Thought on the outside: twenty-first century modernism in Will Self’s Umbrella

Marsden, Jill ORCID: 0000-0003-1669-3182 (2016) Thought on the outside: twenty-first century modernism in Will Self’s Umbrella. Textual Practice, 32 (4). pp. 689-706. ISSN 0950-236X

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This paper seeks to establish what is distinctive about Will Self’s return to techniques of literary modernism in his novel Umbrella (2012). Despite deploying narrative styles typically reserved for the depiction of ‘inner’ worlds, Self’s novel seems more concerned with the concept of thought as a stream than with the psychological introspection afforded by ‘stream of consciousness’ narration. Drawing on William James’s founding ideas about the ‘stream of thought’ in Principles of Psychology (1890), this article suggests that Self’s version of modernism owes a greater debt to James’s philosophy of embodied cognition than to the interior monologue as a literary form. Through a range of stylistic anomalies, including abrupt shifts in grammatical congruence, idiosyncratic italicisation, and surprising jumps mid-sentence between different stories, Self dismantles the novelistic illusion of the isolated mind, returning thinking to a transpersonal affective stream on which conceptual order floats. In capturing a sense of the interflow between mind, body and world, his stream of consciousness serves new political and philosophical ends, challenging us to ask what our bodies are doing and where our minds are going in our present time.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Bolton School of the Arts > English and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Tracey Gill
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2017 14:33
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2019 08:56
Identification Number: 10.1080/0950236X.2016.1247114

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