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Modernist InformaticsLiterature, Information, and the State$
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James Purdon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190211691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190211691.001.0001

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Dossier Fiction

Dossier Fiction

Chapter:
(p.55) 2. Dossier Fiction
Source:
Modernist Informatics
Author(s):

James Purdon

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190211691.003.0003

Chapter 2 concentrates on a particular kind of scene that emerged and proliferated in fiction after the First World War. This is the scene of identification, in which protagonists confront their own bureaucratic ghosts, or “data doubles,” as set out in new technologies such as passports, files, identity cards, army records, driving permits, and intelligence dossiers. Tracing the development of such scenes from Arnold Bennett’s Riceyman Steps (1923) through Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End (1924–1928), and ultimately to novels by Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, this chapter advances an argument about the changing understanding of identity, identification, and their representation in fiction between the world wars. In short, it argues that writers and official institutions confronted similar problems in reconciling the parts of a modern self newly split into the objectively measurable fixity of bureaucratic identity on the one hand and the mutability of temporal, embodied experience on the other.

Keywords:   Ford Madox Ford, Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, Arnold Bennett, files, passports, identification, identity

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