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"Challenging Fiction" is a double entendre. This unusual book argues that modernist fiction is not only difficult (or challenging) to read, it also provokes readers to challenge the fictions that they live by. To read modernist literature in a way that unlocks its humor, its discomfiting insights, and its strong emotional undercurrents, a reader must be both receptive and resistant to the author's perspective, actively challenging it with his or her own experience, knowledge, and sensibilities. Using writers as diverse as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Djuna Barnes, Oscar Wilde, and Jean Rhys, this book demonstrates that the rewards of "challenging fiction" are considerable, and unexpected.
Vicki Mahaffey is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of York and a former Guggenheim Fellow and winner of both the Lindback Award and the Ira Abrams Award for teaching. Her previous publications include Reauthorizing Joyce (1988) and States of Desire: Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and the Irish Experience (1998).