Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Eric Reimer

Commitee Members

Marton Marko, Rob Browning


Andrew Marvell, artistic freedom, literary criticism, modern literature in English, modernism, Penelope Fitzgerald, Vladimir Nabokov


University of Montana


This study evaluates correspondences between Andrew Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House,” Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Gate of Angels, finding in their statements of artistic independence grounds for gathering them under the term “modern.” Each self-consciously prioritizes the aesthetic, defending art’s freedom from ideological co-opting: Marvell’s speaker declares freedom from doctrinal authority, social status, and political identity; Nabokov’s narrator paints a portrait of the artist as an ape-man, railing against his author and the psychologists who would deny him creative autonomy; Fitzgerald’s book suggests that it is not scientism, but an appreciation of artful design—whether by a divine creator, or formed by a novel—that will lead humankind to a unified understanding of the world. They further share with literary modernism a reliance on parody, verbal play, and formal innovation. Because these works declare art’s autonomy, celebrate the perspective of the individual, and elevate an artistic understanding as the preeminent way of knowing, they moreover offer instruction in aesthetic appreciation, which the discipline of literary studies currently needs. I explore the artistry of these works playfully, paying attention to style. I take as valid Oscar Wilde’s observation that “there is no fine art without self-consciousness, and self-consciousness and the critical spirit are one.” Therefore, I discuss these authors in the context of their respective historic moments in a way that shows an awareness of the artful possibilities of language, and which appreciates their awareness of the tools of literary art.

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