. His vision finds fulfillment in what we
culturally, albeit from a position of moral authority secured by dint o f colonial
might call the devolutionary and anthropological logic of the postcolonial era.
force (Gerald) and someone who believes that civilization occurs only when such
Viewed from this perspective, modernist texts like The Last September can be seen
communication is acknowledged as limited and partial, tending ultimately toward
to chart the emergence of a planetary system o f crossed arches, that is, of ethni
silence and negation (Laurence). Explanation is the key term of this passage. Ger
cally and territorially defined cultures devolving into nation-states out of multira
ald would have liked to explain himself; Laurence hopes not to have to; in a crucial
cial and multinational empires (and, o f course, evolving into nation-states out o f
earUer passage, Lois cannot hope to explain herself. All this thwarted expression
smaller, differently organized regional units).-'
seems to signal precisely the end of the explaining clamour, the incipient silence
Laurences enervated, prolepticaUy postcolonial viewpoint seems at first to
and negation o f Laurences civilization.
express but ultimately to transform Bowens nostalgia for the Anglo-Irish past.
Geralds thirst for explanation is a femiliar quest to transcend cultural difference;
The knotty and rather abstract figurative language used to capture Laurences con
it indexes a normative, universalist, and integrative imperative that must be advanced
cept of civilization suggests a complex historical attitude that cannot be equated to
in the colonial contact zones, in the endless and endlessly discursive Great Game
nostalgia (nor, for that matter, to the callow nihilism often ascribed to Laurence).
that blows hot and cold across the planet. He labors under the White Mans Burden
The text should not be reduced to Bowens sympathetic recuperation o f Anglo-
and feces down other (Irish) white men, though he is perplexed, understandably,
Irish life nor to some kind of moralizing fish-in-a-barrel critique o f Ascendancy
by the contradictions of imperial power according to which the British forces of
privilege. Instead, the odd, even strained metaphors of Laurences meditation can
civilization must prevail over any merely national claim in order to guarantee the
point us to a reading of the novel in which the rich peculiarity o f both the figura
principle of national self-determination. Laurences contrary notion of civilization is
tive language and the antidevelopmental plot reveal not narrow political poses, but
192 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH VIRGINS OF EMPIRE; THE ANTIDEVELOPMENTAL PLOT IN RHYS AND BOWEN 193

a deep-structural view of history. What we see in that view is not just the doom of The plantocratic end of history adumbrated in Laurences cold fantasy of
the Anglo-Irish, but the'larger devolutionary shift in which the historically vola devolution points precisely to his own and Loiss symbolic place inside a larger
tile arena o f the Anglo-Irish colonial encounter is'being reorganized, first, into a transformation of national culture along lines that pfovide no mobility, no exit
battleground, and, eventually, into a no-fly zone of separation and relativism, of from the prisonhouse of identity. The antidcvelopmental plot, crystallized in Loiss
artificially bounded national units with territorial claims. Indeed, the futureless- arfested adolescence, highlights the utter absence o f an undergirding concept of
ness of the' Ascendancy can be charged to the fact that their class statuswith historical progress and social mobility. The Last September offers a' specifically
all'the contingencies and mixed loyalties o f an intermarried, semimodernized, Anglo-Irish instance of the fundamental shift in the history o f the novel that I
neofeudal, intercultural existencehas been nationahzed, even racialized to some have been describing in terms of modernist antidevelopmental plots. Modernist
degree, into a fixed cultural identity. novelrO f^uth are generally not novels o f social or civilizational progress in any
This frame o f reference for Bowens project suggests a somewhat unfamiliar simple way; the older plots o f class mobility give way to more clotted and uneven
and refracted point o f comparison to another semi-peripheral site o f mpdernist plots pegged to socially fixed identity categories, as in the biopolitical fictions of
fiction o f the late 1920s and 1930s, a place that, like Bowens Ireland, is semi- Jean Rhys.
gothically haunted by a planter class in its dying throes: Faulkners Yoknapa- To put this compressed hypothesis about changing literary forms and devolu
tawpha. Here, as Walter Benn Michaels has observed, the novels (his example is tionary history into schematic terms, I am taking the antidevelopmental plot in
Absalom, Absalom ) shed light on a soi^disaht civilization that morbidly adheres general, and Rhyss and Bowens versions of it in particular, as signs of modernist
to its own vanishing way o f life (Absalom, Absalom! 140-41). If Faulkner, as fictions recoding o f social antagonism into cultural difference. The colonial set
Michaels wduld have it, defeats Sutpens class ambitions by racializing them ting may provide a particularly clear sense of the historical pressures behind this
(147), then Bowen too narrates the historical end o f the Anglo-Irish in part by processand the trope of frozen youth a particularly visible sign o f its narrative
indicating the fatefulness o f their own self-understanding as a people rather entailmentsbut there are many kinds o f modernist texts that encode this broader
than the heirs to certain econom ic interests definitive o f a class. In other words, translation of difference into the increasingly rigid race-culture-nationalism lan
Faulkners planters, like Bowens, have assimilated a justificatory rhetoric of guage o f twentieth-century devolution. Such an approach to Bowens work places
identity by acceding to the dignifiedbut ultimately fatalconcept o f a way her at the center of a revisionary model of modernist fiction, understood in terms
o f life. Only this, I think, can explain the finality o f Bowens title and o f Dan- of the partial displacement of nineteenth-century historical concepts o f progress
ielstowns burning as a horizon beyond which Lois and Laurences destinies are by twentieth-century anthropological concepts of difference as the major frame of
quite unnarratable. reference for novels. Lois Farquars balky nonprogress to adulthood thus allows us
One thing Bowens novel does, then, is measure the consequences o f an inap to apprehend modernisms assimilation o f the temporally static concept of cultural
propriate, but probably inevitable, extension o f the totalizing language of culture difference into the novel of social realism.
to a class. O f course, the accretion of cultural meaning to the category Anglo-Irish Once subjectivity bears within itself the devolutionary logic of modern cultural
is gradual and deep; it is neither existentially superficial nor merely epiphenome- nationahsm, the old plothnes o f social accommodation and functional intersub
nal to the class formation in question. Still, it is possible to say that the Anglo-Irish jectivity appear to falter on separate tracks. Such a conclusion need not insist on
continually misrecognize themselves as a twentieth-century people rather than some historically determined law o f genre, nor on the absence of metahistorical
a social fraction because they are unable to resist the blandishments o f national narratives and civilizational allegoriesmuch less the absence of history or
identity, o f the dignified but deadly claim to a vanishing way of life. A pseudocul poUtics tout courtin modernist fiction, but rather on their complicated replot
ture without a territorial or political base, they are, in effect, an extinction wait ting within a more static, if more globally democratic, map of cultural zones. The
ing to happen. It is that odd temporality o f anticipated doom in the novels 1920 formal effects or stylistic correlates of the problem I have describedof social
settingcombined with the retrospective foreclosure o f its 1928-1929 date of antagonism recoded as cultoal difference in general, the devolutionary logic of
compositionthat Bowen so compeUingly encodes into the fabric of its charac The Last September in particularare both legible in the reorganization of pro
terization. Lois, in other words, is the hving figure o f a cultural death. gressive time signaled by the m otif o f adolescence. Frozen in her youth, stuck
194 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

