‘Creatures of an Impossible Time’: Late Modernism, Human Rights and Elizabeth Bowen

Lyndsey Stonebridge

in The Judicial Imagination

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748642359
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652150 | DOI:
‘Creatures of an Impossible Time’: Late Modernism, Human Rights and Elizabeth Bowen

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Unlike Rebecca West or Hannah Arendt, Elizabeth Bowen was not a political journalist; nor did she ever aspire to be. She once described the taking up of the position of the ‘psychologically displaced person’ of the inter-war generation as ‘cerebrally brilliant but skin deep’. It is argued that it is in her postwar writing, particularly in her final novel, Eva Trout, or Changing Scenes, that Bowen offers her most provocative – and most affecting – image of the kind of moral and imaginative work the European novel could still do at mid-century. Her association of ‘rights’ with violent vengeance is in keeping with her political conservatism. Eva Trout is not an anti-novel, or at least not quite. Bowen's last fictional gesture is perhaps her most avant-garde, but it is also one of the most painfully affecting in her entire corpus.

Keywords: Elizabeth Bowen; Eva Trout; human rights; modernism; violent vengeance; political conservatism; postwar writing

Chapter.  10962 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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