Modernism's nervous genre: The diaries of Woolf, James, and Sassoon

Kimberly A Sims, University of Rhode Island


"Modernism's Nervous Genre: The Diaries of Woolf, James, and Sassoon" works to establish the modernist diary-as-genre within the ever-elusive concept of "nerves," which exceeded various interpretations and translations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The body was conceived in modernist medical and social discourses as "machine," as "motor," as the site of energy and fatigue, and as apt to break down. This juncture of breaking down serves as the critical and theoretical link between the diaries of Virginia Woolf, Alice James, and Siegfried Sassoon. All three diarists suffered from nervous disorders, and each worked to self-fashion in their diaries, challenging and critiquing the labels of "madness," "neurasthenia," and what is perceived as "flights into illness." Further, these three diarists envision their counter-discursive diary-writing as a battle, and they each employ images of war in their diaristic articulations of "nerves." Ultimately, Woolf, James, and Sassoon put the diary, a "nervous" genre, to use when their bodies wage war with their minds. ^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Kimberly A Sims, "Modernism's nervous genre: The diaries of Woolf, James, and Sassoon" (2007). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3277007.