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Re-reading the Subtexts of Modernity

Alec Charles

What takes place when we examine texts close-up? The art of close reading, once the closely guarded province of professional literary critics, now underpins the everyday processes of forensic scrutiny conducted by those brigades of citizen commentators who patrol the realms of social media.

This study examines at close quarters a series of key English texts from the last hundred years: the novels of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, the plays of Samuel Beckett, the poetry of Sylvia Plath and Philip Larkin, the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the tweets of Donald Trump. It digs beneath their surface meanings to discover microcosmic ambiguities, allusions, ironies and contradictions which reveal tensions and conflicts at the heart of the paradox of patriarchal history. It suggests that acts of close reading may offer radical perspectives upon the bigger picture, as well as the means by which to deconstruct it. In doing so, it suggests an alternative to a classical vision of cultural progress characterised by irreconcilable conflicts between genders, genres and generations.

Alec Charles is Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Winchester. He has previously made documentaries for BBC Radio and worked at universities in Estonia, Japan, Cornwall, Chester, Luton and Hull. He has contributed to a diverse range of publications including British Politics, British Journalism Review, Journalism Education, Utopian Studies, Science Fiction Studies, Science Fiction Film and Television, Journal of Popular Television and The Routledge International Handbook of Jungian Film Studies. His previous books include Interactivity: New Media, Politics and Society (2012), Interactivity 2 (2014), Out of Time: The Deaths and Resurrections of Doctor Who (2015) and Political Animals: News of the Natural World (2016), all published by Peter Lang.