This article takes up Rita Felski's recent call to modernists to explore how Bruno Latour's latest work on actor-network theory might be adapted for literary studies. It examines two accounts of World War I soldiers who (allegedly) return from the dead in material form: Virginia Woolf's fictional account of Septimus Smith, who is convinced his friend Evans has come back from the dead, and Oliver Lodge's best-selling memoir, Raymond, or Life and Death, which recounts in detail how Lodge believed his dead son sent messages to the family to assure them of his continued material existence. That these moments may be read as obvious signs of delusion or unresolved grief tells us little about the power such images had in the early twentieth century or about how metaphors at a particular historical moment might be read, shaped, disrupted, and made real. A Latourian approach, instead, demands a shift in interpretive practices: rather than reading vertically for a latent meaning that might lie hidden beneath a text, we read horizontally, tracing actively a network of places, times, and objects, a network that offers a new understanding of the interactions between historical contexts and literary studies.
Elizabeth Outka; Dead Men, Walking: Actors, Networks, and Actualized Metaphors in Mrs. Dalloway and Raymond. Novel 1 August 2013; 46 (2): 253–274. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2088130
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