between cultures, hopelessly virginal, Lois can be read as a brilliantly condensed


figure for the broader postcolonial process: the widening gap between an imperial
and enlighjepment narrative of progress and an actual colonial history of broken
or uneven development, o f civilization splintering into incommensurable cultures.
In fpjegrounding the culture death or historical stalemate of the Anglo-Irish, Bow
ens text registers the assimilation o f structuralist-functionalist thinking into m od
ernist form, where cultural equilibriathe crossing arches of Laurences new
civilizationobscure any universal narratives of historical evolution. Or, rather,
the historical change that they chronicle is precisely the twentieth-century story
in which the old notion of world-historical progress gives way to innumerable
alternative modernities.

7. Conclusion
A lternative M odern ity an d A utonom ous
Youth after 1945

Life in the late capitalist era is a constant initiation rite.

Adorno and Horkheimer, The Dialectic o f Enlightenment

Yesmaturity is hardly compatible with modernity^ And contrariwise. Modern Western


society has invented youth, mirrored itself in it, chosen it as its most emblematic valueand
for these very reasons has become less and less able to form a clear notion of maturity! The
richer the image of youth grew, the more inexorably that of adulthood was drained. The more
engaging, we may add, the novel of life promised to bethe harder it became to accept its
conclusion.

Franco Morettl, The Way o f the World

In chapter 6 , 1 located in the fiction o f Jean Rhys and Elizabeth Bowen a devolu
tionary cultural logic that charts the waning power o f the old European empires
and points to an emerging world-system o f ostensibly self-determining national-
cultural units. Writing at some insecure remove from the category o f citizen, Rhys
and Bowen both serve as telling figures in this transition: Their careers carry over
from the interwar period into the postcolonial and postmodern era, where the
bildungsroman lives on, not only via ongoing experiments with the modernist
plot o f unseasonable youth but also in the form of more traditional, linear novels
of formation. In both of these generic variations, the biographical novel o f youth
retains a central place in the literary marketplaces of the world. The heterogeneity
196 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
\
CONCLUSION 197

