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Mind the Gap! Modernism and Feminist Praxis


For nothing was simply one thing.

—Virginia Woolf[1]

No one has to give you what is rightfully yours. 

—Rukmini Devi Arundale[2]

“Mind the Gap! Modernism and Feminist Praxis” marks Modernism/ modernity’s first forum dedicated to feminism and women modernists. Our forum situates its arguments at the nerve center of twentieth-century feminism, engaging diverse aspects of modern women’s lives through equally diverse methodologies. Feminism serves as a mode of critical discourse as well as an object of study, a rich doubling that shapes our dialogues about two constitutive aspects of modernism: history and genre. History and genre—the forms of labor, the labor of forms—have consistently determined the horizons of the new modernist studies, supplying keywords for proliferating, competing, and increasingly fine-grained accounts of the period and the movement. The five essays arrayed here bring feminism to bear on historical and generic developments in multiple, connected arenas: modernity and disability, race and plagiarism, misunderstood aesthetics, unpredicted lives, and black women’s performance. Each argument establishes (and re-establishes) that any account of modernism is also an account of women’s art and women’s lives.

Our point of departure is thus an uncontroversial historical-political stance: that the relationship between modernism and modernity was elementally shaped by women, feminists, and feminist women.[3] Our opening salvo is similarly straightforward: feminist method should be as indispensable to the study of modernism as women were to the movement’s multiple strands. Why do we anchor complex intellectual inquiry in such simplicity? Because—and let me broaden the scope of my opening statement—we are struck (def.: made aware of; dealt a blow) by the aporia between feminism’s vitality for modernism, on one hand, and the scholarly neglect of that vitality, on the other.[4] This aporia merits simplicity: mind the gap!

First, a question. What are you reading? This query—the name of a session held annually at Conference of the Modernist Studies Association, now a section of this PrintPlus platform—invites a literal response: Author, title, subject. But what are you reading? also implies a how and a why. The question invites a consideration of criteria governing selection or rejection of reading matter. It reveals assumptions, biases, blind spots. Therefore, it holds immediate relevance for women’s visibility in modernist studies: what are you reading?

In recent years, many of us (including the authors in this forum) have read, and written, extensively about cosmopolitan, transnational, global, or planetary modernisms.[5] That surge of scholarship—a crucial intellectual shift enabled by wresting the idea of modernity out of Western industrial contexts—inadvertently compromised feminism’s centrality in prevailing conceptions of modernism.[6] The “worlding” of modernism shows us how one disciplinary process of expansion and inclusivity can overwhelm another.[7] Simultaneously, feminist inquiry itself, perhaps made complacent by an earlier generation of recuperative and historical work, has privileged philosophical and theoretical approaches to gender and sexuality over the still-necessary subject of women’s modernism.[8] But feminism cannot afford complacency. The sobering lesson of our own historical moment, powerfully applicable to modernist studies, is that feminism’s gains—political, material, artistic, civic—require sustained vigilance. In the trenchant words of Sarah Ahmed, “[T]he histories that bring us to feminism are the histories that leave us fragile”; Ahmed, like Mary Beard and, in a different but equally influential register, Rebecca Solnit, brings fresh theoretical rigor to the osmosis between what second-wave feminists termed the personal and the political.[9] Feminism is repetitive because patriarchy is undead. (“I CAN’T BELIEVE I STILL HAVE TO PROTEST THIS”: feminist slogan on signs carried during the Women’s March on January 21, 2017.)

