Encounters with an otherwise: On the lookout with Woolf, Lawrence, Stevens, and Deleuze

Benjamin D Hagen, University of Rhode Island


“Encounters with an Otherwise: On the Lookout with Woolf, Lawrence, Stevens, and Deleuze” investigates an unexamined dimension of literary modernism's preoccupation with the new. It challenges traditional accounts and recent critiques of this preoccupation, both of which associate modernism with heroic impulses to revolt, to experiment, or to occasion new aesthetic and/or political forms. Some critics praise the artist's ingenuity in such pursuits while others seek to demystify its dissimulative strategies (which ideologically belie contiguous relations with popular media or disavowed traditions). In response to these approaches, this project demonstrates that Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Wallace Stevens, and Gilles Deleuze (a late inheritor of modernism's problems, concerns, and lessons) all express a belief in the individual will's radical incapacity to occasion difference or newness in one's forms, practices, commitments, relationships, or protocols. The new, for these thinkers, is not a quality of aesthetic, political, and/or philosophical efforts but, rather, a force that violently and unexpectedly inspires and evades such efforts. Their preoccupation with the new—or what I call “an otherwise”—has less to do, then, with formal innovation or aesthetic novelty and, instead, with the problem of how one might learn to reaffirm this incapacity as a potentially generative vulnerability, a vulnerability to ruptures and rearrangements that unforeseen surprises may introduce into habits of thinking (Deleuze), practices of reading (Woolf), erotic alliances or affections (Lawrence), and even relations to processes and problems of aging (Stevens). Their lives and oeuvres theorize that one might effortfully cultivate the ethos of a lookout—admixing self-varying attitudes of readiness, of risk, and of prudence—as a means to affirm this vulnerability.^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Philosophy|Literature, American|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Benjamin D Hagen, "Encounters with an otherwise: On the lookout with Woolf, Lawrence, Stevens, and Deleuze" (2012). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3503182.