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Palgrave Macmillan

Drafty Houses in Forster, Eliot and Woolf

Spatiality and Cultural Politics

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  • © 2024


  • Argues that modernist authors used spatial metaphors to open up sites of political intervention and resistance
  • Provides an alternative reading of these writers who tend to be discounted as politically unimportant or disaffected
  • Weaves biography, archival research, literary theory, and close readings of less familiar texts

Part of the book series: Geocriticism and Spatial Literary Studies (GSLS)

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About this book

This book argues that E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf  engaged sustainedly with real and imagined places as sites of counter-cultural politics. These writers used architectural images in diaries, essays, novels, poems, and plays to express their dissatisfaction with imperial London: from the glorification of war to the erosion of local religious and linguistic traditions, and rigidly gendered practices in domestic and public life. Drafty Houses shows that each author experienced post-war modernity as intimate spatial dislocation—in Egypt (Forster), in the church (Eliot), or in London’s museums and streets (Woolf)—and traces connections between their personal experiences and lesser read publications to theorize about the impact of places on their writerly perspectives. By closely examining each author's negotiation of space symbolic of Englishness, empire, and global politics, Drafty Houses considers the limitsand the open-ended possibilities of liberal humanism, Christian conservatism, and feminist pacifism.


Table of contents (5 chapters)


“Drafty Houses is original, important, and brings together antiracist and postcolonial discourse with theories of spatiality to create a fresh analysis of familiar texts. This book concerns itself substantively with the complex gender and racial politics of the time and of these writers in particular. Banerjee has a helpful sense of proportion, and she never shies away from these authors’ failings but she is most interested in how they learned and grew. There is a comic, obvious brilliance to the way Banerjee notices Woolf’s interest in interior decoration, change, and modification of living spaces as a sign of her modernity.” (Anne Fernald, Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Fordham University)

“This lucid, powerfully argued book provides us with revelatory readings of three authors whose work we have perhaps decided we could no longer be surprised by: an E. M. Forster, deeply aware of and disturbed by his own liberal complacency and his complicity with colonialism; an antiauthoritarian, anticolonial T. S. Eliot, discoverable primarily in his dramatic writings; and a Virginia Woolf who turns us away from the repressive order, the cultural uniformities of London’s social spaces. With revealing glimpses into her own experience as a teacher in New York, Banerjee is ultimately writing in support of what she stirringly describes as ‘a humanism that might sustain us as individuals who protest the inequitable societies of which we are a part.’ ” (John Whittier-Ferguson, Professor of English, University of Michigan)


Authors and Affiliations

  • CUNY, new york, USA

    Ria Banerjee

About the author

Ria Banerjee is Associate Professor of English at Guttman Community College and Consortial Faculty at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA. She has been published in Modernism/modernity Print Plus, ELN, the Eliot Studies Annual, and South Atlantic Review.

Bibliographic Information

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