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Discrepant SolaceContemporary Literature and the Work of Consolation$
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David James

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198789758

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198789758.001.0001

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Discrepant Solace

David James

Oxford University Press

This opening chapter traces a modernist genealogy for the poetics of consolation in contemporary writing. It considers the way Virginia Woolf probed in self-contesting fashion the consolations of experimental form. The legacy of her arguments with the redemptive efficacy of aesthetic form in To the Lighthouse (1927) becomes evident even in contemporary novels that maintain a combative stance towards modernism itself. Ian McEwan’s Atonement (2001) is one such text: a genre-medley of wartime romance and high-modernist pastiche that dissects the ethical ramifications of solace as a contentious aspect of artistic reparation, especially when that reparative impulse also turns out to be a morally compromised stimulus for artistic creativity.

Keywords:   Modernism, literary impressionism, Ian McEwan, Virginia Woolf, war, redemption, atonement

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