Two Paths for Writing by Women in Modernist Studies



In its turn to transnational and interdisciplinary methods and subjects, the field of modernist studies has moved decisively away from gender-based analyses of literary texts. Because feminist and gender-focused scholarship played a crucial role in claiming a place for literature by women in the research and teaching of modernism, this expansionist trend raises concerns about the future of women’s literature in modernist studies. This paper argues that this path changes the questions we ask, but energizes more than sidelines the study of writing by women. Not only have expansionist tendencies in modernist studies historically been good for the inclusion of literature by women, but interdisciplinary methodologies and transnational inquiry has both invigorated work on canonical figures and provided new approaches to understudied writers. I follow a brief review of recent contributions to the study of women’s writing that take part in these developments with a more focused treatment of Dorothy Richardson studies, which have blossomed under transnational and interdisciplinary inquiry.

This paper also explores another development, the significance of which for modernist studies (and the humanities more broadly) has hardly begun to be recognized: the increasing availability of digital texts and development of computational methods. We are poised to take advantage of the new accessibility of lesser-known works, many of which have fallen out of print, in our research and teaching. Further, new technologies promise to revolutionize the ways we study literature. The digitization of literary corpora and the development of methods to mine the digitized texts for information allow us to ask new questions of literature. It remains only for scholars of modernist writing by women to continue asking new questions.