Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation explores the dialectical relations between narrative and perception in Morris's 1856 tales, his overtly political fictions, and his late fantastic romances (The Glittering Plain, The Wood Beyond the World, and The Water of the Wondrous Isles). The tales in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine (1856) initiate Morris's attempts to alienate the reader from conventional modes of perception: narrative positions which elude traditional boundaries between life and death, past and present, and subjective and objective reformulate preconceived ideas about linguistic representations of time and space. In the political romances, (The Pilgrims of Hope, A Dream of John Ball, News from Nowhere), Morris modulates the layered consciousnesses, enigmatic frames, and "carnivalesque" inversions of the early tales into assessments of our conditioned responses to historical epochs, to language, and to the utopian genre itself. The fluctuating narrative perspectives of these Socialist fictions reshape the indeterminacies of the early tales into subversive devices that reveal the extent of our perceptual confinement within the ideology of an established political and social order. Thus, Socialism substantiates rather than discredits Morris's initial aesthetics. In the late fantasies, Morris "revises" the ambiguity inherent in romance (the focus of the 1856 tales), in order to develop that genre's compatibility with the dialectical implications of Marxist political thought, of Ruskin's principles of design, and of the Pre-Raphaelite's symbolic detail. The suggestion of the presence of visual genres complements the spatial and typographic designs of the Kelmscott editions of the late romances. This study finds that as inducements to perceptual change, Morris's romances obliquely guide the reader toward a clarified understanding of reality.



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