Maud Ellmann

Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Distinguished Service Professor
D.Phil., Oxford University, 1982.
Teaching at UChicago since 2010.
Research Interests: Feminism |Gender and Sexuality| Psychoanalysis| Irish Literature| Twentieth-Century British Literature| European Modernism| Animal Studies| Poetry and Poetics| The Novel

Intellectual Profile

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.

My recent work has turned to British writing of the 1930s and 1940s, especially to the literature and culture of World War II.  In an effort to expand the modernist canon, I’ve introduced a new book series at Edinburgh University Press called Midcentury Modern Writers, which publishes monographs on single authors, such as Barbara Hardy’s 2016 study of the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett, and on wider themes, such as Anna Cottrell’s forthcoming study of London novels of the 1930s, which focuses on sociable spaces such as coffee-houses, pubs, and cinemas in the fiction and photography of this period.  My own projected contribution to this series is a monograph on Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978), the novelist and poet who became a lesbian before it was fashionable and a Communist in the mid-1930s, when she travelled to Spain to support the republican cause in the Spanish Civil War.  My larger project, Inside Out:  Psychoanalysis and Fiction in World War II Britain and France, examines how wartime fiction and psychoanalysis call into question the relation between inside and outside, subject and object, self and other.  In addition, I am co-editing (with Sîan White and Vicki Mahaffey) a collection of essays on Irish modernism, and a further collection on Freud and Modernism with Nicholas Royle.

Select Publication

  • 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)
  • “Everyday War:  Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Townsend Warner in World War II.”  (On Woolf’s Between the Acts and Warner’s The Corner That Held Them). Forthcoming in Novel 2017.
  • “‘Vaccies Go Home!’ Evacuation, Psychoanalysis, and Fiction in World War II Britain.”  Oxford Literary Review 38.2 (2016) 240–261.
  • “A Technique of Unsettlement:  Freud, Freudianism, and the Psychology of Modernism.” In Vincent Sherry, ed. The Cambridge History of Modernism. Cambridge University Press, 2016, pp. 515-32.
  • “Psychoanalysis and Autobiography.”  In Adam Smyth, ed.  A History of English Autobiography.  Cambridge University Press, 2016, pp. 312-328.
  • “Sylvia Townsend Warner.” Online Research Review, in “Transitional Writers.” Oxford Handbook of Modernisms. Ed. David Trotter. Oxford University Press, 2016.