Critical Essays on Sylvia Townsend Warner, English Novelist 1893-1978

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This is the first collection of essays devoted to the work of this much under-rated and important twentieth-century writer. The essays engage with some of the variety of Warner’s output – for example, her short fiction, letters and fantasy writing – as well as her major novels. This collection includes a range of approaches to the work of a writer who has much to say to contemporary readers and whose work, long appreciated by feminist readers in particular, is now being reconsidered by academic critics and a wider audience. The volume acknowledges the important connections between Warner’s writing and her life and political beliefs, and investigates Warner’s transformation of genre and convention throughout her fiction.


“Why, then, is such a remarkable writer [as Sylvia Townsend Warner] still neglected? It is often suggested that the answer lies partly in the difficulties of categorization: Townsend Warner is protean and unorthodox ... This collection is a welcome tribute to a distinguished writer of insouciant, penetrating intelligence whose importance to the recovery of English radical traditions in writing – lesbian, feminist, socialist, visionary and utopian – is demonstrated by the work of the contributors. As Marx wrote in his Treatise on Feurbach (xi), the ‘philosophers have interpreted the world. The point, however,’ as writings of Townsend Warner show us, ‘is to change it.’ – (from the Preface) Professor Maroula Joannou, Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge

“ ... The current collection of essays is a major contribution to the study of Warner and a serious intervention which is intended to put discussion of her work back on the critical map ... Each essay is handled expertly and produces great interest, the collection itself representing the latest scholarship and acting as a one-stop guide to the writer. As her work is now coming back into fashion and as her novels start to be reprinted in the future, this collection will stand as a testament to her work as well as a major book in the field, interesting to both British and international readers (especially of Warner’s fantasy work).” – Professor Clive Bloom, Middlesex University

“ ... More than would be possible in a single-authored study, these essays demonstrate Townsend Warner’s range, with theoretically-informed discussions not only of her six novels, but also of her poetry, short stories, letters, political tracts and her biography of T.H. White. The essays investigate the tradition that Townsend Warner develops or subverts – most notably pastoral and historical fiction – and the richness of her (sometimes obscure and distant) sources. This is the fullest, most scholarly and most rounded volume on Townsend Warner that has appeared to date.” – Professor Jenny Newman, John Moores University, Liverpool

Table of Contents

Introduction: Gill Davies: The Corners That Held Her: The Importance of Place in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Writing
1. Margaretta Jolly – A Word is a Bridge: Death and Epistolary Form in the Correspondence of Sylvia Townsend Warner and David Garnett
2. Frances Bingham – The Practice of the Presence of Valentine: Ackland in Warner’s Work
3. John Simons – On the Compositional Genetics of the Kingdom of Elfin together with a Note on Tortoises
4. Mary Jacobs – Sylvia Townsend Warner and the Politics of the English Pastoral 1925-1934
5. Emily M. Hinnov – A Counter-Reading to Conquest: “Primitivism” and Utopian Longing in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Mr. Fortune’s Maggot
6. Rosemary Sykes – “This was a Lesson in History”: Sylvia Townsend Warner, George Townsend Warner and the Matter of History
7. Chris Hopkins – Sylvia Townsend Warner and the Historical Novel 1936-1948
8. David Malcolm - The Flint Anchor and the Conventions of Historical Fiction
Notes on Contributors

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