Maud Ellmann

Maud Ellmann

Randy L. & Melvin R. Berlin Professor of the Development of the Novel in English
Department of English

Office: Walker 402
Phone: (773) 702-2214

My research and teaching interests focus on British and European modernism and critical theory, particularly psychoanalysis and feminism. My first book, The Poetics of Impersonality: T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, takes a deconstructive approach to these poets’ work, analyzing how their championship of literary impersonality – i.e. the disappearance of the poet in the poem - reveals their divided political and philosophical allegiances. My second book, The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing, and Imprisonment, examines the phenomenon of self-starvation, ranging from Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa to Bobby Sands, the iconic martyr of the Irish Hunger Strike of 1981. What these starvers have in common is the inverse relationship of food to words; the less they eat, the more they write. Imprisonment, imposed from without or from within, intensifies this struggle between word and flesh, in which the body seems to be devoured by its own loquacity. The theme of imprisonment reemerges in my third book on Elizabeth Bowen, the Anglo-Irish writer whose fiction is obsessed with architectural and psychic enclosures and encryptments. My most recent book, The Nets of Modernism, attempts to sharpen our sense of what’s been called the “dissolution of the self” in modernist fiction, particularly by exploring the significance of images of bodily violation and exchange – scar, bite, wound, and their psychic equivalents – to the modernist imagination.

Since completing this book, I’ve written a chapter for the Oxford History of the Novel about Irish fiction in English between 1914 and 1940, a period of upheaval in Ireland, as in Europe, in which Irish writers had to struggle with draconian censorship, fueled by Catholic prudery and nationalist chauvinism, in the newly established Irish Free State. In addition to my interest in Irish literature, I’ve been writing about British psychoanalyst Marion Milner, the author of several luminous and idiosyncratic works on creativity, of which the most famous is On Not Being Able to Paint (1950). I’ve also grown interested in the burgeoning new field of animal studies; my article “Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates” in Textual Practice takes up the question of the ghosts of animals in modernity. Currently I’m working on several projects, including World War II writing in Britain, the British novelist and poet Sylvia Townsend Warner, and fantasies of bodily disintegration in modernism, ranging from Melanie Klein to Samuel Beckett.


Graduate: Modernism in Poetry; World War II in Britain; Modernism and Animality

Undergraduate: Psychoanalysis and Narrative; Gender and Writing at the fin de si├Ęcle

The Nets of Modernism

Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism

Selected Publications

  • The Nets of Modernism: Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Sigmund Freud (Cambridge, 2010)
  • Elizabeth Bowen: The Shadow Across the Page (Edinburgh, 2003)
  • (Ed.) Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism (Longman, 1994)
  • The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing, and Imprisonment (Harvard, 1993)
  • The Poetics of Impersonality: T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (Harvard, 1987)
  • “The Thing that Lives Us,” introduction to Marion Milner, An Experiment in Leisure (Routledge, 2011).
  • "Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates," Textual Practice 2010 (forthcoming)
  • "James Joyce," in The Cambridge Companion to the Modern English Novel, ed. Adrian Poole (Cambridge, 2009)
  • "Ulysses: Changing into an Animal," Field Day Review 2 (2006)
  • "Introduction: Bad Timing," in Sigmund Freud, Murder, Mourning and Melancholia (Penguin, 2005)


D.Phil., Oxford University, 1982. Teaching at Chicago since 2010.