Fiction of the New statesman, 1913-1939
This thesis is the first systematic study of short stories published in the New Statesman [NS] weekly magazine from its foundation in 1913 to 1939. The main question it seeks to address is what type of fiction did a mainstream socialist publication like the NS publish then? By chronologically charting dominant literary figures and themes, the thesis aims to discern significant cultural tendencies and editorial principles of selection. Following Raymond Williams' 'cultural materialism', fiction is read in its relation to social history, as a 'representation of history'. Chapter 1 deals with the foundation of the journal and its first year of publication, mapping out the contradictions between Fabian collectivist ideology and ethical socialism, urban realism and literary Georgianism, country and city. A focus on urban problems of poverty unemployment, philanthropy, and machinofacture is at the heart of the NS's literary concern, in 1913. Chapter 2 focuses on stories published during World War I, and goes up to 1926. It argues that the reality of the War was falsified as a time of rest and relaxation, in line with the journal's political policy of supporting the war effort. The immediate post-war period is read as a time of disappointment and intensified social conflict and struggle. The General Strike of 1926 is a turning point in interwar history. It also ushers in a period of unprecedented cultural activity in the NS. As Chapters 4 and 5 show, the post-Strike period is characterised by the consolidation of the working-class fiction of socialist R. M. Fox; by the rise of the countryside realism of H. E. Bates; and by the rise of the colonial fiction of E. R. Morrough on Egypt (which is examined in the context of Leslie Mitchell's, E. M. Forster's, and William Plomer's responses to empire). Significant contributions by women writers (such as Faith Compton Mackenzie) about travel, duty, and oppression are also made in the late 20s, early 30s. Chapter 6 is dedicated to the magnificent place that Russian fiction occupies in the 30s through the work of Michael Zoshchenko. Though written during the free and experimental 20s, his satiric fiction is published as a sample of Soviet literature of the 30s, thus consolidating the Stalinist line dictated by the political editor, Kingsley Martin, that 'self-criticism' is a central part of Soviet politics and society. Chapter 7 is a tribute to the NS's contribution to reconstructing British realism away from both Victorian moralism and European naturalism. The stories of Bates, V. S. Pritchett, and Peter Chamberlain are dominant, conveying different ways of negotiating the pressures of documentary realism and the political developments of the 30s. Also discussed is the unique modernist contribution of neglected Stella Benson, which presents a strong challenge to the usual representationalism of NS fiction. The concluding chapter reads NS fiction in the whole period between 1913 and 1939 as the cultural expression of the new petty bourgeoisie, especially its progressive, politically and socially engaged side. With its focus on ordinariness and lived experience, and its formal experimentation and innovation, NS fiction exemplifies artistic commitment par excellence, a conscious cultural alignment with the actuality and potentiality of the new petty bourgeoisie.