Spaces of Play: Inventing the Modern Leisure Space in British Fiction and Culture, 1860-1960

Open Access
Ross, Shawna Marie
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 07, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Janet Wynne Lyon, Dissertation Advisor
  • Janet Wynne Lyon, Committee Chair
  • Mark Stewart Morrisson, Committee Member
  • Jeffrey Nealon, Committee Member
  • Jonathan Paul Eburne, Committee Member
  • Henry James
  • transnational modernism
  • hospitality
  • hotel
  • ocean liner
  • cruise ship
  • sociology of leisure
  • leisure studies
  • modernist literature
  • modernism
  • E M Forster
  • Katherine Mansfield
  • Queen Mary
  • Cunard
This dissertation seeks to establish the very real and important relationship between British modernist literature and the emergence of the modern leisure space after 1867. At the core of this dissertation is that claim that as leisure spaces spatially, socially, and economically modernized—as the inn became the hotel, the coast became the seaside resort, the natural spring became the spa, and the sailing ship became the luxury liner—they territorialized (both literally and figuratively) the concept of leisure in a way that is both historically unique and significant for the study of literary modernism. In studying this relationship, this dissertation draws from leisure studies, an umbrella term for the study of leisure with roots in late nineteenth-century industrial geography. Literary criticism has largely abstained from these interdisciplinary conversations about leisure, and one of the goals of this dissertation is to disrupt this unproductive silence. Conversely, while a few leisure scholars of the past two decades have identified leisure and its cultural institutions as specifically modern constructions, scholars of literature, and scholars of modernism in particular, have much to contribute to leisure studies in the way of teasing out this fundamental yet neglected relationship between leisure and modernity. In addition to foregrounding the mutual interdependence between scholarly discourses of modernist literature and of leisure studies, this project offers an account of nineteenth- and twentieth-century non-fiction written about the emergence of leisure as a central field of discursive, economic, and social investment in Great Britain. I juxtapose this non-fiction with fiction by James and Forster to emphasize modernist literature’s tendency to play self-reflexively with philosophical and political conversations about leisure. To investigate modernist literary representations of leisure, I focus on two of the chief leisure spaces in modern fiction: the hotel and the ocean liner. One chapter discusses the emergence of the modern hotel in the nineteenth century by way of works by Dickens, Chesterton, and Trollope, while the following chapter presents a survey of modernist hotel fiction, including works by Mansfield, Bennett, and Orwell, and Bowen. Finally, two chapters on the cruise ship include a cultural studies style analysis of the ocean liner’s use as a representative figure for modernity, and readings of works by Waugh and Sackville-West situate modernist leisure fiction firmly within contemporary arguments about modernism’s relationship to transnational flows, empire, and mass media technologies.