Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: British Communism and the politics of literature, 1928-1939
Author: Bounds, P.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2003
Availability of Full Text:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Please contact the current institution’s library for further details.
This thesis examines the work of the most important literary critics and theorists who were either members of, or closely associated with, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in the period between 1928 and 1939. Its main concern is to provide a systematic and critical account of the communist understanding of the politics of literature. Its wider objective is to assess the ways in which the “Party theorists” were influenced by the CPGB’s relationship with the world communist movement. The basic argument is that the work of the Party theorists had its root in (1) the political strategies imposed on the CPGB throughout this period by the Communist International, and (2) the body of cultural doctrine enunciated by Soviet intellectuals at the famous Writers’ Congress in Moscow in 1934. I argue that the Party theorists responded creatively to these external influences, usually (though not always) by drawing on ideas from the British tradition of cultural criticism to develop Soviet doctrine in distinctive ways. Moreover, in spite of it debt to Soviet theory, much of the British work on literature and culture was noticeably unorthodox - sometimes consciously so, sometimes not. I argue that these ideas are consistent with the main principles of the so-called “revisionist” school of CPGB historiography which has emerged over the last 15 years. Chapter One surveys the period between 1928 and 1933 when the CPGB adhered to the Communist International’s “Class Against Class” strategy. It focuses on (1) the work of the Anglo-Australian critic P.R. Stephensen, (2) the ideas about cultural crisis developed by John Strachey and Montagu Slater, and (3) the communist response to the prevailing fashion for cultural conservatism. Chapter Two provides an overview of the ideas explored at the Soviet Writers’ Congress in 1934. Chapters Three, Four and Five examine the work of Alick West, Ralph Fox and Christopher Caudwell, the three men who are usually regarded as the founders of Marxist literary theory in Britain. Chapter Six, explores the consequences for British cultural Marxism of the Communist International’s “Popular Front” strategy against fascism. Its particular focus is the attempt of British communists to combat the influence of fascism by tracing the history of the “English radical tradition”.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available