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From fires to ghosts, and from flowers to surrealist apparitions, the bombsites of London were both unsettling and inspiring terrains. Yet throughout the years prior to the Second World War, British culture was already filled with ruins and fragments. They appeared as content, with visions of tottering towers and scraps of paper; and also as form, in the shapes of broken poetics. But from the outbreak of the Second World War what had been an aesthetic mode began to resemble a proleptic template. During that conflict many modernist writers – such as Graham Greene, Louis MacNeice, David Jones, J. F. Hendry, Elizabeth Bowen, T. S. Eliot and Rose Macaulay – engaged with devastated cityscapes and the altered lives of a nation at war. To understand the potency of the bombsites, both in the Second World War and after, Reading the Ruins brings together poetry, novels and short stories, as well as film and visual art.Read more
- Proposes an innovative view of the Second World War and British culture
- Links together post and pre-war texts with those written during the conflict
- Demonstrates the complexity of artistic responses to war-ruins within cities and places them within a longer history of interest in 'the ruin'
Reviews & endorsements
"...a rich and widely ranging book, Mellor considers how ruins feature as both a trope and also a fact of life in writing from before and during the conflict....Mellor manages to defamiliarize texts that have become mainstays of studies of Second World War writing, and makes inventive and productive connections between seemingly disparate voices. Essential for scholars interested in Second World War literature and culture, this book is also an important contribution to the understanding of developments in modernism in mid-twentieth-century Britain, and deserves a wide readership."
-VICTORIA STEWART, University of Leicester, The Review of English StudiesSee more reviews
"...It rewards careful reading from start to finish, for both the wealth of understudied material it introduces and the close readings that go with it. Properly digested, its contents will serve an important purpose indeed, refuting for once and for all any suggestion that modernism weakened and died around 1940."
--Journal of British Studies
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- Date Published: October 2011
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107009295
- length: 256 pages
- dimensions: 235 x 160 x 16 mm
- weight: 0.54kg
- contains: 9 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Imagining destruction
2. A metropolis aflame
3. Surrealism and the bombsites
4. The haunted city
5. The new London jungle
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