Landscape, Writing and ‘The Condition of England’ - 1878-1917. From Ruskin to Modernism

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This book contributes to a number of areas of current scholarship: the literary and cultural history of English national identity, both the origins of literary modernism and the countervailing resistance to modernism, the sources of modern environmental thought, the history of social criticism, and the literary history of London.


“….what above all distinguishes this thoughtful and engaging study is that Grimble never presses a reductively historical reading of the ‘content’ of this heterogeneous body of work but is always resourcefully responsive to it as writing, as a series of tonally and formally unsteady performances which require to be handled with considerable tact if we, from where we stand, are not to miss their quiddity altogether. This is a book that should jolt both literary scholars and historians out of what they thought they knew on this subject and which, along the way, quietly and gracefully furnishes us with a new and intriguing vantage-point from which to view the transition from ‘Victorianism’ to ‘Modernism’. – Stefan Collini FBA, Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature, University of Cambridge

“[This work] is extremely accomplished and original. Its method – of historically informed close reading – characterizes much of the best recent work in nineteenth-century and modernist studies. Grimble’s work is on a par with the best…..These insights contribute to major changes in long-established points of view. Grimble is the more persuasive because he presents them with cool, unflashy authority.” – Dr. Ralph Pite, Senior Lecturer, School of English, University of Liverpool

“Grimble’s concern is with the rich things that happen when two meanings of “the country” are purposively confused. Can the state of the nation be read in its landscape? Can the nature of England be deduced from what we see in its fields and woods and skies? ….Such questions fired the imagination of the quartet on whom Grimble intelligently dwells, the massive figure of John Ruskin and three successors who in various ways took up his legacy, Richard Jeffries, Edward Thomas and Ford Madox Ford…..He is particularly alive to the cross-currents in the very texture of the writings he studies, the density of their conflicting motives. This gives the reader a new sense of history-in-the-making during these critical decades when some perennial myths, superstitions, ideas and fictions about landscape, nature and ‘the country’ take on a peculiarly modern – and English – form. The result is enlightening and thoroughly readable.” – Dr. Adrian Poole, Fellow in English, Trinity College, Cambridge and Reader in English Literature, Cambridge University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface, Introduction
1. Landscape and ‘the condition of England’
2. John Ruskin: the ‘mere spectator’ and ‘the condition of England’
3. Neither critic nor artist: Richard Jeffries and the landscapes of the rural reporter
4. Edward Thomas: Growing Up in South London
5. Ford Madox Ford – Somewhere to stand: from ‘the condition of England’ to Modernism

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