Lived experience and creative praxis : a critical appraisal of Raymond Williams's fiction

  • Mingying ZHOU

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


Raymond Williams is known to the academic world as the pioneer and co-founder of the discipline of cultural studies, and his works on culture, society, democracy, hegemony, etc., have been widely read and cited. Yet, somewhat disappointingly, the fiction to which Williams devoted much of his life’s endeavor has been largely neglected and dismissed. Whenever Williams is mentioned, the salient labels attached to him are invariably “cultural critic”, “cultural materialist”, “critical theorist” and so on. This dissertation is not only designed to redress the balance with regard to Williams’s novels, read in parallel to his critical work, but also to interpret them from a new perspective. My aim is to shed fresh light on Williams’s fiction as a nuanced reflection on his socio-cultural concerns.

Williams has published seven novels, through which we may discern a rather different and, I argue, more complex Williams from the typical profile of the combative cultural theorist. This thesis intends to analyze the fiction from three dimensions: firstly, the innate and strong Welshness of Williams that is reflected in his depictions of the landscape and the Welsh people; Secondly, the sexuality and gendering in Williams’s fiction, which evidently tilts towards the female soft power, locating the power balance more specifically in the traditionally “weaker” gender; thirdly, tragedy haunts Williams’s protagonists and minor characters, yet, as his theory of modern tragedy reveals, the tragedy of the ordinary person is as tragic and heroic as that of kings and queens. In William’s novels a tragic mood and epic sweep often go hand-in-hand, and it is evident that his theory of modern tragedy informs his own novels as much as it does twentieth century drama.

Focusing as it does on Williams’s fiction, the present thesis offers a new perspective on Williams studies. In the process it engages critically with Williams’s idea on Welshness, sexuality, gendering, and tragedy, in particular, topics that have not been studied interdependently in commentaries on Williams’s work to date. In this respect the study represents an original and productive contribution to the field of Raymond Williams study.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of English
SupervisorMichael Anthony INGHAM (Supervisor) & Ersu DING (Supervisor)

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