Will Self: a ‘neomodernist’?

Will Self: a ‘neomodernist’?


In 2012, when Will Self’s novel Umbrella was published, one word which appeared over and over again in the reviews was the word ‘modernist’. [1] The Independent’s review had the subheading ‘While you were sleeping, Will Self became a modernist’.[2] As the modernist movement in literature occurred in the years around the 1920’s, this is clearly meant figuratively, not literally.[3] However, Self could be a ‘neomodernist’. In this essay, a ‘neomodernist’ text means very simply a text which demonstrates the tropes of the 1920’s modernist movement, but which is written by a contemporary author. Crucially, I have termed this neomodernism, rather than postmodernism, which was a reaction to and departure from the modernist movement, rather than a continuation, or revival, of it.[4] Considering that Self himself states that he has no interest in postmodernism, and on the contrary cites modernist texts and authors as being highly influential on his writing style, it is unnecessary to demonstrate that his work cannot be considered postmodern any further.[5] I return then to neomodernism, and to what extent Self’s work can be considered neomodernist.


Unfortunately, there are no self-avowed tropes of the modernist movement, so critical consensus has to provide the criteria by which I shall judge whether or not Self’s work is neomodernist. In the book Modernism, Michael Whitworth identifies twelve key tropes of literary modernism.[6] In an essay of this size, attempting to demonstrate the presence of all twelve of these in Self’s work would result in a shallow and insufficient study. In order to narrow down this selection whilst not reducing the thoroughness of my conclusion, I have chosen the four tropes that are most evident in James Joyce’s Ulysses, as it is considered to be one of the great works of literary modernism, if not ‘the defining and consummate member of that movement.’ [7],[8] These are the following:


  • ‘Modernist literature depicts modern life, especially urban life, and shows ambivalence towards it.’
  • ‘It is difficult: it makes use of a wide and sometimes unexpected range of reference […]; it removes many of the devices that would conventionally have helped the reader to make sense of the text; it is verbally ambiguous and paradoxical.’
  • ‘It experiments with time, implying a larger philosophy in which time is non-linear.’
  • ‘It prefers the concrete to the abstract.’ [9]


By looking at a selection of Self’s work which spans his literary career (his novels Umbrella and How the Dead Live (HTDL), his short story collection The Quantity Theory of Insanity (QTI), his novella The Sweet Smell of Psychosis (SSP), and his non-fiction collection Psychogeography), I will demonstrate that Self’s work can certainly be considered neomodernist as it exhibits the abovementioned tropes of literary modernism.[10]


Before delving into the evidence of these tropes in Self’s texts, there many examples of direct references or allusions to literary modernism, and in particular Ulysses, which proliferate in Self’s work. The epigram to his novel Umbrella is a quotation from the ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ episode of Ulysses: ‘A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella. – James Joyce’. In the opening pages of Umbrella, Busner moves ‘sea-sluggishly through the greeny-briny’ (Umbrella, p. 6), which appears to be a hybrid description of Stephen’s observations in the opening pages of Ulysses; the ‘green’ briny sea and his mother’s ‘green sluggish bile’ (Ulysses, p. 6). In HTDL, the protagonist’s name, Lily Bloom, and the ‘Map of Lily’s London’ that accompanies the text draw obvious parallels with Ulysses’ Molly Bloom and the map of Dublin which is now a commonplace accompaniment to Joyce’s text (Ulysses, pp. vi-vii). Like Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus and the characters in Dubliners, many of Self’s characters and plotlines also recur and develop across his texts, so much so that M. Hunter Hayes refers to Self’s oeuvre as a ‘roman-fleuve, a set of independent yet interrelated fictional works with reappearing characters.’[11] For example, his short story ‘North London Book of the Dead’ develops into the epigram of HTDL which is taken from the ‘Preface to The Tibetan Book of the Dead’; Friern Barnet Mental Hospital and its staff appear in multiple short stories such as ‘Ward 9’ and ‘The Quantity Theory of Insanity’ as well as the novel Umbrella; and Takis Christos from ‘Ward 9’ reappears as as a taxi driver in HTDL. Self’s engagement with modernism is, however, much deeper and stylistic than these above allusions alone.


