Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Paul K. Saint-Amour
One point upon which modernism's early advocates and detractors could agree was that it had little useful wisdom to offer. James Joyce even trumpeted his "usylessly unreadable Blue Book of Eccles" in Finnegans Wake. As a result of this consensus, it seems unlikely to us today that modernist authors could have been implicated in self-help's peddling of popular advice. Few might suspect that Ezra Pound chanted the self-help motto "Wake up and Live!" every day for forty years, or that, before he wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie yearned to be a modernist, moving to Paris in the 1920s to pen his magnum opus, The Blizzard. "Proverbial Modernism" argues that we cannot fully understand the stakes of modernist difficulty without considering the concomitant rise of self-help. Conversely, modernism's recalcitrance helps to make visible the neglected complexities of self-help's pragmatic reading method. This dissertation unearths a tradition of mutual critique between the novel and the success manual to illuminate modernism's overlooked embroilment in the practice of reading for advice.
Blum, Beth, "Proverbial Modernism: Difficult Literature and the Self-Help Hermeneutic" (2014). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 1211.