As a telling—but by no means isolated—illustration, consider special issues of Modernism/modernity. Over the last two decades, this publication has offered, in alphabetical order, special issues, roundtables, and archival features about the following topics:[10]

“American Modernism.” “American Poetry/Wittgenstein.” “Anarchism.” “Archaeologies of the Modern.” “Beckett: Out of the Archives.” “Between Spontaneity and Reflection: Reconsidering Jewish Modernism.” “Bodies/Commodities/Observation.” “Camp Modernism.” “Decadent Modernism and Modernism.” “Dossier on Joyce and Sound.” “Eliot and Anti-Semitism: The Ongoing Debate.” “Eliot and Anti-Semitism: The Ongoing Debate II.” “Eugene Jolas Remembers James Joyce.” “Fascism and Culture.” “Fascism.” “Georgian Modernism.” “Holocaust Representations Since 1975.” “In Memoriam: David Foster Wallace.” “Joyce|World|Joyce.” “Kafka Symposium.” “Literary Waste Management.” “Making it New: Innovating Approaches to Teaching Modernism.” “Marinetti and the Italian Futurists.” “Mediamorphosis: Print Culture and Transatlantic/Transnational Public Spheres.” “Middlebrow Modernism.” “Modernism and Transnationalisms.” “Modernist Authenticities.” “Modernist Inhumanisms.” “Queer Modernism.” “Reading Modernism, After Hugh Kenner.” “T. S. Eliot in the 21st Century.” “The Harlem Renaissance and the New Modernist Studies.” “The Mind of Modernism: Culture, Psychology, and Medicine.” “Wyndham Lewis.”

The journal’s commitment to interdisciplinarity, along with the shifting spatiotemporal coordinates of our field, shines through the list. But even though several of these themed issues feature excellent feminist scholarship, the artists, critics, and philosophers named for intellectual colloquy—Beckett, Eliot (Eliot, Eliot), Jolas, Joyce (Joyce, Joyce), Kafka, Kenner, Lewis, Marinetti, Wallace, Wittgenstein—are all Anglo-European men. There are no women.

Mind the gap!

What are you reading? The question now shapes itself into a double helix: are you reading women’s writing from the early twentieth century, and are you reading feminist scholarship about that era, its histories, politics, cultural metamorphoses?  The very genres we choose to read define the contours of our narratives about modernism. Genre, as Lauren Berlant writes magnificently in The Female Complaint, is “a form of aesthetic expectation with porous boundaries allowing complex audience identifications: it locates real life in the affective capacity to bracket many kinds of structural and historical antagonism on behalf of finding a way to connect with the feeling of belonging to a larger world.”[11] Bracketing antagonism as a route to belonging: Berlant anatomizes not only a logic of feminist aesthetics, but also, and from a different angle, the staying power of modernism told as a story about the Men of 1914. When we evade the subject of modern women in the collective dialogues where our discipline gets institutionalized, we silence feminism’s historical and contemporary voices. (What does silence equal?)

Each of the essays published here develops the generic elasticity, or affective capacity, of feminist discourse in order to “mind the gap.” This stock London Transport phrase suggests multivalent possibilities for feminist intellectual practice: “to mind” is to resist or object; it is to be conscious of or care about; and it is to exercise caution to avoid danger or prevent harm to oneself. The gaps minded by the five essays in our cluster—aspects of modernism that have been misread, underread, or unread—form interrelated sites of feminist articulation and cultural change. As you encounter these pieces, ask yourself: what are you reading?

Here is what you are reading: feminist scholarship about feminist women by feminist scholars. Feminist appropriations of Adorno directed towards the legal and historical ramifications of plagiarism for African-American writing. Queer, feminist, and crip narratives of male modernist literature. Archival evidence of feminist voices suppressed during the Cold War. Biography-based feminist critique of memoir, fiction, and children’s picture books. Black feminist scholarship on visual culture and the Harlem Renaissance. Above all, you are reading words by and about these feminist women:

Berenice Abbott. Mercedes de Acosta. Gloria Anzaldúa. Rukmini Devi Arundale. Josephine Baker. Djuna Barnes. Louise Bogan. Marita Bonner. Vera Brittain. Margaret Wise Brown. Julia de Burgos. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Nancy Cunard. H. D. Jessie Fauset. Angelina Weld Grimké. Radclyffe Hall. Josephine Herbst. Dorothy Heyward. Winifred Holtby. Georgia Douglas Johnson. Grace Nail Johnson. Käthe Kollwitz. Nella Larsen. Doris Lessing. Audre Lorde. Mina Loy. Charlotte Osgood Mason. Rose McClendon. Florence Mills. Hope Mirrlees. Esther Murphy. Paulette Nardal. Maggie Nelson. Alice Notley. Claudia Rankine. Adrienne Rich. Lola Ridge. Laura Riding. Muriel Rukeyser. Josephine Schyler. Susan Sontag. Anne Spencer. Gertrude Stein. Genevieve Taggard. Aida Overton Walker. Sylvia Townsend Warner. Dorothy West. Rebecca West. Mayra Zaturenska.

Familiar names, unfamiliar names. I circle back to the authors of the two epigraphs that frame this cluster Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), the English writer, critic, and publisher assured of canonical status, and Rukmini Devi Arundale (1904–1986), the revolutionary Indian dancer, feminist, and political activist as yet unknown in modernist studies. Woolf’s observation in her novel To the Lighthouse that “nothing was simply one thing” articulates our cluster’s approach to methodological multiplicity: “modernist women” operates as both a stable historical nomination and an episteme demanding ongoing scrutiny. Rukmini Devi’s spoken public declaration, “No one has to give you what is rightfully yours,” captures our shared ideological stance, one that is constitutive of feminist discourse and praxis but nevertheless requires fresh articulation by each generation of feminist scholars. Together, these globally influential modern women also inhabit a chimerical space between familiar and unfamiliar, known and unknown. It is this space, or gap, that our collection navigates: how it is produced, its hierarchies, and the cultural authority it wields.

Literary canons serve as the sites where we acknowledge, in Kennedy-Epstein’s words, that “the making and breaking of tradition is the field of study itself.” What you are reading (and teaching, and organizing conferences about) reflects your own relationship to canon-formation.[12] And as “Mind the Gap!” demonstrates, the process of canon-formation—and deformation, and reformation—constitutes the simplest and yet the most complex act in feminist scholarship about modernism. We can only speak about what we have read.

Theorizing Feminism, Theorizing Modernism

Alienation, rooted in sex, race, class, or any other cultural determinant, often creates a productive starting point for feminist doctrine, a condition to resist and (in emancipatory or utopian terms) potentially transcend. But Ewa Ziarek and Madelyn Detloff invite us to regard alienation as an end in itself, arguing that to self-consciously embrace one’s outsider status is to change one’s relationship to structures of power. In “Towards a Transformative Feminist Aesthetics: Antagonism, Commodification, and the ‘Racial Contract’ in Larsen’s ‘Sanctuary,’” Ziarek confronts the entangled effects of violent racial history and literature’s commodity status under capitalism. Adding to work by Miriam Thaggert and by Earl Lewis and Heidi Ardizzone, the essay takes up the accusations of plagiarism against Nella Larsen following the publication of Larsen’s 1930 story “Sanctuary,” a tale about a mother who protects her son’s killer.[13] Locating a clarifying feminist energy in Adorno, Ziarek claims that the heteronomous autonomy of art—that is, art’s simultaneously antagonistic and emancipatory relation to changing forms of power—exculpates Larsen from the charge of plagiarism. Larsen defended herself “[b]y suggesting that the un-locatable source of her short story recedes to an immemorial past of ‘almost folklore.’” The etymology of the word “plagiarism” itself, which means “one who kidnaps the child or slave of another,” connects black feminist authorship with “the disasters of slavery, kidnapping . . . [and] the suppression of the remote traces of the maternal.” To whom do stories belong? Ziarek illuminates the collision between Larsen’s artistic originality and the legal contracts, racial contracts, and historical erasures that sought to deny it. Nella Larsen’s “aesthetic acts of negation, mimicry, and translation” stand as reparative gestures, and “Sanctuary” powerfully rebukes a master-narrative that conceals and justifies its own deathly acts.

