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Modernist Fiction and Vagueness
Philosophy, Form, and Language

$28.99 (C)

  • Date Published: July 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107461154

$ 28.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Modernist Fiction and Vagueness marries the artistic and philosophical versions of vagueness, linking the development of literary modernism to changes in philosophy. This book argues that the problem of vagueness – language's unavoidable imprecision – led to transformations in both fiction and philosophy in the early twentieth century. Both twentieth-century philosophers and their literary counterparts (including James, Eliot, Woolf, and Joyce) were fascinated by the vagueness of words and the dream of creating a perfectly precise language. Building on recent interest in the connections among analytic philosophy, pragmatism, and modern literature, Modernist Fiction and Vagueness demonstrates that vagueness should be read not as an artistic problem but as a defining quality of modernist fiction.

    • Provides new readings of major novels based on archival research
    • The first work to link the topic of vagueness in philosophy to modernist literature
    • Interdisciplinary (philosophy and literature) and relates literature to social and historical context
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "… deeply engaging … persuasive … an illuminating reassessment …"
    David James, The Times Literary Supplement

    "Megan Quigley has succeeded in two ways. Her book is not only a wholly succinct review of the element of vagueness in modernist writing, but a work which inspires readers to discover for themselves new connections between philosophy and literature."
    Martin Glick, OCCT Review

    "The philosophic and literary figures in this book have long been canonical and so long been the subjects of critical industries; Quigley provides not only new ways to read them, but also, in her thorough bibliographic work, a resource for literary scholars … This is a book that is both dense with information and still a pleasure to read."
    Johanna Winant, Modernism/modernity

    "Modernist Fiction and Vagueness offers a compelling new interdisciplinary approach through which to account for the relationship between English language literary modernism and the two predominant countervailing forces in twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy."
    Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé, Woolf Studies Annual

    "Modernist Fiction and Vagueness affords us a rich and nuanced portrait of a conceptual quandary - equal parts philosophical and literary - that in its grandest implications can help us to rethink how we read, and to what end."
    Joel Childers, Modern Language Notes

    "… one of the most fantastic implications of Quigley's book is that not only were early twentieth-century philosophers and writers involved in a much profounder dialogue than our intellectual histories typically admit, but that in many ways the period's philosophies of formal precision and language-based objectivity needed to be inflected through modernist art … Given the brood and convincing array of evidence Quigley amasses to prove this point, perhaps the greatest question left by Modernist Fiction and Vagueness is why few people have written anything like it before now."
    Jeffrey Blevins, MAKE Literary Magazine (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107461154
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.364kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: linguistic turns and literary modernism
    1. 'The Re-instatement of the Vague': the James Brothers and Charles S. Peirce
    2. When in December 1910?: Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell, and the question of vagueness
    3. A dream of international precision: James Joyce, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and C. K. Ogden
    4. Conclusion. To criticize the criticism: T. S. Eliot and the eradication of vagueness

  • Author

    Megan Quigley, Villanova University, Pennsylvania
    Megan Quigley is Assistant Professor of English at Villanova University, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism, Modernism/modernity, Philosophy and Literature, and the James Joyce Quarterly. Quigley won a Harry Ransom Center Fellowship to the University of Texas, Austin (2011–12), and in 2013, she was a Fellow at the Huntington Library in Pasadena.

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