Research

Feral Modernisms

As an interpretive concept, “feral” allows me to explore the fraught ambivalence that often characterizes home and domestic life in modernist texts.  “Feral” describes an uncertainty about home in that it names that which has once been part of the domestic sphere and has subsequently either escaped or been banished; drawing from evolutionary biology, I use it not merely as a synonym for “wild” but rather as an articulation of a ragged and unpredictable relationship with home. Domestication leaves its mark on a species and this is a mark that is not easily undone, as the term “feral” suggests: the domestic can haunt the wild, just as the wild remains in the domesticated animal. I use this doubling to demonstrate the ways in which some modernist texts concern themselves with a relationship to domestication and domestic space that is neither an acquiescence to the confines of the domestic, nor a wild way out of the domestic altogether. Rather, the authors I consider narrate an existence that is both inside the domestic and outside of it, challenging what it means to belong to any particular place. For H.D., this means physically changing space: her novel HERmione concludes with the main character leaving her childhood home after a fever state and wandering in the woods, eventually returning to the house much changed. In Kadya Molodowsky’s poem “Dzshike Street,” a female dog provides a way for the speaker to identify both with the public space of the street and with the interior world of poetry and the home.

The close readings that form the basis of Feral Modernisms show that the “the domestic” is a cipher that holds everything from family to housework, from community to patriarchy, and from conformity to love. In circling these concerns, the texts here refuse or are unable to settle: like the Sus scrofaa feral pig haunting the state in which I live, they eat what they can where they can. Neither polemic nor conservative, they create spaces to engage in questions without formulating answers, surfacing a productive un-decidability that is at the heart of feral modernism.