The complicity and independence Ziarek attributes to feminist writing play crucial roles in what Detloff calls her “methodologically impure” argument. Detloff brings together a dazzling array of post-Foucauldian theorists in “Metics, Methods, and Modernism,” a piece about feminism’s ties to other discourses and disciplines such as psychology, social justice theory, and sexology. Reminding us that feminism can be methodologically elastic and politically uncompromising, Detloff points out that “one often can’t know in advance what tools or methods will be best for dismantling oppressive structures.” The unpredictable instantiation and exercise of power calls for dynamic systems of response and transformation, and Detloff finds a model for such systems in modernism’s fractured and fragmented aesthetics. To support a vision of “generative alienation” (the metics of the title were privileged outsiders in ancient Greece), the essay looks closely at modernist evocations of early twentieth-century biopolitical power. Detloff reroutes male modernist fiction by D. H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, and Joyce through crip theory and queer theory, adding to scholarship by Janet Lyon, Maren Tova Linett, and Rebecca Sanchez as she reveals literature’s precarious investments in an ableist world.[14] Male and female, fertile and sterile, natural and deviant: these oft-studied crisis-points in modernist narrative acquire new possibilities through the malleable temporalities of queerness and disability.

Rowena Kennedy-Epstein’s “The Spirit of Revolt: Women Writers, Archives, and the Cold War” speaks to one of the fastest growing areas of modernist studies: the cultural politics of the Cold War. Mapping the varied forces arrayed against Anglo-American women writers between 1930 and 1960, Kennedy-Epstein expands a body of recuperative, archival, and historical scholarship whose key voices include Kathlene McDonald, Barbara Green, and Lucy Delap.[15] Kennedy-Epstein explains that writers such as Mina Loy, Julia de Burgos, and Nancy Cunard found themselves shunned by publishers and dismissed by critics in the 1930s and 1940s for the very “spirit of revolt” that brought them renown in the early years of the twentieth century. The essay focuses on the poet, critic, novelist, and essayist Muriel Rukeyser, who struggled to find a publisher for her experimental 1937 novel Savage Coast and drew the political contempt of left-wing intellectuals as well as the artistic contempt of the New Critics. Read through the anxieties and agendas of Cold War American cultural establishments, Rukeyser’s career emblematizes an era when the work of modernist feminists was derided for its femininity and unwomanliness alike. It also reminds us, as Pamela Caughie has observed, that “Recovery work is always ongoing, not only because there are so many women writers who remain obscure, but because some writers need to be recovered again and again.”[16]

Anne Fernald’s “Choice and Change: Modern Women, 1910–1950” brings together an unsuspected transatlantic feminist continuum of writers. Fernald poses a deceptively simple question: what does it mean for a woman to change her mind? What occurs in the time-lapse between changes in law or institutional policy (such as women’s right to education) and changes in a private individual’s life (such as deciding to attend university)? Fernald finds answers in women’s literary writing across multiple genres, because “Literature offers us a mediated text in which the writer transforms her understanding of the world into a narrative that takes history into account.” Anglo-American women in the early twentieth century invent gendered narrative modalities to describe their experiences of temporal and historical flux, and Fernald reads these modalities as feminist responses to emergent, dominant, or residual elements of varied cultural milieux.[17] The essay attends to women writers whose life-changes occurred well into adulthood; or, as Carolyn Heilbrun put it three decades ago, “women who have awakened to new possibilities in middle age . . . and escaped the once traditional female existence.”[18] We encounter the linked consequences faced by women who change their minds in works traditionally disjoined along the lines of genre, race, and nation: Vera Brittain’s World War I memoir Testament of Youth (1933), Jessie Redmon Fauset’s passing novel Plum Bun (1928), and, surprisingly, Margaret Wise Brown’s classic picture book Goodnight Moon (1947), which Fernald reads as a Steinian formalist-feminist text.

