In Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Community, first published in 2001, Jessica Berman argues that the fiction of Henry James, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein engages directly with early twentieth-century transformations of community and cosmopolitanism. Although these modernist writers develop radically different models for social organization, their writings return again and again to issues of commonality, shared voice, and exchange of experience, particularly in relation to dominant discourses of gender and nationality. The writings of James, Proust, Woolf and Stein, she argues, t only inscribe early twentieth-century anxieties about race, ethnicity, nationality and gender, but confront them with demands for modern, cosmopolitan versions of community. This study seeks to revise theories of community and cosmopolitanism in light of their construction in narrative, and in particular it seeks to reveal the ways that modernist fiction can provide meaningful alternative models of community.
Jessica Berman is Assistant Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.