As the second trope relates to the style of modernist texts, and so by definition will be apparent in every quotation used to demonstrate the other four tropes, I will deal with it first, so as to avoid constantly acknowledging the fulfilment of this stylistic criterion alongside the others. The opening pages of Umbrella immediately provide evidence of this criterion, just as in Ulysses, where the reader is quickly introduced to the ‘difficult’ interior monologue. The reader of Umbrella is thrown into the free indirect discourse replete with compound words (‘fartysteam’, ‘bitindrill, chuckinlathe, poweron’), obscure words (‘hawsers’ – thick cables for mooring a ship; ‘campaniles’ – Italian bell towers; ‘fetor’ – a strong, foul smell; ‘trompe l’oeil’ – a French phrase for visual illusion in art; ‘malefactor’ – someone who commits a crime or some other wrong; ‘bitumen’ – a viscous mixture of hydrocarbons used for road surfacing), homonyms where Self employs the uncommon meaning (twice he uses the word ‘spurs’, once meaning a growth on the body, and once meaning an architectural division), as well as Latinate medical terms (‘kyphotic’, ‘hebephrenic’, ‘neoplasm’), and obscure references (such as to ancient Venetian patrician families: ‘he will encounter some Foscari or Pisani’) (Umbrella, pp. 1-3). The opening line is a song lyric that is not obviously signposted as being such: ‘I’m an ape man, I’m an ape-ape man . . . Along comes Zachary’ (Umbrella, p. 1).[12] It is italicised, yes, but so is the the next section of the sentence which is not part of the lyrics. The narrator is in fact actively misleading, the only music that is directly mentioned in the opening lines is from a ‘window […] cracked open so that Muswell Hill calypso warms the cold Friern Barnet morning’ (Umbrella, p. 1). This calypso distracts the reader from the above pop lyrics, whose origins the reader is only given a subtle clue to: ‘with rapidly condensing pop breath. I’m an ape man…’ (Umbrella, p. 1). The unusual description of ‘pop breath’ hints at the popular song by the rock band The Kinks from which the lyrics are taken, but this is hardly an obvious aide to the reader. From these few pages alone, Whitworth’s trope of difficulty has been comprehensively demonstrated, proving as Andrew Gaedtke notes, that Self ‘reactivates modernist narrative techniques’.[13]

Although Self’s earlier works display a more conventional narrative form, without the interspersed italicisations, stream of consciousness technique or frequent use of ellipses, the language and references within them are just as ‘difficult’. For example, in the published collection of articles Self wrote for The IndependentPsychogeography –  Self describes an ‘Arcadian past […] the virginal abide by the Laws and a pleasing sfumato obscures everything’ (Psychogeography, pp. 14 – 15). Here he describes an ancient Greek utopia, references Plato’s dialogue Laws, and uses the Italian word sfumato (a soft painting technique used by Renaissance artists such as Da Vinci). They are not commonplace or accessible references, to say the least. Other earlier works of Self’s also demonstrate the roots of this stylistic difficulty that is evident in Umbrella. At the end of the short story ‘Mono-Cellular’, the narrative voice approaches the stream of consciousness technique: ‘. . . but I can’t find the phone anywhere . . . the ringing is coming from the testudo that covers the bed . . . it’s one of the children!’ (QTI, p. 225). Self’s difficult, obscure language is also evident here; ‘testudo’ is the term for the shelter ancient Roman soldiers created over themselves out of interlinking shields. It is an unexpected word to use to describe a bed cover, or to expect a reader to know. In another short story, ‘The Quantity Theory of Insanity’, a fictional ‘Select Bibliography’ is included at the end, and laid out like a formal academic bibliography (QTI, p. 197). The inclusion of this bibliography demonstrates again a fulfilment of the ‘difficult’ trope. It is an early exhibit of Self diverting from conventional prose format in his work, which he later entirely does without in Umbrella, where, for example, a Field Service postcard is not just described in the text, but also visualised with a strikethrough of the text itself: ‘The command Signature Only had been deleted as well’ (Umbrella, p. 296). Like Joyce does in the ‘Circe’ and ‘Aeolus’ episodes of Ulysses, Self adapts the medium of his narrative to best suit the subject matter, with no fear of being labelled ‘difficult’.