o f the bildungsromane in post-1945 canons of Anglophone and world literature


todayiJDeyelopment (124)and particularly resists a modernization model that
should come asno surprise to us: Writers and readers are always free to ignore
Insists on linking eCbBdmic and cultural processes in lockstep (so that, for exam
even influential period-styles attached to self-conscious literary vanguards o f the
ple, a certain degree o f capitalization implies a certain kind of secularization). Even
past; more to the point, modernisms attack on linear plots was itself a contradic
modernization theories that try to do justice to historical differences and diverse
tory project, both developmental and antldevelopmental in the end.
geographies by invoking the concept of uneven development have been rejected.
Thus despite the modernist vogue for wayward story lines and extended ado
In the work of Dipesh Chakrabarty, for instance, the ongoing influence of a felsely
lescence, and despite the modernist-era critique o f the historidst logic underpin
universal narrative issuing from Enlightenment thpugljt challenges todays his-
ning the bildungsroman, both the coming-of-age novel and its developmental
torians to shed all forms o f stagist thinking as inherently, balefi^y Eurocentric /
imperatives persist alongside of, and after, any modernist revolution of form. In
(9).. For-Qiakrabarty, any totalizing narrative of modernity, /jowsoever internally T
this brief and synoptic condusion, I try to assess the conceptual and historical
differentiated, conjures up that bad metahistorical mantra: first in the west, then ^
limits o f this books daims by considering the afterlife o f the unseasonable youth elsewhere (47; emphasis mine). , j
plot, first in relation to challenges posed to developmental dispourseliy cultural
Much of the most influential recent work in postcolonial and transnational stud
theories of (colonial) difference, then in relation to the Anglpphone novel o f youth
ies has attempted to work its way outside the Hegelian and Marxist historiographi
after World War II.
cal traditions, often using theoretical resources derived from Nietzsche, B e n j a m i n
At the start, I proposed that one useftil way to define the historical speci
Heidegger, and/or Derrida. Alternative modernities positions tend to be staked
ficity of the modernist era is to locate it at the dialectical switchpoint between
more or less explicitly to New Social Movements (sex, gender, indigeneity, local
residual nineteenth-century narratives o f global development and emergent
ity, religious or environmental interest). The rethinking of modernity has come in
twentieth-century suspicion o f such narratives as universalist and Eurocentric.
the form of disciplinary critique (Appadurai in sociology, Cftakrabarty in history,
Ih e antidevelopmental bildungsroman reached a peak o f symbolic currency in
Fabian in anthropology, Taylor in philosophy) and from newer academic forma
the modernist period perhaps because it mediatedin a recognizable aesthetic
tions such as Black Atlantic studies (Baucom, Gilroy). It also comes from direct
formand stagedin visibly global termsthis deeper struggle between Hege
efforts to unthink Eurocentrism (Shohat and Stam), to rehistoricize or reori
lian historicism and post-Hegelian critiques o f historicism. This may also be why
ent the global vectors o f modernization (Abu.-Lughod, Frank), and to understand
modernist fiction still resonates for twenty-first-century readers confronting a
modernitys complex emplotment and translation in various semi-peripheries
theoretical and poUtical divide between worldwide development and a world of
(Bhabha, Cheah, Krishnan, Mignolo, MitcheU, Ramos, Saldana-Portfilo, Schwarz,
differencesthat is, between a singular-modernity model that projects a global
Scott). These varied projecfs-pnly some of which proceed under the open banner
narrative of modernization and an alternative-modernities model that describes
o f Alternative Modernities all in one way or another attempt, in the words of
a detemporalized map o f raw cultural difference.^ In the face of these somewhat
Dilip Gaonkar, to think with a difference in order to destabilize the universalist
entrenched positions, the modernist novel o f youth, which assimilates into form idioms o f the disciplines (15).
the dialectic of a developmental time-concept that is undoing itself, may serve as
Within literary studies, David Lloyd stands out as a voice that alig n c closely
a vital conceptual resource.
with the critical project outlined by Gaonkar and advanced by Chakrabarty, pro
The idea o f alternative modernities has gained wide currency in the social sci
posing at once the critique of a singular developmental model and the rethinking
ences and the humanities over the last fifteen years. Its force depends largely on
o f historical time in terms of its possibilities rather than its determinations {Irish
the pressure that postcolonial and subaltern studies (and scholarship based on the
Times 100). In a recent rereading o f the medieval sill in Stephen Hero and Portrait
new social movements) have put on both Hegelian/Marxist and liberal/neoliberal
o f the A rtist as a Young M an, Lloyd argues that the assumption of modernity, that
discourses o f globalization and on various versions o f modernization theory that
its unidirectional flow into the future furnishes the model for all cultures and soci
were dominant in academic and policy circles during the Cold War.* The litera
eties, stumbles and halts at such a threshold. As I have noted in earlier chapters.
ture of alternative modernities challenges unifying or universal models o f world
Lloyds critical resistance to the iron temporal logic o f developmental historicism
history-w hat Gayatri Spivak succinctly identifies as yesterdays im geria^m .
resonates strongly with the figure o f extended adolescence in modernism, quite
/

198 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH CONCLUSION 199

teyond the immediate case o f Stephen Dedalus (Irish Times 75). Unseasonable of banal information. This could describe the panoply o f interwar avant-garde
youth novelsftend to unsettle the assumptions targeted by Lloyd, andmore to my techniques based on shock, interruption, juxtaposition, spatial form, abstraction,
own immediate pointthey do so by revealing on every page the overdetermined frozen dialectics, messianic timeall heroic measures taken against the combined
role of thfe nation-state form in securing and shaping the narratable destinies of forces of the Hegelian and Whig historiographical imagination and all*vulnerable
individual and collective'subjects (whose modern lives are, o f course, never as in our own moment to what Fredric Jameson has called the deduction to the pres
shapely as the generic coming-of-age plot suggests). ent (End o f Temporality 709).
Lloyds literary criticism locates in symbolic form what Chakrabarty sees in I am suggesting a provisional connection between the politics of tim e in avant-
the texture o f posthistoricist inquiry, that is, a resistant content or remainder not garde aesthetics and postcolonial theory, and identifying the risk of a temporal or
already modern, nor simply preiiiodern, but legible as a discordant element inter naffative repression in the more obvidusly spatial or antidevelopmental forins of
nal to the very being (that is, lo^c) of capital (65)." The rhetoric of recalcitrant or both. The problem for avant-garde art and radical philosophy then reemerges as' a
discordant elements quickly assumes the form o f a spatial logic within the Critical problem for postcolonial and alternative-modernities theory now: how to oppose
discourse of alternative modernity, and that discourse is inteUectuaJly symbiotic Hegelian historical destiny without collapsing into an ahistorical vacuum. What
with a larger spatial turn across the humanities and interpretive social sciences. was a vital and forceful corrective to vmiversalist metanarratives of moderniza
Within the more delimited field 'of modernist literacy studies, spatial and geo tion, including the Marxian analysis of capitalist modernity, and to Eurocentric
graphical models have taken hold and illuminated much new territory, contribut accounts of literary history, including old-school glorification of Anglo-American
ing to an anti-Eurocentric renovation of the prevailing methodologies. modernism, has perhaps now come to need its own modest corrective in the form
The spatial turn, with its ongoing call for methods that recognize cultural dif o f some dialectical pressure on the assumed critical value of proliferating alterna
ference and alternative modernity by the hygiene o f geographical rather than tive modernities and modernisms.
historiographical inquiry does, however, carry its own specific intellectual risks: And there has already been a recent turn, perhaps even a backlash in some
it risks turning comparative analysis into an exotic catalogue o f pure differ quarters, against spatial theory and against the critical veneration of pure differ
ences and it risks an inadequate historical reckoning with the facts and legacies ence. In a somewhat dismissive broadside against alternative modernities work,
o f EuropeanAVestern power. That is, if a thick description of a frankly Western Fredric Jameson has argued for a singular modernity, a unifying narrative that he
modernity had once seemed to recapitulate the uncritical self-narration of the ris proposes not so much as desirable, but as inevitable." For Jameson, narrative itself
ing European bourgeoisie, it has now become clear that a culturally denuded and is irrepressible and seeks the highest level of general historical explanation, so that
thin descriptionor a radically anti-Eurocentric onecan omit the living history a spatialized and ruptural model o f alternative modernities has, at some point, to
o f Europes impositions on non-Western societies. To place many varied artis be set into an overarching temporal frame. To make ti^,narrativeT6ducitive and
tic and intellectual projects into a drastically foreshortened narrative, one might accurate, though, Jameson pushes for ^jigefous-reponceptualization of uneven
observe that some of the most challenging attempts to build models of alternative development, which must be understood as something oth ^ tKaiTa catalog of"
modernity continue to draw on French poststructuralism, a midcentury theoreti way-stations and waiting-rooms on the way to some preordainecTHegelian ren-
cal avant-garde that staged (via Nietzsche and Heidegger) its own confrontation dezvoffi wiBi the end of history (Singular 144). In ^som ew hat different register.
with Hegelian-Marxist conceptions of historical time and that emerged from the anthropologist jaittSsFergusori worries that alternative modernity talk seems
the fading power o f a historical avant-garde (surrealism in particular) that also to celebrate cultural diversity while ignoring the problems stiff posed by underde
tried to storm the Hegelian tower and upend the predominantly narrative forms velopment in the global South. Ferguson suggests that the critique of development
o f nineteenth-century literature and historiography.^ Aesthetic or cultural anti- has become perhaps only too successful at promoting a model of alternative
Hegelianism, attempting to eschew or escape from unilinear historical time, seems rather than less modernity, leaving scholars (and policymakers) -without a
often to court the kind of feilure that worried Walter Benjamin, that of heroic proper language to address the failures of modernization in places like Zambia.
philosophical gestures of interruption becoming, in a flash, evanescent motes The result, Ferguson proposes, is a detemporalized graph of cultural difference,
in a commodified marketplace already glittering with mere sensations and bits with weak geopolitical vision, no overarching concept of economic justice, and

