Purdue University Graduate School
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Electric Modernism

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posted on 2021-05-07, 18:18 authored by Haley Anne LarsenHaley Anne Larsen

This dissertation traces invocations and theories of electric power in modernist literature by women, showing how four modernist authors—Edith Wharton, Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), Olive Moore, and Jean Rhys—deploy electricity in their fiction and highlight its varied and contradictory cultural meanings. Modernist literature by women leverages the open and strange impressions from the era of what electricity might mean, so that authors might make their own arguments about where artistic impulses originate, how homes would change when they became wired, how modernization would change modernist art forms, or why some social spaces gleam brighter than others. Edith Wharton and Jean Rhys highlight cultural and class system dynamics with their electric metaphors and electrically wired settings, in which they fuse mental states with modern atmospheres. H.D. and Olive Moore explore how women experience artistic inspiration, as either a transcendent space of unlimited possibility for the former, or as proof of the limitations of gender for the latter.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Maren T. Linett

Additional Committee Member 2

Derek Pacheco

Additional Committee Member 3

John Duvall

Additional Committee Member 4

Ryan Schneider