Theses Doctoral

Meditative Modernism: Tuning the Mind in British Literature, 1890-1940

Saumaa, Hiie

This dissertation uncovers a strand in early twentieth century British literature that is currently missing from readings of modernism - a fascination with portraying meditative states of mind. Modernist authors were intrigued by the mind's capacity to be in constant movement between the present, past, and future - what they represented as a stream of consciousness. This study examines the potential of the "still," calm, and concentrated mind in modernist visions of consciousness by exploring how the meditative mind takes a different shape in theme and form in the writings of Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, and Aldous Huxley. Drawing from the works' preoccupation with physical practices such as spiritual and ritual dance, relaxation techniques, Yoga, the Alexander Technique, and meditative walking, this study highlights the role of the body in views on consciousness in modernist literature. This dissertation argues that looking at modernism through the lens of meditation allows us to see the period not only in terms of the split, wounded self in the fast-paced modern metropolis but reveals its yearning for what the authors in this study call "wholeness," "mind-body harmony," and "the spirit of peace" - a search for peace attainable within, if not without, an attempt to cure the self in the fracturing modern world through experiencing the mind at peace.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Cole, Sarah
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014