f
205J, UNSEASONABLE YOUTH V CONCLUSION 201 \

little grip, on the basic forces that shape cultural production. By banishing develop the contradictions of modernization ideologies without producing a facile utopian
ment,, anthropology may have, paradoxically, hypostasized rather than traversed sense that those ideologies can be escaped by force of artistic or intellectual will.
the core-and-periphery model it aimed to displace.^ To suggest that novels escape or outflank a theoretical impasse is to make an
Along quite similar lines, Xudong Zhang offers a critical take on Chakrabartys unapologetic case for the power of literary form,as against propositional discourse,
Provincializing Europe: Despite the effectiveness of Chakrabartys discontent, and for the residual realism o f high ipQdernism as against the more radical anti-
many contemporary Chinese intellectuals probably would b^ hesitant to wage a developmental and counter-Hegelian modes o f avant-gardist writjing. Mainstream
theoretical critique of the universal from the self-assumed positionality of the par- Anglo-American modernism has always been understood as inv^st^d in alterna
^cular. Rather . . . [they] woulji tend to continue to explore the dialectic of the tive historical models outside linear, or teleological time,. Joyces Viconian cycles, >/
universal) which not only sees imiyfersality as a political and strategic rhetoric of WqoJE^cultural Bergsonism, Yeatss occult repetitions, and Lawrences apocalyptic
the particular (i.e., modern Europe), but, more importantly, allows the reinvention endings, not to mention the various non-narrative effects implied by modernist
and redefinition o f the universal as a historical totality (Modernity 171).' In totems like Epiphany, Vortex, and Montage: All of these oppose a,certain progres
JherPolitics o f Time, I^eter Osborne helpfully separates the case against<-the Hege sive historical consciousness associated with nineteenth-century European thought
lian stagist mode from the case against historical totalization per se, arguing and with the implied.temporality o f narrative realism. But the novels examined in
that the critique of false universalism, while essential, doea not necessitate forsak the present study tend to splice these alternative or antiprogressive models into
ing the concept of totalization. Like Jameson, Fergpson, and Zhang, though in a the redoubtable existential givens of the biographical novel. The resulting forms
more philosophical register, Osborne asks: What future is there for an emphatic are flexible, even motley creations that both reflect and reflect upon the inherited
conception of historical experience after the critique of Hegelianism? (x)'"* Cul Hegelian time-concepts of modernityliterary objects that resist and recapitu
tural critics who insist on the theoretical necessity of grasping global historical late developmental historicism in the verbal tissue o f plot, characterization, and
processes in their totality have proposed limits on the model of wall-to-wall cul imagery.
tural difference or tried to declare, as Alberto Moreiras has it, the exhaustion of Many of the antidevelopmental plots that I have identified in modernist fiction
difference.' For Osborne the question is not whether totalization but which, for coordinate endless youth with arbitrary closure to produce an ironic form. In this
we cannot avoid the totalization of history because o f the existential structure of way, they can encode a simultaneous rejection of and subjection to existential,
temporalization (x). bottom-line temporalitythe global time o f Hegels world history in one sense
J . The theoretical struggle between difference and development has begun to (modernization), and the organismic inevitabilities o f life span in the biographi
^ I seem like an impasse, with one camp championing alternative modernities while cal novel on the other (maturity, death) With their heterochronic and dilated
' *1 trying to avoid cultural exoticism and the other championing a singular moder- time-schemes, modernist novels offer, I think, a more critical and more dialecti
I nity while trying to avoid ethnocentric stagism. Is there a way to recoup the ana- cal rejoinder to the Hegelian developmental imperative than did the experimental
' lytical and political value of a cross-cultural and global narrative of modernization modes of the historical avant-garde, whose counterdiscursive strikes against the
without rebuilding the Procrustean bed o f evolutionary world history? What ideology of progress have been, in the long rim, more easily assimilated and com
methods^^mjght aftow us,tq,nayigate between Chakrabartys claim that a singidar modified or dismissed as an encapsulated radical outburst. Modernist fictions of v/
modernity imposes a false, .unilinear narrative of transition and Jamesons claim endless.youth, even when they make stylistic and aesthetic value out of a detem-
that alternative modernity makes it impossible to describe transition,at all? The poralized plot, also reveal the contradictions and vulnerabilities attached to non
methodological'fSrmula of one world-system, many modernises may serve as a modern subjects in a world still organized by modernization theory (despite its
working compromise that preserves our ability to think systematically and glob disfavor in academic circles).'*
ally without positing a final or future convergence of modernization processes that My reading of modernist fiction has attempted to disclose not just the con-
are so obviously discrepant, unequal, and out o f sync." In a more modest critical densation of historicist and antihistoricist logic into the trope of unseasonable
project within twentieth- and twenty-first-century literary studies, such a formula youth, but also to suggest a kind qffunctip,^^ between Anglophone
may allow us to appreciate the formal operations of novels that manage to capture modernisms suspicion of linear time and an anticolonial intellectual project that
s CONCLUSION 203
202 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