Turning to the remaining three tropes taken from Whitworth, I will show how the first – a depiction of modern life, especially urban life, and an ambivalence towards it – is demonstrated in Self’s work. Like Joyce’s ‘loathing of sentimentality and […] insistence on anti-romantic living ‘down to facts’’, Self also avoids romanticising urban life.[14] This is first evident through his treatment of the London suburbs. In HTDL – which follows the protagonist Lily Bloom’s transition from life to death, and her following ‘life’ as a dead person – Lily experiences the suburbs reserved for the dead; ‘Dulston’ and ‘Dulburb’ (HTDL, p. 22). The wordplay Self employs in transforming ‘Dalston’ to ‘dull-ston’ and ‘suburb’ to ‘dull-burb’ represents modern life in suburban London as banal and boring. In her essay on urban visionary satire, Magdalena Maczynska notes that ‘Lily Bloom’s journeys through the barren landscape of Dulston debunk the modern myth of a wholesome and verdant suburbia.’[15] This supports my argument that Self depicts modern urban life as it really is, rather than a mythic romantic ideal. This is shown by the description of Dulston; ‘The terraces are more warped […] the little council estates seem even littler […] and the shops […] more run-down than ever, offering fewer goods [emphasis added]’ (HTDL, p. 167). The dead suburbs are not dilapidated versions of pleasant real-world places, but just exaggerated versions of what in the living world is already ‘warped’, ‘little’ and ‘run-down’. In the novella SSP, which explores the seedy denizens of London’s media clique, there is a similar representation of Richard’s flat: ‘A grim little box, made all the grimmer by its pretension to being a real dwelling place. Everything about it was diminutive –’ (SSP, p. 12). Again, urban life is depicted without it being romanticised, and the pretentious attempt to view it in a way other than this makes it ‘all the grimmer’.

Self also depicts the overriding consumer culture of modern life, for example in the following passage, where Lily watches her sister, Charlotte Elvers, have sex:

this was having sex, owning sex in the same way that the Elverses possessed two hundred Waste of Paper outlets, three homes […], four cars […], fifteen notable canvases […], twenty odd minor prints, and lots and lots and lots of chattels.

(HTDL, p. 232)


Even sex, the most rudimentary animal trait, has been taken over by modern consumer culture. The Elverses consumerism is mimicked by the way in which Self presents an inventory styled list of their possessions. The name of their stationary shop chain, ‘Waste of Paper’, mocks the Elverses, and criticises consumerism as it leads to waste. As well as this, Self’s use of the collective noun ‘chattels’ (personal possessions) emphasises the materialistic nature of the Elverses, as it is not that they value the individual items which they own, but rather the collective quantity of them.

An ambivalence towards modern life in Self’s work is made apparent by closely looking at Richard’s fawning relationship with Ursula in SSP. Trying in vain to impress upon his friends the unimportance of their lives compared to the atrocities occurring in Syria, Richard ‘looked into [Ursula’s] eyes and saw […] that she understood […] That she knew this wasted go-round was just that; and that she – like Richard – had higher aspirations.’ (SSP, pp. 56-57) Richard’s apparent awareness of the insincerity of his life is, however, actually mocked by Self. This is shown by Self’s use of the clichéd, romantic stare into Ursula’s eyes, and from her patronising and shallow response to his argument: ‘Ursula reached out a hand and gently rumpled Richard’s blond curls […] ‘You’re sweet.’’ (SSP, p. 57). Richard’s ‘higher aspirations’ are Ursula – whose attentions he rushes to ‘like an experimental rat hurrying to get an on-demand hit of cocaine’ (SSP, p. 36) – but she is just as insipid and shallow as the people he criticises. His ‘aspirations’ then, are not so high after all. Self here demonstrates an ambivalence towards modern, urban life as he uses Richard to critique it, yet also critiques Richard himself. Self demonstrates a similar ambivalence in his non-fiction: ‘I love this city [London] – love it unashamedly. And that love, like all the most passionate, is shadowed by an equal and countervailing hatred.’[16]


