Violent Minds: Modernism and the Criminal (Cambridge University Press, 2019)
Description from the CUP website:
Just as cultural attitudes toward criminality were undergoing profound shifts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, modernist authors became fascinated by crime and its perpetrators, as well as the burgeoning genre of crime fiction. Throughout the period, a diverse range of British and American novelists took the criminal as a case study for experimenting with forms of psychological representation while also drawing on the conventions of crime fiction in order to imagine new ways of conceptualizing the criminal mind. Matthew Levay traces the history of that attention to criminal psychology in modernist fiction, placing understudied authors like Wyndham Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Graham Greene, and Patricia Highsmith in dialogue with more canonical contemporaries like Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Dashiell Hammett, and Gertrude Stein. Levay demonstrates criminality’s pivotal role in establishing quintessentially modernist forms of psychological representation and brings to light modernism’s deep but understudied connections to popular literature, especially crime fiction.
For a brief account of one of the book’s key arguments, see my post on the Cambridge Core Blog, “Can Crime Fiction Be Modernist?”
For recent reviews of the book, see here and here. Additionally, the journal Critical Analysis of Law published a Forum on the book, with my response, in their Fall 2020 issue.
Books in Progress
Time and Again: Modernism and the Form of the Series
The New Old Style: Anachronism in Contemporary Comics (under advance contract, University of Nebraska Press, “Encapsulations: Critical Comics Studies” series)
“Vintage Seth,” Modernism/modernity Print Plus (in press).
“Little Tommy Lost and the Anachronistic Comic,” Comics and Modernism: History, Form, and Culture, ed. Jonathan Najarian (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, in press).
“Crime Fiction and Criminology,” The Routledge Companion to Crime Fiction, ed. Janice M. Allan, Jesper Gulddal, Stewart King, and Andrew Pepper (London: Routledge, 2020), 273-281.
“Modernism’s Opposite: John Galsworthy and the Novel Series,” Modernism/modernity 26.3 (September 2019): 543-562.
“On the Uses of Seriality for Modern Periodical Studies: An Introduction,” Journal of Modern Periodical Studies 9.1 (2018): v-xix.
“Repetition, Recapitulation, Routine: Dick Tracy and the Temporality of Daily Newspaper Comics,” Journal of Modern Periodical Studies 9.1 (2018): 101-122.
“Preservation and Promotion: Ellery Queen, Magazine Publishing, and the Marketing of Detective Fiction,” The Centrality of Crime Fiction in American Literary Culture, ed. Alfred Bendixen and Olivia Carr Edenfield (New York: Routledge, 2017), 101-122.
“Remaining a Mystery: Gertrude Stein, Crime Fiction and Popular Modernism,” Journal of Modern Literature 36.4 (Summer 2013): 1-22.
“The Entertainments of Late Modernism: Graham Greene and the Career Criminal,” Modernist Cultures 5.2 (October 2010): 315-339.
Selected Review Essays
Review essay on Bloomsbury’s “New Modernisms” book series, edited by Sean Latham and Gayle Rogers. Modernism/modernity Print Plus (14 August 2018).
“Modernism, Periodically.” Review essay on The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I, Britain and Ireland 1880-1955, edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker, and Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction, by Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman. Modern Language Quarterly 72.4 (December 2011): 521-535.
From 2016-19, I also wrote an omnibus essay on significant books in modernist studies for the Year’s Work in English Studies.
“Community and the Comic Shop: An Interview with Tony Davis,” The New Americanist 2.1 (2023): 108-131.