Date of Award

Spring 2005

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Robin Hackett


This dissertation examines novels, photographs, and phototexts by British and American artists published between the world wars in order to argue that these works re-envision community through a narrative aesthetic, which I term the choran moment, that communicates the possibility of genuinely empathetic understanding between self and other. My study of literary and photographic modernism is based upon these modern artists' awareness of an ever-present, organic community allied in common knowledge of the interconnection among humanity offered through convergence with and respect for difference. These choran moments of correlation are key to the aesthetics and therefore the politics of modernist writers Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston, and photographers Gertrude Kasebier, James Van Der Zee, and Walker Evans.

The artists I discuss share a common humanist concern for creating moments of wholeness in their work. Moreover, their evocations of choran moments lead to communal interconnectivity for both artist and audience. The longing to rediscover a choran moment allows modern artists and audiences to rediscover a wholeness of self---the first step toward finding intersubjectivity and, finally, interconnective community through art. The ethical encounter, enacted in the choran moment, invites both contemporary audiences and the present scholarly community to read modernism as an attempt at rebuilding interconnectivity. Through my intervention into established critical categories of Modernism, I identify a particular expression of the period by examining how a broad selection of writers and photographers engage with a common humanist concern for recreating community through their art. My assessment of a diverse set of writers and photographers enables literary critics to include all of these previously unconnected artists under a new critical category of modernist narratives of community in order to see the work of these modernists as interconnected, resonant, and mutually productive. We are the scholars who can benefit from these artists' potentially transformative aesthetic of modernist choran moments and communal interconnectivity.