own aging and transformation (its own historicity), and thus to objectify and
casts doubt on V^stern ox Eurocentric modelsLof d w eloj^ en t. It would be easy
expose (without eliminating altogether) its progressive conventions. In certain
perhaps to overstate or overvalue this alignment between, on the one hand, the
fictions, indeed, youth seems to refer sinjultaneously to the developmental pro
larger decolonizing project with its ideological challenge to developmental histori-
cess (maturation, modernization) and to its arrest or undoing in the form of
cism (taken, k la Spivak, Chakrabarty, and Lloyd, as a rhetorical technique of West
adolescence-without-adulthood. If fictions of pure youth invert the classic plo4
ern hegemony, a fusion o f Hegelian logic and imperial practice) and, oit the other
o f formation and assimilate the differential temporality of uneven development,
hand. Western aesthetic challenges to developmental or rationalized time both as
they also reveal the ideological romance o f permanent adolescence by insisting,
a philosophy of history and as a convention of progressive-biographical fiction.
with clear-eyed political realism, that modernization, like human aging, cannot
Still, though my textual analysis leans heavily on Western(ized) subjects and their
be fpjsveT forestalled. They peel away the residua o f romantic nationalism from
representation, the methodology [depends on understanding that even the most
the bildungsroman plot, compromising its ability to turn the chronos of open-
intimate modernist interiors open out to a world of political and historical effects
jawed modernity into the kairos of national destiny; in this^ense, they present
shaped in and by colonial as well as metropolitan subjects. ^ . *
the trope of youth in its essence as endless mutability, confessing in its refusal
I have to this point fihessed the pressing methodological questitm of whether
of fixed a ^ lth q o d jp the permanence of our revolqtfons, to the evergreen and
the changing world-system is a material predicate for the antidevelopmental novel
ruthless vitality o f capitalisms creative destruction. In this precise sense, too, the
of youth in modernism, or whether there is instead simply a convenient symbolic
fiction of unseasonable youth stays relevant because it gives aesthetic form to
affinity (a neat fit) between imeven development in the geopolitical sphere and
what Edward Said called the unresolved (and unresolvable) dialectic of colo
arrested development in the modernist novel. Having now adduced the literary
nialism (Reflections 263).
evidence, I would venture to say that the intellectual crisis of progress in the late
Unseasonable youth, in short, activates two reality principles within the m od
nineteenth century (and its associated historiographies of decline, its new human
ernist novel: 1) that capitalist transformation has been a constant revolutionary
sciences of biopolitical difference) does strongly, if not deterministically, mediate
force in modernity not to be harnessed or naturalized by an organic rhetoric
between the material collapse of the Western empires and the artistic power of
of subjectivity or statehood; and 2) that the force o f historicist or teleological
modernist form. The texts examined here, in all their variety, cut the process of
thinking animates colonial and neocolonial projects even after its universalist
aging from between the twin plot points of youth/exposition and death/closure,
substrata have been exposed, challenged, and discredited. To imagine a purely
removing the connective tissue definitive of historicism itself. The resulting form
intellectual or philosophical or aesthetic redress to the force of developmental
estaWishes a dialectical rather than an antinomial relation between world-historical
historicismto conjure a space fully outside of its effectsis to lose a critical
developmentahne'd'at a shared destiny a n ja w ofld of static, anthrop^gizeddif-
grip on the need for actual social transformation to accompany any revolution of
ferences splayed on a planetary grid.
ideas or values. My own investment in modernisms dialectical relationship to the
Such a dialectical relation,! have claimed, can be rendered in narrative form
contradictions o f progress discourse translates into an interpretive method via
more powerfully and more subtly than it can be established in direct or propo
this Adornean principle: A successful w or k. . . is not one which resolves objec
sitional discourse.' The novels at the center o f this study give vivid narrative
tive contradictions in a spurious harmony, but one which expresses the idea of
form to the central contradiction o f modernity, a contradiction made most con
harmony negatively by em bodying the contradictions, pure and uncompromised,
spicuous in the colonial contact zones of the last hundred years: M o d ern ^ is
in its innermost structure {Prisms 32; emphasis added). I have staked this books
a state of permanent transition,Jts.m ost ^rendiantliieraxyjncarnatiorujs,-then,
argument to works that only partially and only dialectically exert their force
th^.st0ry_of eqdles^j[ouA. The trope of adolescence, once conceived as but a
against the progressive logic of developmental historicism enshrined in clas
prelude to age, as referring to the inexorably organic process of maturation,
sic Bildung. Modernist narratives that mix frozen youth and sudden death, that
and-by allegorical extensionto some particular script of full modernization,
graft regressive, decadent, and static temporal sequences onto otherwise linear
can and does change its meaning and function over time. A sedimented logic
plotsthese texts continue to engage readers now because we are still in doubt
o f organic development lingers on necessarily in the bildungsromans ideol
about the outcome o f an ongoing globalization process. Whether modernitys
ogy of form, but modernist practitioners are able to take account o f the genres
\ CONCLUSION 205
204 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