The third trope, that states that modernist texts experiment with time, implying a wider philosophy in which time is non-linear, is most succinctly demonstrated by looking at Self’s novel, Umbrella. The novel segues between three time periods – 1918, 1971 and 2010 – and three narratives – Busner, his patient Audrey, and her brother Stanley. Obviously enough, this is an experiment with time in itself, yet Self does much more than this, often hinting at a much more complex philosophy of non-linear time. For example, inside the decaying hospital, leftover liquid sedative creates a ‘rusty old rain falling down from the saturated plaster to the asphalt floor.’ (Umbrella, p. 6) This image is recalled later (but earlier in time), when in a cavern under the First World War trenches, Audrey’s brother Stanley and his comrades ‘lay there in the subterranean gallery, on their galvanised-iron platforms, looking up at the dripping earthen sky –’ (Umbrella, p. 332). The men lying on iron platforms reminds the reader of the patients in the hospital lying on their beds, both parties looking at their respective rainfall. Self uses mirrored images to experiment with time, implying it is not linear but cyclical, by merging the soldiers’ experience into the patients’ experience half a century later. This reading is also supported by the following passages: ‘He pinches the tiny buttons either side of the casing and peers at the red illuminated figures, 08.54’ (Umbrella, p. 27); ‘he […] pinches the small buttons either side of its casing so that the digits are illuminated redly, futuristically, 08.54’ (Umbrella, p. 29); ‘He awakens to discover himself an old man who lies pinching the slack flesh on the back of his left wrist’ (Umbrella, p. 29). The first sentence is describing the actions of Audrey’s father in 1918, the second the actions of Busner in 1971, and the third the actions of the retired Busner in 2010. By describing the men doing the same action, using the same words, and showing the same time on each watch, Self creates narrative ambiguity over who is being described and when. This reinforces a sense of non-linear, but repetitive and cyclical time, a philosophy which Robert Adams also sees in Ulysses.[17] Narrative ambiguity also demonstrates another experiment with time in the following extract:

A skinny Irishman […] says, Ah, yes, when Mboya makes tay, he makes tay . . . Stanley picks up the sausage and reveals the letters MARMAL on his makeshift plate – MARMAL, what might that mean? Surely it can only be marmalade missing its ADE? Why then, do all these other possibilities press in on her claiming her aching attention: MARMALOUS DISPLAY OF RAGTIME FLYING… [emphasis added]

(Umbrella, p. 283)


First, we are with Stanley in the trenches, yet his Irish friend is talking about Mboya, who is Busner’s young nurse in the seventies, and so was not alive at the time that Stanley was in the trenches. Next, we have suddenly transitioned to Audrey’s consciousness in London, as demonstrated by the change from ‘his’ to ‘her’. Self’s experiment with time has placed a character into a time period they were not alive in, and placed the geographically separate impressions of Audrey and her brother alongside each other. This conveys a sense of simultaneous time, rather than standard linear progression.

In HTDL, the structure of the novel is also an example of Self experimenting with time. First, the dead Lily narrates an epilogue. In the next section, ‘Dying’, the alive Lily narrates her illness and death. In the final section, ‘Dead’, the dead Lily narrates her life as a dead person, and attached to the end of each of the chapters in this section are italicised entries from the twice-dead-now-reincarnated Lily. Linear time is not just strayed from, but reversed three times.