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson’s “Rose McClendon’s Playbill: The Vagabond Modernism of New Negro Theater,” speaks eloquently about the longstanding, aporetic gaps between modernist studies and black feminism. Joining a dialogue with Anne Anlin Cheng and Jennifer Wilks, this essay transports us into the archives of black women’s performance arts, bringing new clarity to the racial problems and promises of early twentieth-century African-American theater.[19] Sherrard-Johnson invokes the word “scrapbook” to describe the archives that preserve and commemorate Rose McClendon’s stardom and career: wearing “black feminist bifocals,” the author collates the scrapbook archive to reveal that McClendon was “an early feminist pioneer in the realm of black theater studies and an inspiration for budding dramatic critics.” The “vagabond modernism” of McClendon’s career opens window after window into the racially charged vicissitudes of casting, dialect, artistic collaboration, and celebrity in the New Negro era, unsettling easy divisions between popular, activist, and avant-garde theater. Sherrard-Johnson's theoretical framing of her archival findings crystallizes the dominant claim of this forum: that feminist method is indispensable to and inseparable from the philosophical questions of modernity.

Persisting, Nevertheless[20]

The work of assembling, editing, and introducing “Mind the Gap! Modernism and Feminist Praxis” has involved spirited dialogues with diverse readers, some of whom advised me to celebrate what has occurred under the banners of feminist scholarship rather than point out disciplinary indifference to those banners. Earlier drafts of this Introduction were thus more diplomatic, more cruelly optimistic.[21] One June evening in London, I arrived at what I thought was a finished version of the Introduction, closed my laptop, and walked to the British Library to attend a lecture by the novelist and essayist Tom McCarthy.

McCarthy, the Wyndham Lewis devotee and Booker Prize finalist whose stylized fictions were blessed by Zadie Smith as “the true future of the novel,” was promoting a new essay collection, Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish (2017).[22] In a lecture about catastrophe and writing-as-negation titled “Nothing Will Have Taken Place Except the Place,” McCarthy performed the mercurial cerebrations for which he is revered in British literary circles.[23] His 75-minute-long virtuoso sequence of pronouncements about realism, modernism, and postmodernism incorporated Giorgio Agamben, W. H. Auden, J. G. Ballard, Samuel Beckett, Pieter Breughel, William Burroughs, Italo Calvino, Miguel de Cervantes, Don DeLillo, Jacques Derrida, Haroun Farocki, Gustave Flaubert, Sigmund Freud, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Perreno, Homer, James Joyce, Jacques Lacan, Michael Leiris, Primo Levi, Stephane Mallarme, F. T. Marinetti, Herman Melville, George Perec, Marcel Proust, Edward Ruscha, William Shakespeare, Laurence Sterne, Alexander Trocchi, David Foster Wallace, and Zinedine Zidane. McCarthy’s outsize canvas of cultural genealogies, painted with historically, aesthetically, and globally diverse figures, contained no women. Here was a writer claiming to carry forward the achievements of an early twentieth-century modernist canon, but his authoritative stance over that canon, its history and legacies, derived from violently excising half of its original practitioners.

I left the British Library (“the huge bald forehead which is so splendidly encircled by a band of famous names”), minding the gap with a new, clearer intensity.[24] Returning to the draft I thought was finished, I restored an alphabetical catalogue of Modernism/modernity’s special issues, a catalogue as devoid of women’s names and arts as McCarthy’s lecture had been. The continuities between contemporary literary culture and academic conversations about modernism merit attention—especially as we devote scholarly energy to modernism’s twenty-first-century presence—because feminism gains momentum when it uses a wide-angle lens. The list’s presence in this Introduction, like the anecdote about Tom McCarthy, inspires what Sharon Marcus calls symptomatic reading, through which “gaps, silences, disruptions, and exclusions become symptoms of the absent cause that gives the text its form.” By “excavating what societies refuse to acknowledge,” whether a hundred years ago or in this moment, we identify an enduring problem: What do we do with dialogues that exclude women?[25]

