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The Work of the Living

Modernism, the Artist-Critic, and the Public Craft of Criticism

Patrick Thomas Henry

Through essays on Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, Rebecca West, T.S. Eliot, and E.M. Forster, The Work of the Living contends that modernism’s artist-critics elevate criticism to a public mode of art and expression through their craft, rhetorical strategies, techniques, figurative language, and even their chosen circulations for their critical nonfiction.

How do creative writers reach their audiences through the public art and craft of criticism? How do their creative philosophies infuse and inflect the analyses and insights offered in their criticism? These are the central questions that propel The Work of the Living. Through a study of criticism by five modernist artist-critics, this book evaluates the art of criticism as an aesthetic and intellectual project. Through their formal choices, narrative strategies, rhetorical techniques, and even publication venues, the artist-critics of the modernist era bring their creativity and craft to the genre of critical nonfiction. In little magazines and lecture halls, in newspapers and classrooms, and in the multimedia afterlives offered by citational practices and digital archives alike, the criticism of modernism’s artist-critics generates not only sites for critical inquiry, but communities of readers that gather—and discourse through—the text across time and contexts. Rather than probing the history of literary criticism as an academic enterprise, the essays in The Work of the Living turn their attention to the public cultures of literary and art criticism through historically informed close-readings of a select group of artist-critics—Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, Rebecca West, T.S. Eliot, Robert Penn Warren, and E.M. Forster.

About the Author

Patrick Thomas Henry is the fiction and poetry editor for the journal Modern Language Studies. He is currently an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Creative Writing in the English Department at the University of North Dakota. He is the author of the short story collection Practice for Becoming a Ghost (Susquehanna University Press, 2024). He is currently at work on a novel that melds fabulism with an academic setting, along with ongoing research into the intersections of narrative perspective, subjectivity, memory, and modes of perceiving the world. He’s also at work on a craft book on the writing of fiction.

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Published: April 2024


ISBN: 978-1-80207-478-9

ISBN: 978--180207-517-5