Metoikos: Modernism's resident aliens
This dissertation examines why D. H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce all conceived of themselves as cultural outsiders and how they used this ostensibly marginal social status to conceal a set of conservative core values they sensed were eroding. This otherwise disparate group shared a sense of cultural alienation, recognized the potentially powerful position of the exile, and demonstrated a keen willingness to exploit its possibilities. Although these writers have long been acknowledged and heralded for their experimentation, their technical and formal innovation, much of their work springs from essentially conservative impulses, beliefs, and values, aimed at combating powerful social forces they saw as changing human consciousness, interaction, and society in many problematic ways. Instead of embracing what we now consider central features of modern life such as rapid technological advance, urban life, and secularism, the writers under examination here register both ambivalence and deep suspicion toward these phenomena. In these writers' work, one of the most scrutinized and dubious aspects of modernity is a kind of capitalistic, corporate paradigm modernists find extremely objectionable because it threatens to restructure all social relations in terms of artificial corporate interests such as speed, efficiency, organization, and exchange value. In startling and complicated ways, the cultural anxieties manifested in the work of these writers demonstrate keen discomfort with the rapidity and spectacle of the profound social changes to which they would bear witness. One of the primary strategies by which these writers coped with dizzying social change was through their collective disavowal of their society's participation in those changes. In both feeling like aliens and in consciously seeking exile, these writers occupied a powerful social position from which to make pronouncements and pass harsh judgments on cultures to which they claimed only a grudging connection. The modernist writers examined here demonstrate their penchant for assuming roles vastly at odds with their own experiences through their engagement in various forms of cultural ventriloquism, masquerade, and mimicry, a practice that allows them to critique the paradigms of modernity to which they object the most, while appearing to be outside the grip of those very influences.