The implications of this non-linear philosophy of time are presented by Audrey’s ‘tics’ in Umbrella. Audrey often has violent, uncontrollable fits which mimic the movements involved in her jobs on umbrella and then munition assembly lines. For example, in the following passage:

Audrey’s arms […] fly up and away, struts jerkily unfolding from ribs, then bending back on themselves, so that the riveted pivots bend and pop – her skirts blow up […] her stockings are half unrolled on her stiff posts, her handles in their worn leather boots rattle…

(Umbrella, p. 287)


Audrey’s arms are described as ‘struts’, her elbows as ‘riveted pivots’, her legs as ‘stiff posts’, and her feet as ‘handles’. As Self experiments with time, Audrey becomes the umbrella she made in the past. Andrew Gaedtke, in his essay ‘Neuromodernism’, notes that ‘it becomes unclear whether her gestures are to be understood as strictly neurological or historical symptoms’.[18] Admittedly, these ‘tics’ could be interpreted solely as expressions of repetitive traumatic memory, yet other more complex experiments with time in the novel refute this suggestion, and suggest they are also historical. For example, during the scene where Busner’s assistant Mimi makes Audrey’s medication, Busner watches her ‘hands as they ticced about the equipment’ (Umbrella, p. 186). In using the word ‘tic’, which is used to describe the repetitive motions of the patients with encephalitis lethargica (Umbrella, pp. 10, 135, 121, 127, 138, 247, 308), Self is disrupting linear time by having Mimi adopt Audrey and the other patients’ behaviour. Unlike the above example of Audrey and the umbrella, this cannot be explained by traumatic repetitive memory, as the language used to describe Mimi repeats a history that is not Mimi’s, but Audrey’s. When Busner has sex with Mimi, ‘he feels the beginning of detumescence […] as the encephalitic on the floor bends backwards clutching at my sides’ (Umbrella, p. 167). Self’s experiment with time and shared history results in Mimi actually transforming into an encephalitic. We can conclude for Gaedtke that the ‘tics’ are not just neurological symptoms, but also an expression of non-linear time and history. As well as this, Audrey’s past is also incorporated into Busner’s present. Busner in 2010 thinks of pub food; ‘grapeshot peas, gassy lager, offensive chip-weaponry, battering cod…’ (Umbrella, p. 347). The language of war (‘shots’, ‘gas’, ‘weaponry’ and ‘battering’) has been incorporated into his own vocabulary due to his exposure to Audrey’s stories from wartime London. Self demonstrates a non-liner philosophy of time through these examples that play with language, by repeating Audrey’s history through Busner and Mimi’s present.


Lastly, Self’s work also demonstrates evidence of fulfilling the fourth trope, that modernist texts value the concrete over the abstract. The concrete here means the daily ephemera of life, the banal actions and objects that are glossed over in most fiction. This is incredibly similar to Ulysses, where characters ‘walk, read, eat, bathe, defecate, urinate, fall asleep.’[19] The first instance in which this is most evident is in the overtly sexual nature of Self’s work. The texts are replete with sex, in the opening pages of SSP, Self has described ‘legions of cocks’, a ‘dry gash’, ‘dry-gashed brass’ and ‘cunt and cock’ (SSP, pp. 3, 5, 18). Not only is sex overtly depicted, but it is depicted in an ugly, brutal manner. As with modern life, there is no romanticising, for in modernist texts, ‘it’s sex, not love, that predominates.’[20] For example, when Lily and her ex-husband had sex, whilst she ‘was looking at [his] liver spot and imagining [herself] ecstatic, he was concentrating hard on the mole on [her] chin, while willing himself to detumesce.’ (HTDL, p. 23) Self records everything, even the blemishes partners observe as they copulate. Even at points in Self’s work where it seems that sex or sexual fantasy might be allowed to escape the dirty ephemera of life, they are abruptly returned to the concrete. Richard imagines Ursula as an ‘Adonis … formed of ivory and gold’ (SSP, p. 37). The mythical imagery is similar to that used in Ulysses to describe Gerty, whom Bloom fantasises about; ‘her rosebud mouth was a genuine Cupid’s bow, Greekly perfect’ (Ulysses, p. 333). Yet the fantasies of both these men’s deistic women are ended in very human masturbation: ‘Mr Bloom with careful hand recomposed his wet shirt. O Lord, that little limping devil.’ (Ulysses, p. 353) Gerty’s Grecian beauty is forbidden an escape to an abstract, heavenly status by the unsettling image of an older man masturbating over her then recomposing his shirt covered in his semen, and a perverted reminder of her lameness. So too are Richard’s fantasies over Ursula returned to the concrete world as ‘after three strokes, he came like a beer belly spluttering in a pub toilet – great gouts of spunk that drenched his doll’s house duvet’. (SSP, pp. 65 – 66) Again, we are returned to the bleak reality – a single, lonely man with a seedy lifestyle, his tiny bed covered in his own semen, in a diminutive hovel of a flat.

