Kirsti Bohata, Working the Land: Raymond Williams and Environmentalism
In The Country and the City (1973), Raymond Williams delineated the material and social relations which underpin representations of the rural and industrial-urban, identifying the capitalist transformation of both and while acknowledging a much longer history of man’s interventions in what we erroneously persist in calling the natural world. In the context of the current climate and biodiversity crisis, framing of the rural – and human relationships with the rural – is of critical importance in the fractious disputes over land use and ownership. Debates about rewilding, carbon capture (and offsetting), afforestation and agriculture, require nuanced material and socio-cultural understanding alongside more conventional scientific interventions. While some ecocritics see Williams’s lack of interest in the non-human world as limiting his value to environmentalism, his work in The Country and the City and essays such as ‘Between Country and City’ (1984) and ‘Socialism and Ecology’ (1982), and perhaps even more so his sophisticated fiction, offers a frame for addressing the current impasse. Following Williams’ emphasis on the connections between the local and inter/national and Doreen Massey’s conceptualisation of "landscape and place as events", this paper suggests – via a reading of Border Country (1960) – that Williams’s theoretical and fictional engagement with human work and land/scape as process offers a potential model for approaching current debates about land use.
Phoebe Braithwaite, Our Mongrel Selves: Stuart Hall and the Multiplicity of Raymond Williams
In the 2005 documentary Border Crossing, the theorist Paul Gilroy argued that to view Raymond Williams wholly or primarily in terms of his Welsh origins would be wrong. “I would want to hold out against the facile assimilation of Raymond Williams into a Welsh identity,” Gilroy said, insisting on the complex permeability of the boundary – or border problem – between English and Welsh. Gilroy, among scholars such as Edward Said, Stuart Hall, Cornel West and Gauri Viswanathan, has called attention to the “strategic silences” in Williams’ work on questions of imperialism and race. These scholars take Williams’ emphasis on “whole ways of life” to be inflected with a sense of rootedness that is intrinsically exclusionary. “Whose way? Whose life? One way or several?” Hall asked in the 1992 essay ‘Our Mongrel Selves.’ These critiques attend to significant lacunae in Williams’ oeuvre, while reflecting the gravity of his influence. And yet, as Hall himself argued in the 1983 lecture ‘Culturalism,’ “the shock of moving from a Welsh border town… to the environs of Oxbridge could only have been experienced as a kind of subjective rupture.” This rupture “is not unlike the experience of migration,” Hall went on. In this paper I read Raymond Williams in terms of the third space opened up by that sense of rupture: neither English, nor Welsh, perhaps, but both, and more: a compound substance, “received, made and remade” – a many-sided shape. What traces has the experience of “migration” left on Williams’ thought? How has it influenced the styles and forms he adopted and reworked? Williams’ many authorial selves, in their abiding spirit of self-interrogation – what Cornel West describes as “critical self-inventories” and the critic Lola Seaton “autobiographical pressure” – betray a subterranean but persistent relationship to mixture and rupture that reframes our understanding of his work to emphasise, in the scholar David Scott’s terms, a tragic but ultimately hopeful sense of contingency and openness to change.
Rhian E. Jones, Raymond Williams and the Break-up of Britain
Over the course of his ‘Welsh trilogy’ of novels, the 1968 May Day Manifesto, and the work collected in 2000’s Resources of Hope, Raymond Williams channelled personal doubt and political frustration over the failure to enact socialism in the UK into the possibility of enacting it in Wales. What is the relevance of this to today’s debates on the possible break-up of the UK, the potential for Welsh independence, and the opportunity it offers to bring together the country’s left strands of socialism, environmentalism and social democracy?
Harald Pittel, Feelings without Structure: A Cultural Materialist View of Populism and Affective Politics
The term ‘affective politics’ is sometimes used to dismiss political strategies as being directed merely at affects at the expense of rational analysis. While such uses are meant to criticize certain politics, appeals to the affects – and consequently, forms of propaganda or populism – do not have to be bad at all. The point here is that affects not only play a role for manipulative governments or populist movements, but are a crucial factor for the political in general, which in a post-modern world can no longer be naïvely understood as being grounded in nature or reason. So, if politics are always entangled with affects, when do political affects become problematic? I will suggest that cultural materialism offers a few concepts that we can draw on to differentiate acceptable from harmful kinds of affective politics. More specifically, I am going to encourage a new reading of Raymond Williams’ concept of the structure of feeling and the way it is transformed in his later appropriation of Gramsci’s theory of hegemony.
Julian Preece, Raymond Williams and the Canetti Debate in The New Left Review in 1962
One of Williams’ few reviews of a work of fiction is a brief essay he terms a ‘note’ on the re-issue in 1962 of C.V. Wedgwood’s translation of Elias Canetti’s novel Die Blendung (literally: ‘the blinding’) under the title Auto-da-Fé which Williams had first read on publication in 1946 (NLR 1/15 May-June 1962). He had already alluded to the novel in his first two books, Reading and Criticism (1950) and Drama from Ibsen to Eliot (1952), and now explained his interest fully. Auto-da-Fé was greeted positively by reviewers (in the USA and France as well as Britain), but Canetti, who lived in London while continuing to write German after fleeing Vienna in November 1938, claimed that Williams was his most perceptive critic. Later that same year the NLR published a second, much more critical essay on Canetti by Tom Nairn on the enthusiastic British reception of his second masterpiece, Crowds and Power, which had recently been published for the first time in English. The paper tries to situate Williams and Nairn’s contrasting reactions to Canetti in terms of the positioning of all three figures with respect to Continental modernism and Englishness.
Werner Sollors, From the German New Left to Ethnic Modernism: Werner Sollors, Harvard University in discussion with Daniel G. Williams