future is discrepant and divergent, or singular and unilinear, remains an open These colonial writers fit into what we now see as a global Anglophone canon
question in ^oii much as it was in 1911. of twentieth-century writing. To take up one further 1930s example, we might cite
Narrativjes of autonomous or endless or stunted youth thus offer back to West Mulk Raj Anands Coolie (1936), which also casts doubt on the notionof the heroic
ern and non-Western readers a deeply layered and embedded* allegory of uneven protagonist, the representative youth, and the entire mode of biographical closure.
development, an encoding of the contradiction between an always underdevel As Jessica Berman notes in a recent examination o f Coolie within the networks
oped or immature economic periphery and an ultimately false but still influential of transnational rhodernism, and particularly in relation to'the influential model ' /"
narrative o f planetary progress and socioeconomic convergence. It makes sense, o f Joyces Portrait o f the A rtist a's a story of unfulfilled destiny; "The imbricationL'^ ^
therefore, that even long after 1945 and the supposed end of modernism, the of nation and biography within a bildungsroman set in a cblony struggling for \ |
arrested-development plot remains valuable and resonaiit as a narrative device, ite iodegen ^ n ce ensm esthaT the'B logr^ y cannot'go" f e X47^T^Snbther early
a r u n n i n g dialectical rejoinder to the most rigid or incoherent forms of devel- landmark in tKeXnglbphone colonial/postcolonial canon of revisio'nary novels of
of>mental historicism, alive at once to the risks of stories with false endings and youth is G. V. Desanis A ll AboUt H. H atterr (1948), which operates in the expan
stories with no endings. ^ sive, comic, and dilatory mode of Tristram Shandy.
In the period immediately following World War II, plots of frozen youth and
compromised closure continue, as in the modernist period, to signify in two
Having left off my literary history in chapter 6 with Elizabeth Bowen and inter directions at once, marking the overlapping territories of failed or stalled m od
war Ireland, it is perhaps fitting to pick up this brief genealogy o f late and broken ernization and of incessant or hypermodernization. Among the landmark noWls
bildungsromane with Samuel Beckett and Flann OBrien, two Irish novelists com o f arfested/accelerated development in the 1950s, perhaps the most scandalous
mitted to the plot o f the arrested protagonist. Becketts M urphy and OBriens A t is Nabokovs Lolita (1955). In it, the exiled aesthete Humbert Humbert, adrift
Swim-Two-Birds, both published in 1938, define a parodic line o f Irish modernism in consumerist America, fixates on Lolitas adolescence as a token o f timeless
by warpingmore deeply than did Joycethfe generic ideal o f a self-possessed desire and discovers that he is himself an arrested naif. With obliquity equaling
hero coming o f age in sync with his society. In A t Swim, the plot simply opens Becketts, Nabokovs playful work refracts and transcodes the historical traumas
up and self-divides rather than moving forward while the protagonist-narrator o f Europe (revolution, world war, holocaust, totalitarianism, and the dawn of the
remains in a languid adolescent funk. In M urphy, the titular hero takes failed nuclear age) into a plot of stalled subject formation. So too does Gunter Grasss
development and moral stasis to even more hilariously and scabrous parodic The Tin D rum (1959), the book that most crystallizes the trope of frozen youth as
ejctremes, travestying the modernist novel of consciousness, the naturalist novel an indispensable and flexible literary'device for the post-1945 novel of traumatic
o f downward mobility, and the realist novel o f vocation and courtship alike. Mur historicism. At roughly the same time, William Goldings nuclear-age parable of
phy turns the Goethean formula of mobility and interiority on its head, seeking decivilization. Lord o f the Flies (1954), captures even more directly the extended
nothing less than pure immobility (for which he will bind himself to a chair or a logic of generational rupture and autonomous youth; in the process, the novel
padded cell) and pure (if blank) ideation.^ In his seedy inteUectualism and mania has become a Cold War classic of and for young adults. As Franco Moretti notes,
for passive, indolent self-contemplation, Murphy perfectly mocks the notion of Goldings text encodes the dark myth o f childhood cut loose from adult author
the active national hero (as in Lukdcsian historical realism), flouting and ful ity, elaborating a modernist tradition o f the counter-Bildungsroman (232). /
filling Irish stereotypes as he goes. In the end, Mmrphy is unmade and literally Goldings metaphysical and parabolic novel seems also to pick up the energies
exploded; the novel concludes with a mock-tragic scattering of the heros remains o f anarchic-dystopian youth plots from Graham Greenes early moral realism, as
in the shrine of Irish literary tradition, the Abbey Theater. Like Rhys and Bowen evident in Brighton Rock (1938) and as revived, brilliantly, in The Destructors
(though with a more satiric tone), and indeed like Joyce and OBrien, Beckett (1954). Lord o f the Flies literalizes and modernizes the mixed, ironic potential of
invites his readers first to recognize the residual signs of a soul-nation allegory, Lord Jim, evacuating the twin conceits of the boys island plot and the im pe
then to delight in their comic devastation as ideological or narrative points of rial quest-romance to the point of a full demystification of progressive European
organization for the modern novel.* values.
CONCLUSION 207
2o 6 u n s e a s o n a b le y o u th

