Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Document Type

M.A. Essay

First Advisor

Melissa Zeiger

Second Advisor

Lucas Hollister


In 1911, before the increased attention to everyday life in critical theory, György Lukács contemplated the concept of trivial life and its relation to literary form. The recent theories of everyday life like that of Blanchot – emphasizing its formlessness and defiance of subjectivity – invite us to address the variance in the modernist novelistic form in the framework that Lukács outlined. In Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys and Voyage au bout de la nuit by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, both published in the 1930s, the pain and suffering of everyday life on the streets diffuse into the form of the novel, through the gaps in the subjectivity of the first-person narrative. Céline likens the street to a wound, whereas Rhys writes about “the wailing of the streets,” pervasive yet unnoticed. In this essay, I argue that these novels achieve a totalizing vision through the in-betweenness of everyday life that occurs at the borders of individual consciousness and advances an alternate novelistic form. The protagonists’ movement through the hostile urban space of class inequality falls beyond the limits of the high modernist form of the 1920s. This variance in the novelistic form in the 1930s complicates the conflict in Marxist aesthetics, concerning the form of the modern novel and its capacity for capturing totality.