Hope Mirrlees and Virginia Woolf in the ‘footprints of Sir Walter Scott’ | Mid-Century Romance: Modernism, Socialist Culture, and the Historical Novel (2024)

Mid-Century Romance: Modernism, Socialist Culture, and the Historical Novel

John T Connor

Published:

2024

Online ISBN:

9780191953057

Print ISBN:

9780192859754

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Mid-Century Romance: Modernism, Socialist Culture, and the Historical Novel

John T Connor

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John T Connor

John T Connor

Lecturer in Literature and Politics

King’s College London

, Lecturer in Literature and Politics,

UK

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Pages

35–72

  • Published:

    July 2024

Cite

Connor, John T, 'Hope Mirrlees and Virginia Woolf in the ‘footprints of Sir Walter Scott’', Mid-Century Romance: Modernism, Socialist Culture, and the Historical Novel (Oxford, 2024; online edn, Oxford Academic, 1 July 2024), https://doi.org/10.1093/9780191953057.003.0002, accessed 10 July 2024.

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Abstract

This chapter pairs Virginia Woolf and Hope Mirrlees to centre the historical novel in an account of British modernism’s national turn. It tells this story across three fictions: Mirrlees’ historical novel Madeleine (1919) and historical fantasy Lud-in-the-Mist (1926), and Woolf’s mock-biography Orlando (1928). Madeleine and Orlando it reads as critical archaeologies of the alienated modern subject, allegories of the bourgeois cultural revolution and its lasting social cost. But in Lud, Orlando, and Woolf’s late-career essays and fiction, national culture affords a remedy. Both writers call on popular antiquities, vernacular speechways, demotic and primitive literature to re-enchant their figure of England and project a vision of recovered religious identity (for Mirrlees) and palatable democracy (for Woolf). In doing so, both writers acknowledge a debt to Sir Walter Scott and to the eighteenth-century romance revival. This chapter argues for the role of romantic-era forms and discourses of the nation in mediating the shift from ‘high’ to ‘late’ modernism.

Keywords: Virginia Woolf, Hope Mirrlees, Orlando, Madeleine, Lud-in-the-Mist, David Hume, Sir Walter Scott, romance revival, late modernism, historical novel Literary Studies, twentieth-century literature

Subject

Literary Studies - World Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) Cold War

Collection: Oxford Scholarship Online

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