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Losing the Plot

Film and Feeling in the Modern Novel

Losing the Plot

Film and Feeling in the Modern Novel

An examination of the relationship between literature and classical Hollywood cinema, revealing a profound longing for plot in modernist fiction.

It is widely understood that the modernist novel sought to escape what Virginia Woolf called the “tyranny” of plot. Yet even as twentieth-century writers pushed against the constraints of Victorian, plot-driven novels, plot kept its hold on them through the influence of another medium: the cinema. Focusing on the novels of Nella Larsen, Djuna Barnes, and William Faulkner—writers known for their affinities and connections to classical Hollywood—Pardis Dabashi links the moviegoing practices of these writers to the tensions between the formal properties of their novels and the characters in them. Even when they did not feature outright happy endings, classical Hollywood films often provided satisfying formal resolutions and promoted normative social and political values. Watching these films, modernist authors were reminded of what they were leaving behind—both formally and in the name of aesthetic experimentalism—by losing the plot.

304 pages | 47 halftones | 6 x 9

Film Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Arts of Inconsequence
1: Nella Larsen and Greta Garbo: On (In)Consequence
Première Entr’acte
2: Djuna Barnes and Marlene Dietrich: On the Security of Torment
Deuxième Entr’acte
3: William Faulkner and Early Film: On the Limits of the Present
Coda: Max Ophuls: On Love and Finitude

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