As a scholar of early-twentieth-century literature, I have not found it necessary to address contemporary political issues in my work. However, the election of Donald Trump has forced me to change my thoughts about writing in general and more specifically, about publishing on modernist women writers. In the present academic climate, many who read and teach in the perpetually unpopular field of women writers also contend with heavy teaching loads, difficult family commitments and/or precarious employment.
One of the remarkable—yet often overlooked—features of aesthetic experience is its capacity to enact both promises and threats. Neither enlisting itself unequivocally in social utopias, nor allowing itself to be jettisoned in favor of a morally, politically, or epistemically more salutary alternative, the aesthetic domain is a field of pleasure and pain, of ignorance and knowledge, of brutality and life-sustaining agency. Its alliance with invidious forces and histories notwithstanding, the aesthetic enables us to confront tensions in the realms of epistemology,
When Orlando falls into his transformative trance at the mid-point of Virginia Woolf’s romp of a novel, he is an agent of the British Empire in Constantinople, at the moment of receiving his newly conferred Dukedom. The ceremony is a pageant of Empire, which gathers “people of all nationalities” to celebrate Orlando’s status, while the text makes frequent reference to the show of British superiority in this event.