By the 1960s, the most important challenges to the conventional novel of and identitarian struggle, from the Crusades to the ethnic clashes of the present.

progress, and tq Eurochronology itself, were said to come from the ex-colonial History, for Moraes the Moor Zogoiby, as for those other imseasonable youths,
peripheries and semi-peripheries, particularly Latin America. Boom novelists Joyces Stephen Dedalus and Grasss Oskar Matzerath, is a nightmare from which it
such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez established a house style for international magical is not possible to awake. If M idnights Children is an allegory of national youthful
realism that organized itself against the standard tropes of biographical and devel ness and traumatic disintegration, then The M oors Last Sigh is a weary s ^ a of cos
opmental fiction. Quite soon after this, the Anglophone novel of the global South mopolitan ennui. The national youth of the one and thp international senescence
had its own practitioners of fabulist and experimental historical fiction, most of the other both index a painful vulnerability to the more or less constant fallout

notably the hypercanonical Salman Rushdie, whose M idnights Children (1981) of political history.
stands out as an influential novel ofjyouth for the pqst-1945 period. Rushdies exor If weJhlnk o f writers like Grass and Rpshdie in the framework o f unseasonable

bitant and dilatory narrative conceits draw from many Western and non-Western youth, we can see their point of thematic convergence on the failure of orgaiflc

sources, ranging from Tristram Shandy to the Arabian Nights; he also cites Gunter Bfldung as crucial to the articulation of what has become, I think, the dominant

Grass as a formative influence on his early work. N o surprise thep>that Saleem style of belated and dispersed modernisms all over the Western-mediated liter

Sinai, the protagonist of M idnights Children, comes of age in a-most unusual way, ary canons of the global South: that is, a magical realist or fabulist style attached

shaped overtly by the problem o f national allegory, wlych Rushdie presents as a to melancholic historicism (which often entails a tonally comic explosion of the

convention overcoded and overdetermined by new nationhood on the one hand truth-value of historical records). The route from Grass to Rushdie covers the two

and by English and Indian literary traditions on the other. Saleem opens the novel paradigmatic forms of historical trauma in the post-1945 worldthe aftermaths of

in direct first-person address to.his allegorical predicament: I had been myste European totalitarianism and imperialism. Both post-Holocaust and postcolonial

riously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my legacies are indeed global phenomena in which the notion of a Western modernity

country (3). Later, Saleem tells readers what we already know: You will perceive leading to worldwide progress was comprehensively undone. The renarrativiza-

the unavoidable connection between the infant states attempts at rushing towards tion of those forms o f civilizational crisis must therefore be analytically central

full-sized adulthood and my own early, explosive efforts at growth (286). Saleems to any account of the novel of (arrested) development as a world genre in the

body bears the telepathic and representative burden of nationhood so spectacu contemporary period.
larly that he estranges the conventions of the soul-nation allegory all the way back And in fact we find telling instances of the coming-of-age tale, bent and inflected
by nonlinear temporalities, set as the generic pretext for experimental and fabulist
to Goethe.
Rushdies conceits reveal the inherent contradictions o f national allegory, under distortions of developmental history. In Tahar Ben Jellouns The Sand Child (1985),

scoring the l i m i ts o f the organicist and idealist logic attached to soul-nation stories dizzying metafictional play underscores the unknown and truncated destiny of the

of harmonized growth. In the end, Saleem (like Becketts Murphy) falls prey to a transgendered protagonist, a Moroccan girl whose stunting is both literal and figu

mock-tragic sparagmos, the dismemberment of the nation. The hero falls to pieces: rative. In Ben Okris The Famished Road (1991), another postcolonial instant clas

I am literally disintegrating, slowly for the moment, although there are signs of sic of magical realism, .the protagonist is a spirit child who can never, in a strict
an acceleration. I ask you only to accept (as I have accepted) that I shall eventually sense, reach adulthood. Of course there are also dozens of significant post-1945

crumble into (approximately) six hundred and thirty million particles of anony novels that unfold in an essentially realist idiom, complicating the coming-of-age

mous, and necessarily oblivious dust (37).* Later, in The M oors Last Sigh (i 995)> plot more at the level o f theme than in the form of an obvious stylistic experiment.

Rushdie revisits the trope of the unseasonable hero, reversing Saleem Sinais urge In such texts, youthful avatars reveal the general failure o f socialization and educa

to grow illogically backwards in time by imagining a hero, Moraes Zogoiby, who tion in their countries, representing not the promise of the decolonization era, but
grows forward in time, but double quick {M idnights 101; M oors 143). Zogoibys the disillusionment and breakdown of postcolonial states and subjects in the late
half-Christian, half-Jewish, half-European, half-Asian life seems like a retroping 1960s and after. Consider, for example, these novels of thwarted selfhood and often

of Saleems merely national crisis of aUegorization; now the body and fete of the violent dispossession: Tayeb Salihs Season o f M igration to the North (1966), Thomas
ill-clocked protagonist take on the full sweep of planetary violence, displacement. Keneall/s The Chant o f Jimmie Blacksmith (1972), or Bessie Heads The Question
\ CONCLUSION 209
208 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH

o f Power (1973). Many postcolonial novels anticipate or echo M idnights Children would resist reduction to Bakhtins concept of national-historical time as the

