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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Martin Eden (1909) commences in the aftermath of a moment of (naturalist) chance and concludes with a supreme demonstration of the realist will to power. The manner in which London begins and ends the novel suggests a deliberate resistance to any effort to contain it within preconceived generic forms, such as realism, naturalism, or the popular romance, and a desire to disconcert readers expecting the book to follow a particular, preordained pattern. Like Henry James, London places great stress on investigating and parodying the limits and overlaps between genres, challenging literary conventions of the time. This essay historicizes the Martin Eden’s representations of gender, sexuality and class, in order to locate London as a figure whose work is modern—rather than modernist—in its incorporation of a wide range of popular practices found in early film, theatre and painting, as well as in literature.

Keywords: realism, naturalism, sexuality, class, genre, modernism

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