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Author Colesworthy, Rebecca, author

Title Returning the gift : modernism and the thought of exchange / Rebecca Colesworthy
Edition First edition
Published New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2018
Online access available from:
Oxford Scholarship Online    View Resource Record  


Description 1 online resource
Contents Introduction -- Marcel Mauss and the turn to the gift -- Virginia Woolf and the limits of feminine hospitality -- Jean Rhys and the fiction of failed reciprocity -- Gertrude Stein and the politics of literary genius -- H.D. and the promise of queen kinship -- Coda
Summary The decades following World War I saw a widespread turn across disciplines to questions about the nature and role of gifts: What is a gift? What do gifts mean and do? Which individuals and institutions have the authority to give? Returning the Gift argues that these questions centrally shaped literary modernism. The book begins by revisiting the locus classicus of twentieth-century gift theory, Marcel Mauss's The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies, to show that, his title notwithstanding, the gift Mauss envisions is a distinctively modern phenomenon. Subsequent chapters offer nuanced readings of novels and nonfiction by Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, Gertrude Stein, and H.D. from the 1920s to 1940s, drawing on developments in the social sciences, economics, and politics to illuminate their writing, while also making a case for their unique contributions to broader interdisciplinary debates. Not only do these writers insist that literature is a special kind of gift, but they also challenge the primitivist treatment of women as gifts in the work of their Victorian forebears and contemporary male theorists. Each of these writers uses tropes and narratives of giving to imagine more egalitarian social possibilities under the conditions of the capitalist present. The language of the gift is not, as we might expect, a mark of hostility to the market, but rather a means of giving form to the "society" in market society - of representing everyday experiences of exchange that the myth of the free market works, even now, to render unthinkable
Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index
Notes Online resource; title from digital title page (viewed on November 13, 2018)
Subject Exchange
Gifts in literature
Gifts in literature.
SOCIAL SCIENCE -- Customs & Traditions.
Form Electronic book
ISBN 0191084344 (electronic bk.)
0191823899 (electronic bk.)
9780191084348 (electronic bk.)
9780191823893 (electronic bk.)