Sex is not the only concrete part of life that is not left in the shadows by Self. All kinds of ephemera are present, and mixed with those conventionally more ‘important’ aspects of life. For example, Busner notes how ‘a cavity big enough to stuff my tongue inside has appeared magically overnight, together with its twingeing sequel: a note from Whitcomb stuffed in his pigeonhole requesting a meeting fairly urgently…’ (Umbrella, p. 318). The cavities in his teeth are given an equal importance in the narrative as his professional developments. This is similar to the ‘Wandering Rocks’ chapter in Ulysses (as well as the famous ending to ‘Sirens’ that culminates in Bloom’s fart), where Bloom thinks ‘Glad I took that bath. Feel my feet quite clean. But I wish Mrs Fleming had darned these socks better.’ (Ulysses, p. 87). Whilst at a funeral, where his thoughts have dwelled on his father’s suicide and his friend’s death, Bloom also reflects on the minutiae of life, such as baths, clean feet, and darned socks. We are reminded of the meeting where Richard is bored by the ‘pyramid of ephemera’ (SSP, p. 33) that is being discussed by the media types, and so his mind wanders naturally to the ephemera of his everyday life. He ‘feel[s] the shape of the ulcers his teeth had worried into being […] towards lunch he might counsel the atrocity exhibition of a bowel movement’ (SSP, p. 32.) Self here again demonstrates an interest in the concrete rather than the abstract, so much so that Richard’s bowel movements and dental hygiene is more interesting than what abstractions are being discussed in his meeting.


From what I have shown in this essay, it seems impossible to argue that Self’s work does not live up to the four tropes selected from Whitworth’s list. His work is difficult; it depicts modern, urban life and an ambivalence towards it; it experiments with time, implying that time is non-linear; and it values the concrete over the abstract. Although we are only addressing four of Whitworth’s tropes, on this basis I would conclude that Self’s work certainly is what I have defined as ‘neomodernist’. But would Self, himself, agree? In email correspondence with Self, I asked him whether he considers himself a neomodernist, and whether this is a simple continuation of the modernist movement. In his response, he pointed me towards Robert Adams’ previously mentioned paper, ‘What Was Modernism?’, as he ‘agree[s] with everything in it’ (W. Self, personal communication, 18th May, 2016). Acknowledging the problematic need to define recent cultural periods, Adams says:

So modernism we’ve got, its waves and reverberations have filled our lives, […] though they’ve been damped, flattened, attenuated and subjected to frequent counterpressure, I see no sign that they’ve been supplanted by any other major unit of cultural energy.[21]


So, agreeing with Adams, ‘Modernism’ is still with us in Self’s view. Perhaps then, Self is not just a neomodernist, but a modernist, and we can take The Independent’s review’s subheading literally after all.[22]




Abell, Stig, ‘Umbrella, by Will Self’, The Spectator, 18th August 2012 <http://www.spectator.co.uk/2012/08/umbrella-by-will-self/> [last accessed 19th May 2016]


Adams, Robert, ‘What Was Modernism?’, The Hudson Review, 31 (1978), 19-33


Barry, Peter, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009)
Daniel, Lucy, ‘Umbrella by Will Self: review for Man Booker shortlist 2012’, The Telegraph, 15th August 2012 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/9464808/Umbrella-by-Will-Self-review-for-Man-Booker-shortlist-2012.html> [last accessed 19th May 2016]


Davies, Ray, ‘Apeman’, (London: Davray Music LTD, 1970)


Evans, David, ‘Umbrella, By Will Self’, The Independent, 25th August 2012 <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/umbrella-by-will-self-8081153.html> [last accessed 19th May 2016]


