Jed Esty

in Unseasonable Youth

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199857968
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919581 | DOI:

Series: Modernist Literature and Culture


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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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“Scattered Souls” situates the main argument of this book within broad studies of modernism and modernity, gender and sexuality, colonial and post-colonial literature, and the politics of formalism. It reads Kipling's Kim as an exemplary text in which colonial anachronism and uneven development provide the symbolic basis for an anti-teleological model of subject formation. Kipling's novel of youth thus introduces the analysis of a central, yet surprisingly under-explored, nexus between modernist aesthetics and modern colonialism: the disruption of developmental time in reciprocal allegories of self-making and nation-formation. Separating adolescence from the dictates of Bildung, modernist writing created an autonomous value for youth and cleared space for its own resistance to linear plots while registering the crumbling of various western discourses of progress. Although a sedimented logic of organic development lingers on necessarily in the bildungsroman's ideology of form, modernist writers take account of the genre's own aging and transformation, objectifying its progressive conventions with an unprecedented degree of ironic distance. The novels at the center of this study give vivid narrative form to the central contradiction of modernity, a contradiction made most conspicuous in the colonial contact zones of the last century, i.e. that modernity is a state of permanent transition. Its most trenchant literary incarnation is the story of unseasonable youth.

Keywords: national allegory; bildungsroman; rudyard kipling; kim; development; historicism; modernism; colonial modernity; political formalism

Chapter.  16221 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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