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Modernism: 2. Literature

1. What Maisie Knew: Form and Consciousness

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the novel What Maisie Knew by the American modernist Henry James. We begin by exploring what we mean when we talk about the ‘form’ of a modernist novel more generally, i.e. the way in which a certain story or idea is presented by the writer. We then take a closer look at the form of Henry James’ novel, focussing in particular on his masterful narrative technique which seems to reflect the consciousness of his protagonist, Maisie, whilst adopting the voice of a traditional third-person narrator.


In this course, Professor Max Saunders (King’s College, London) explores some classic works of modernist literature. We begin with a discussion of Henry James’ What Maisie Knew in module one, focussing in particular on James’ narrative technique. In module two, we think about James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and its fragmented narrative form. We then move on in module three to discuss the writing of Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, focussing in particular on their experimentation with anti-narrative and time. After that, we look at Joseph Conrad and T. S. Eliot in module four, exploring how their work gives expression to a certain 'crisis of meaning' in the modernist period. Module five concludes the course with a discussion of Virginia Woolf and her impressionistic experimentation with narrative form in her novel To the Lighthouse.


Max Saunders is Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Professor of English and Co-Director of the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London, where he teaches modern literature. He studied at the universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and was a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He is the author of Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, 2 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1996) and Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature (Oxford University Press 2010); the editor of five volumes of Ford’s writing, including an annotated critical edition of the first volume of Ford’s Parade’s End: Some Do Not . . . (Carcanet, 2010). He has published essays on Life-writing, on Impressionism, and on a number of modern writers. He was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship from 2008-10 to research the To-Day and To-Morrow book series; and in 2013 an Advanced Grant from the ERC for the Ego-Media 5-year collaborative project on Digital Life Writing.

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APA style

Saunders, M. (2019, January 31). Modernism: 2. Literature - What Maisie Knew: Form and Consciousness [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Saunders, Max. "Modernism: 2. Literature – What Maisie Knew: Form and Consciousness." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Jan 2019,

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"Vanessa Bell, Flowers" by Irina, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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