(not to mention-Woolfs Voyage O u t or Manns Magic M ountain) by describing a mark o f emergence into modernity. As Peter Hitchcock aptly notes in his recent

central character whose body bears symptoms of a social breakdo-wn, a self more study o f the serial novel as a contemporary glob^oHn^ even when they explicitly

unmade than made. In Nervous Conditions (1988); Tsitsi Dangarembga describes address the critical form o f nationhood, such-novels.tend tofstabUsB'a^primary

a protagonist with an eating disorder who in a quite literal sense refuses to grow; axis of narration [that] favors a chronotope irreconcilable with the nation that is

likewise, in Albert Wendts Flying-Fox in a Freedom Tree (1989), the protagonists its putative object (30). What Hitchcock obsef^esTn-the postcolonial-tetralogies

wasting disease seems to literalize his refusal of modernization in Samoa, rejecting and trilogies of writers like Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Assia Djebar can also be

growth in both organic and neocolohial terms. noted in Doris Lessings 1950s Children o f Violence novel sequence, in which the

Rapidly modernizing societies produce novels o f troubled growth and failed halting'progress of the youthful protagonist of M artha Quest throws into relief a)

Bildung; this feirly obvious critical Observation seems to be as true of post-1945 the failures of late colonial development in southern Africa; b) the adolescent stul

postcolonial literary history as o f the late nineteenth-century European-cShon. tification of the provincial'white Settler class; and c) the growing autonomization
When we use a genre like the bildungsroman to track formal vm ation across time of youth subcultures from the generational power of their predecessors.**

and space, from Hardys Wessex, say, to Achebes Igboland, we do not need to Even if the national frame of development is a discredited allegorical partner

present the later, so-called peripheral texts as boated echoes of an original Euro for the subject growing up in the postcolonial novel, the bildungsroman as a genre

pean or Western problematic. Pheng Cheah makes the point well: The f ^ t that of sociahzation and self-formation continues to operate as a vital cultural and

i, these ideas received their first elaboratej9rmali:Mtion in German philosophy artistic force in post-1945 literature. Bruce Robbinshas made this point vividly

doesn^Tm ^e" 3 ecoIo5nSng^ and postcolonial nationahsms'^Mv 3five~bFa~Emo- in his readings of contemporary fictionrBoSTmetropohtan and nonmetrbpoli-

p ea iT n io d S r^ ^ 'a jrF a M ^ a S ^ a common experience of yitense tan, observing that narratives of upward mpiilityplay crucialsrole in framing,

structure transformationwhether this takes the form of Napoleonic invasion, defining, ch^neling, and,eveQproducing^e political hopes and desires of their

nineteenth-century territorial imperialism, or uneven'gIo'bdiMi!i0tfT6jrWhaf we makerT^nd consumers.*^ We find the narrative df self-cultfration and of what

caU GoeSeMTmoHirof thrbildCBlgsfSin^mobifityTnl^ilD self-culti-vation, Gregory Castle calls socially pragmatic coming o f age all over the world litera-

self-possession, bourgeois-bohemian compromise, integrative reahsm, soul-nation ture"curriculum now taught (at least in North AmeriCa);-here one might mentibn-,

allegoryare themselves already iterative and self-conscious from their inception, an early generation of postcolonial texts such as George Lammings In the Castle^

as critics such as Redfield and Sammons have thoroughly established. In other o f M y Skin (1953), Naguib Mahfouzs Palace o f Desire (1957), V. S. Naipuals Miguel

words, to read the bildungsroman in a cross-cultural or transhistorical way serves Street (1959), Chinua Achebes No Longer a t Ease (i960), as well as more recent

not so much to enshrine a genres European origins but to underscore the iterative, novels such as Zee Edgells Beka Lamb (1982), Jamaica Kincaids Annie John (1985),

belated quality of its conventions even in their supposedly original form.^-* Arundhati Roys God o f Small Things (1997), Jhumpa Lahiris The Namesake (2003),

Even so, there are real and determinate historical changes that mark the long or Khaled Hosseinis The Kite Runner (<2003).**
transnational life of genres, and while it is certainly the case that novels of inte In many of these texts, the frame of social reference for the narrative of

grative or classic Bildung continue to be written, published, and read across the emergence (however tfoubled Or baffled) is not always, or not exclusively, the

world today, few self-consciously literary writers produce realist coming-of-age nation-state. For example, Rita Felski sees the possible rejuvenation of the bil

tales that sustain an unproblematic national allegory of progress without some dungsroman in the post-1945 period in relation to womens commimities. Other

reference to the modernist scrambling of developmental time or some recourse to social movements, based on regional, religious, sexual, gender, indigenous, or

the acknowledged failures of development as both Western ideology and global ecological concepts, can and do provide a logic o f emergence and development,

pohcy mantra. These factors, naturally, impinge on the postcolonial bildimgsro- even o f potential hberation, to novels of youth. On the other hand, as Joseph

man in ways that distinguish it from the coming-of-age novel in industrial-age Slaughter has amply demonstrated, the postcolonial bildungsroman often estab-

Western Europe.^ Most postcolonial fiction read in North America, whether of hshes its primary contextual relation to universalist or humanist concepts o f the

the magical-reahst/late-modernist kind or o f the more conventionally realist kind. individual as a rights-bearing entity, and thereby deemphasizes the mediating

I
,?10 UNSEASONABLE YOUTH
CONCLUSION 211

social categories of nationality, religion, class, and gender. Slaughters argument