Modernism and the Crisis of Sovereignty
Routledge – 2007 – 256 pages
This book describes how three of the most significant Anglophone writers of the first half of the twentieth century – Yeats, Eliot, and Woolf – wrestled with a geopolitical situation in which national boundaries had come to seem increasingly permeable at the same time as war among (and within) individual nation-states had come to seem virtually inescapable. Drawing on Jean-François Lyotard's analysis of the elements of performativity in J.L. Austin's speech act theory, and making critical use of Carl Schmitt’s writings on sovereignty and world order, Miller situates the writings of Yeats, Eliot, and Woolf in the context of what Lyotard describes as a "civil war of language." By virtue of its dissolution of any clear boundary between "interiority" and "exteriority," as well as by virtue of its resistance to any decisive form of resolution or regulation, this "civil war of language" takes on dimensions that are ultimately global in scope.
Miller examines the emergence of modernism as bound up with a crisis of personal, political, and aesthetic sovereignty that undermined traditional distinctions between the public and private. In the process, he directly engages with the theoretical discourse surrounding the geopolitical impact of globalization and biopolitics: a discourse that is central to the influential and widely-debated work of such varied figures as Carl Schmitt, Hardt and Negri, Giorgio Agamben, and Jean-Luc Nancy. This book will be of interest to anyone concerned not only with twentieth-century literature but also with questions of nationalism and globalization.
Preface; Chapter 1: Crisis of Sovereignty: Global Civil War in Yeats, Eliot, and Woolf; Chapter 2: Civil Wars of Language: Irish Performativity in Yeats; Chapter 3: "Social Welfare Dream": Sovereignty, Responsibility, and Biopolitics in Yeats; Chapter 4: "Compassing Material Ends": Sovereignty, Pluralism, and Professionalism in Eliot; Chapter 5: Between Nation and Profession: Aesthetic Sovereignty in Woolf’s Between the Acts; Chapter 6: "Traditions of the Private House": Sovereignty, Civility, and Ownership; Notes; Bibliography; Index
Andrew John Miller is Associate Professor in the Départment d’études anglaises at the Université de Montréal.