McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Modernism, Nationalism, Postcolonial, Warner, West, Woolf
In World War I and the decade following, England faced the unraveling of the Empire and waning global supremacy. A proliferation of nationalist rhetoric marks this period, much of it centered on ideas of England's racial superiority and women's role in maintaining it. The white, middle-class, English woman's body emblematized Mother England and was the also site of intense anxiety about sexuality and national stability and supremacy. Woolf, Warner, and West penned their novels in the face of this rhetoric, recognizing the possibilities this era was affording women socially, politically, and culturally. The Voyage Out (1915), The Return of the Soldier (1918), Lolly Willowes (1926), and Mr. Fortune's Maggot (1927) present narrative strategies that critique early twentieth-century English imperial nationalism and offer new possibilities for women to achieve autonomy. Woolf, West, and Warner focus on domesticity as one of the primary sites of female indoctrination into the nation and expose its normally invisible imperial underpinnings. Each author claims that the gender roles performed in middle-class English homes are both informed by the imperial nation and support it. Additionally, the texts reveal that the categories of race, gender, and class in England during this era emerge through the presence of the imperial Other. Throughout, central to each text is an intense focus on the English pastoral. The site of poignant national nostalgia, the rural English landscape functions in national rhetoric as the symbol of the country's values in ways that mirror the middle-class English woman's symbolic function.
Lauren, J. (2012). Challenging the Nation: English Women's Novels, 1915-1927 (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/803