The essays collected here are not unified in their responses to that question. Each one strikes a complex balance between recognizing ongoing feminist work in modernist studies and mapping the sites where such work has flagged. This cluster’s interplay of methods and source materials suggests a feminist epistemology of modernism, a versioning of twentieth-century culture and politics centered on women’s lives. Anne Fernald, Madelyn Detloff, Ewa Ziarek, Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, and Rowena Kennedy-Epstein proffer arguments about modernism’s inclusion and exclusion of women, expressing their insights in the polyvocal feminist languages of queer theory, biopolitical discourse, intellectual property law, life-writing, and critical race theory. These scholars, in the spirit of the writers, artists, and activists who are the subjects of their inquiry, stage their conversation at the intersection of social history and artistic genres. They demonstrate, to return to Sara Ahmed, how “we create principles from an experience of what we come up against, from how we live a feminist life” (Living a Feminist Life, 256).

No one has to give you what is rightfully yours. What are you reading?


I am grateful to the anonymous readers whose insights and suggestions advanced the possibilities of this forum. I also thank Debra Rae Cohen for fostering and sharpening the arguments here with her tireless editorial oversight and her deep feminist commitments.

[1] Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1927), 277.

[2] Undated speech by Rukmini Devi Arundale. Quoted in Leela Samson, Rukmini Devi: A Life (London: Penguin, 2010), 110.

[3] The first wave of the new modernist studies inaugurated this line of critique through its game-changing theoretical, historical, aesthetic, and biographical attentions to what Rita Felski’s The Gender of Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995) called “women’s complex and changing relationships to the diverse political, philosophical, and cultural legacies of modernity” (8). See, for example, The Gender of Modernism, ed. Bonnie Kime Scott and Mary Lynn Broe (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900–1940 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), Janet Lyon, Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), Cheryl A. Wall, Women of the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), and Alice Gambrell, Women Intellectuals, Modernism, and Difference: Transatlantic Culture, 1919–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

[4] On the disjunction between modernist feminist scholarship and its reception or dissemination, see the essays collected in “The Future of Women in Modernism,” ed. Tory Young and Jeff Wallace, special issue, Literature Compass 10, no. 1 (2013), and “Women’s Fiction, New Modernist Studies, and Feminism,” ed. Anne E. Fernald, Modern Fiction Studies 59, no. 2 (2013). On these disjunctions more generally, see Nancy Bauer, et al., “Introduction: Feminist Investigations and Other Essays,” New Literary History 46, no. 2 (2015): v–xiii, and “Feminist Criticism Today: In Memory of Nellie Y. McKay,” PMLA 121, no. 5 (2006): 1678–1741.

[5] Influential early studies in this vein include Susan Stanford Friedman, “Planetarity: Musing Modernist Studies,” Modernism/modernity 17, no. 3 (2010): 471–99; Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity, ed. Laura Doyle and Laura Winkiel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005); Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006); and Simon Gikandi, “Picasso, Africa, and the Schemata of Difference,” Modernism/modernity 10, no. 3 (2003): 455–80.

[6] See Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), and Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).

[7] The feminist disposition of scholarship on transnational and global modernisms is a double-edged sword, transforming received understandings of culture, history, and aesthetics in the first half of the twentieth century but often attending implicitly rather than explicitly to the subject of women and modernism. Three outstanding series—Oxford University Press’s Modernist Literatures and Cultures, Columbia University Press’s Modernist Latitudes, and Johns Hopkins University Press’s Studies in Modernism—break new terrain for modernism but do not yet include titles that focus centrally on women. Consider, too, the startling absence of chapters on women’s suffrage in anthologies or scholarly collections about modernist history and culture: the list includes but is not limited to The Cambridge Companion to Modernism, ed. Michael Levenson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), The Oxford Handbook of Modernisms, ed. Peter Brooker, et al. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms, ed. Mark Wollaeger and Matt Eatough (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), and A Concise Companion to Modernism, ed. David Bradshaw (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003).

