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  • Cited by 4
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
December 2018
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Book description

Just as cultural attitudes toward criminality were undergoing profound shifts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, modernist authors became fascinated by crime and its perpetrators, as well as the burgeoning genre of crime fiction. Throughout the period, a diverse range of British and American novelists took the criminal as a case study for experimenting with forms of psychological representation while also drawing on the conventions of crime fiction in order to imagine new ways of conceptualizing the criminal mind. Matthew Levay traces the history of that attention to criminal psychology in modernist fiction, placing understudied authors like Wyndham Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Graham Greene, and Patricia Highsmith in dialogue with more canonical contemporaries like Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Dashiell Hammett, and Gertrude Stein. Levay demonstrates criminality's pivotal role in establishing quintessentially modernist forms of psychological representation and brings to light modernism's deep but understudied connections to popular literature, especially crime fiction.


‘Levay’s Violent Minds is an ambitious, complex, and persuasive argument for the centrality of crime to some of the core projects of modernism … erudite and evocative, it combines rigorous overviews of important scholarship on modernism/modernity with highly insightful and suggestive readings of individual modernist texts.’

Christopher Raczkowski Source: Modern Philology

‘A major virtue of the book is its multisided approach to the collocation of modernism and crime or criminality … Violent Minds is the kind of book that reaches beyond its own corpus of fictional works to make us, as readers, reconsider our settled assumptions about genre, style, and popularity.’

Paul Sheehan Source: Modern Language Quarterly

‘Matthew Levay’s scholarly yet highly readable first book, Violent Criminals: Modernism and the Criminal, is sure to appeal to students of the novel, modernism, and popular fiction alike.’

Nic Panagopoulos Source: Joseph Conrad Today

‘… this book … does a remarkable job in pairing literary criticism with the historical study of criminology, and thus opens up a new way of approaching the psychological aspects of crime fiction, particularly with respect to literary modernism.’

Audrey Chan Source: Crime Fiction Studies

‘Excitingly, Levay works not only on canonical modernism, whose analysis allows Levay to uncover ‘criminality’s pivotal role in establishing quintessentially modernist forms of psychological representation’, but also on crime fiction itself, analysing figures like Graham Greene, Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Dashiell Hammett as writers of a ‘popular modernism’ …’

Source: Year's Work in English Studies

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