The Tale Of The Folk: Revolution And The Late Prose Romances Of William Morris

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Doctor of Philosophy


William Morris devoted the last years of his life to the spread of socialism, and the late romances as a group represent the fullest expression of Morris's socialist thought. Morris believed Romance to be "the capacity for a true conception of history." Since, at this stage of his life, his conception of history was largely derived from Marx and other socialists, one would expect Morris's romances to reflect a socialist view of the historical process. This process leads inevitably to the revolution, a term which Morris defined as a "change in the basis of society," a change which would establish the future socialist condition of Nowhere.;It is the hero who must bring about the change; Morris's heroes are the result of the combination of the concepts of Carlyle with the concept of the solar myth as developed by nineteenth-century mythographers. The first test of the hero is that he must choose between two women, one of whom would isolate him from mankind and the other of whom would integrate him with mankind. These women are as strongly linked with the fertility of the land as the hero himself, though the first is identified with the profusion of nature, while the second suggests the abundance derived from agriculture. The hero and the heroine are taught the forgotten wisdom of the brotherhood of man by a mentor, the designer of the revolution; the mentor is opposed by a witch who seeks to separate the hero and the heroine from each other and to isolate them from the world. Both mentor and witch use magic to achieve their goals. The hero and heroine learn from the mentor and overcome the witch in the process of bringing the revolution to mankind through the experience of the quest. The ultimate effect of the quest is the re-education of mankind in desire, to change the basis of society from greed and self-interest to the desire for association, fellowship, and the commonweal. All of the late prose romances are, therefore, expressions of Morris's socialist and revolutionary thought.

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