[8] On this complacency, see Urmila Seshagiri, “Making it New: Persephone Books and the Modernist Project,” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 59, no. 2, (2013): 241-287; and Jane Garrity, “Found and Lost: The Politics of Modernist Recovery,” Modernism/modernity 15, no. 4 (2008): 803–12.

[9] Sarah Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 22; see also Sarah Ahmed, Willful Subjects (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014); Mary Beard’s feminist writings in the London Review of Books, most recently “Women in Power: From Medusa to Merkel” (London Review of Books 39, no. 6, March 16, 2017, 9–14) and “The Public Voice of Women” (London Review of Books 36, no. 6, March 20, 2014, 11–14); Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014) and The Mother of All Questions (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017).

[10] It is important to recognize that the subjects of Modernism/ modernity’s special issues and clusters are generally determined by means of proposals from scholars or by editorial exigencies. They do not, therefore, reflect the full makeup of the journal.

[11] Lauren Berlant, The Female Complaint (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 4.

[12] Pamela L. Caughie’s Passing and Pedagogy: The Dynamics of Responsibility (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999) illuminates the institutional stakes of claiming certain forms of authority.

[13] See Miriam Thaggert, Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010); Earl Lewis and Helen Ardizzone, Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001).

[14] See Janet Lyon, “On the Asylum Road with Woolf and Mew” (Modernism/ modernity 18, no. 3 [2011]: 551–74); Rebecca Sanchez, Deafening Modernism: Embodied Language and Visual Poetics in American Literature (New York: New York University Press, 2015); Maren Tova Linett, Bodies of Modernism: Physical Disability in Transatlantic Modernist Literature (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016).

[15] Kathleen McDonald, Feminism, the Left and Postwar Literary Culture (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), Barbara Green, Spectacular Confessions: Autobiography, Performative Activism, and the Sites of Suffrage 1905–1938 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), Lucy Delap, The Feminist Avant-Garde: Transatlantic Encounters of the Early Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). Also see Cristanne Miller, Cultures of Modernism: Marianne Moore, Mina Loy, and Else Lasker-Schüler (Anne Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007).

[16] Pamela L. Caughie, “Lessons Learned,” Literature Compass 10, no. 1 (2013): 1–7, 7n5.

[17] Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).

[18] Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Writing a Women’s Life (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 124.

[19] Anne Anlin Cheng, Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) and Jennifer Wilks, Race, Gender, and Comparative Black Modernism: Susan Lacascade, Marita Bonner, Suzanne Césaire, Dorothy West (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).

[20] I paraphrase, of course, U. S. Senator Mitch McConnell’s unwitting précis of feminist history, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” McConnell uttered this explanation to journalists following his February 6, 2017 silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who tried to read a letter in the Senate chamber by Coretta Scott King written in 1986 about Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General.

[21] This phrase is Lauren Berlant’s: “optimism is cruel when the object/scene that ignites a sense of possibility actually makes it impossible to attain the expansive transformation for which a person or a people risks striving; and, doubly, it is cruel insofar as the very pleasures of being inside a relation have become sustaining regardless of the content of the relation, such that a person or a world finds itself bound to a situation of profound threat that is, at the same time, profoundly confirming” (Cruel Optimism [Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011], 2)

[22] Zadie Smith, “Two Paths for the Novel,” review of Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill, and Remainder, by Tom McCarthy, New York Review of Books, November 20, 2008.

[23] For example, Nicholas Lezard, “Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish by Tom McCarthy review—masterful essays,” The Guardian, June 7, 2017.

[24] Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929; rpt. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1981), 26.

[25] Sharon Marcus, Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 74, 75.