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Thinking Through the 'Present Mad Muddle': The Author as Arbiter of Reconstruction in Inter-War Britain, 1919 - 1945

TROGDON, RONALD,LEE (2018) Thinking Through the 'Present Mad Muddle': The Author as Arbiter of Reconstruction in Inter-War Britain, 1919 - 1945. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (PhD Thesis Ronald Trogdon) - Accepted Version


This thesis argues that British authors of the 1920s and 1930s used the novel form as a means by which to think through ideas of post-war reconstruction. The corpus of novels covered in this thesis--Ford Madox Ford's 'No Enemy' (1929), Aldous Huxley's 'Antic Hay' (1923), Winifred Holtby's 'South Riding' (1936), and George Orwell's 'Coming Up for Air' (1939)--were written by authors who were also (or were primarily) editors, activists, essayists, or journalists. Through an historical approach that takes into account the para-texts that exists parallel to each 'main' work, a specific lineage of thought is considered through the lives of authors and thinkers who were 'historical witnesses' (observers and recorders) of their times. In other words, the thesis is less concerned with these works's place in the modernist literary movement or how each individual work may fit into an authors career (i.e., how 'Antic Hay' may be an example of intellectual development leading to 'Brave New World') than with the historical engagement, exchange, and debate in the post-war years that lead to the production of a number of works which sought to exorcise the horrors of war and imagine the future.
Each of the novels considers reconstruction in some fashion: 'No Enemy' works as a means by which to reconstruct Ford's memory of the war and redevelop his ability to write (i.e., a pursuit of resolution through art); 'Antic Hay' looks at contemporaneous urban planning, suggests a connection between the Great Fire of London and the end of WWI, and propagates a mindfulness towards building and dwelling; likewise, 'South Riding' considers social planning in the fictional north-east of England, attempting in the vein of 'Middlemarch' to show the complex tapestry of life of an entire community in the midst of change; finally, 'Coming Up for Air', explores the pessimism with which the inter-war years were wrought, not only because of another, impending world war but the nostalgic realisation that a pre-war order was forever lost.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Reconstruction, Novel, Author, Arbiter, World War One, The Great War, Historical Writing, Ford Madox Ford, Aldous Huxley, Winifred Holtby, George Orwell
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Sep 2018 11:26

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