Forms of persuasion: Modern propaganda, cultural memory, and authority in British and Irish writing, 1922-1955
Faragher, Megan Lynn
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"Forms of Persuasion Modern Propaganda, Cultural Memory and Authority in British and Irish Writing, 1922-1955" argues that emerging anxieties about authorial influence on public opinion led to a vital transition in literary form in late modernist England and Ireland. I assert that the dominant literary genres of this period, including espionage fiction, polemic prose, and documentary realism, turn away from the experimental forms of high modernism in response to the rapid and pernicious developments in political persuasion during same period. In my expanded vision of media and propaganda studies, I contend that cultural artifacts like radio addresses, newspapers, and leaflets were not the sole means of defining propaganda. Rather, writers of the period also responded to the theories of propaganda manufactured by administrators and military officials. My research and work in the archive demonstrates that new theories of how to best construct propaganda, codified by governments and agencies, were also heavily influenced by a wider range of experts, including writers, cultural critics, and practitioners of the new field of social psychology. In contrast to the psychological interiority of Mrs. Dalloway or Ulysses , fiction in the inter-war period embraced forms inspired by realist mimesis as a means of countering what Theodor Adorno called the "reified, plaster cast" of wartime events presented by propaganda. Each chapter of the dissertation focuses on a unique moment of propaganda's development as it emerges in the fiction of modernists after 1922. The comparative analysis of English and Irish writers in this project situates national identity and colonialism as fundamental to discourses of political commitment prior to and during World War II. By analyzing literature, history, and media studies, I formulate a richer vision of modernism's politics, as authors critically responded to the manipulation of audiences by both Allies and Fascists while also attempting to maintain an unmediated relationship to their political truths. My self-conscious formalism, inspired by critics like Fredric Jameson, Franco Moretti, Raymond Williams, Russian Formalists and the Frankfurt School, provides an examination of literary form as reflective of and responsive to the shifting influence of political persuasion between the wars.