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By Adam Parkes

Adam Parkes investigates the literary and cultural implications of the censorship encountered via numerous smooth novelists within the early 20th century. He situates modernism within the context of this censorship, studying the kinfolk among such authors as D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Radclyffe corridor, and Virginia Woolf and the general public controversies generated by way of their fictional explorations of recent sexual subject matters. those authors situated "obscenity" on the point of stylistic and formal test. The Rainbow, woman Chatterley's Lover, Ulysses, and Orlando dramatized difficulties of sexuality and expression in ways in which subverted the ethical, political, and aesthetic premises on which their censors operated. In exhibiting how modernism developed inside of a tradition of censorship, Modernism and the Theater of Censorship means that smooth novelists, whereas formed by means of their tradition, tried to reshape it.

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In the nineteenth century, "earnestness" denoted the moral integrity and fidelity to truth at the heart of the British ideal of manhood. In The Importance of Being Earnest, however, this term is cut loose from its cultural moorings and becomes a floating signifier, a word that attaches itself by pure chance to a character signally lacking the attributes it was meant to imply. By the last scene, when Jack Worthing discovers from the army lists that his name "naturally is Ernest," the play has already made it impossible for us to believe that this coincidence reflects a deep organic truth about his moral fiber.

94). His concluding remarks clarified the link between religion and wartime patriotism: "The young men who are dying for liberty are moral beings. They are the living repudiation of such impious denials of life as The Rainbow. The life they lay down is a lofty thing. It is not the thing that creeps and crawls in this novel" (LCH, p. 95). Implicitly, the ignoble ends to which Lawrence had put his mastery in the use of words were quite at odds with the righteous cause of war; in subverting the war effort, Lawrence was helping to send British soldiers to their graves.

The Importance of Being Earnest suggests that the harder we try to anchor "earnestness" in received categories, the more slippery and elusive it becomes. Released into a field of linguistic play, Wilde's "earnestness" resists such cultural determination. Signifying a verbal facility motivated only by language, "earnestness" is emptied of the moral integrity, the sincerity, that British culture had invested in it. At the same time, Wilde's "earnestness" strangely combines the word's nineteenth-century aura of "manliness" with sexual deviance.

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