Five Books, ‘Will Self on influences’, 31st July 2012 <http://fivebooks.com/interview/will-self-on-influences/> [last accessed 19th May 2016]


Gaedtke, Andrew, ‘Neuromodernism’, Modern Fiction Studies, 61 (2015), 271-294


Hayes, M. Hunter, Understanding Will Self (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2007)


Joyce, James, Ulysses (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
Leith, Sam, ‘Umbrella by Will Self – review’, The Observer, 19th August 2012 <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/aug/19/umbrella-will-self-review> [last accessed 19th May 2016]


Maczynska, Magdalena, ‘This Monstrous City’, Contemporary Literature, 51 (2010), 58-86
McCrum, Robert, ‘The 10 most difficult books to finish’, The Guardian, 3rd November 2012 <http://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2012/nov/03/10-most-difficult-books-in-pictures> [last accessed 19th May 2016]
O’M, J.P, ‘The Q&A: Will Self’, The Economist, 6th September 2012 <http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2012/09/qa-will-self> [last accessed 19th May 2016]


Self, Will, ‘Modernism and Me’, The Guardian, 3rd August 2012 <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/aug/03/will-self-modernism-and-me> [last accessed 19th May 2016]


Self, Will, ‘Streets of Love and Anarchy’, New Statesman, 30th July – 12 August 2012


Self, Will, How the Dead Live (London: Penguin, 2009)

Self, Will, interviewed by Jacques Testard, ‘Interview with Will Self’, The White Review, July 2013 <http://www.thewhitereview.org/interviews/interview-with-will-self/> [last accessed 19th May 2016]


Self, Will, Psychogeography (London: Bloomsbury, 2007)


Self, Will, The Quantity Theory of Insanity (London: Bloomsbury, 2011)


Self, Will, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis (London: Bloomsbury, 2011)


Self, Will, Umbrella (London: Bloomsbury, 2013)


Whitworth, Michael, ‘Introduction’, in Modernism, ed. by Michael Whitworth (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), pp. 3 -61


[1] See, for example, Evans para. 1-5, O’M para. 1, Leith para. 4, Abell para. 1-9, Daniel para. 4-5, and McCrum para. 1.

[2] Evans.

[3] Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), p. 79.

[4] Barry, pp. 80-82.

[5] See, for example, ‘Will Self on influences’, ‘Modernism and Me’, and ‘Interview with Will Self’.

[6] Michael Whitworth, ‘Introduction’, in Modernism, ed. by Michael Whitworth (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), pp. 3 -61 (pp. 10 – 16).

[7] Robert Adams, ‘What Was Modernism?’, The Hudson Review, 31 (1978), 19-33, (p. 19).

[8] Jeri Johnson, ‘Introduction’, in James Joyce, Ulysses (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. xxvii.   

[9] Whitworth, pp. 11-15.

[10] Will Self, Umbrella (London: Bloomsbury, 2013); Will Self, How the Dead Live (London: Penguin, 2009); Will Self, The Quantity Theory of Insanity (London: Bloomsbury, 2011); Will Self, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis (London: Bloomsbury, 2011); Will Self, Psychogeography (London: Bloomsbury, 2007). All subsequent references to Self’s works are from these editions and are given in parentheses after quotations in the text.

[11] M. Hunter Hayes, Understanding Will Self (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2007), p. 18.

[12] Ray Davies, ‘Apeman’, (London: Davray Music LTD, 1970).

[13] Andrew Gaedtke, ‘Neuromodernism’, Modern Fiction Studies, 61 (2015), 271-294 (p. 1).

[14] Johnson, p. xxiv.

[15] Magdalena Maczynska, ‘This Monstrous City’, Contemporary Literature, 51 (2010), 58-86 (p. 69).

[16] Will Self, ‘Streets of Love and Anarchy’, New Statesman, 30th July – 12 August 2012, 26.

[17] Adams, p. 22.

[18] Gaedtke, p. 290.

[19] Johnson, p. xxiv.

[20] Adams, p. 23.

[21] Adams, p. 30.

[22] Evans.

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