[Review of] London Writing of the 1930s, Anna Cottrell. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2017 pp 203

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[First paragraph in lieu of an abstract]

This book could have gained a subtitle: ‘photographicfictions’. Rather than trying to cover all of the literary writing concernedwith contemporary London that was produced during the 1930s, Cottrell examinesa single strand: a new sort of literary Naturalism, descended from Zola butaltered by technological innovations such as the cinema and the portable camera.This new Naturalism, suited to the aims of a 1930s documentary fiction, is moresimilar to Surrealism and even to abstract visual art than tonineteenth-century Realism (6–9; 19–21). In it, female characters are presentedas being at once liberated from earlier restraints on where they could live andwho they could associate with, and also negatively associated with whatCottrell calls ‘thoughtless perception’ (4). They – and many of the men theyassociate with in this fiction – are typically presented as frightened, frozen,threatened and isolated in city settings. The key writers are Storm Jameson,Patrick Hamilton, Norah Hoult, Jean Rhys and, slightly less prominently, severalothers including George Orwell. Alongside widely admired writers such as Rhysand Orwell, Cottrell takes seriously a sort of writing often dismissed at thetime: that characterised by ‘skill in rendering subjectivities’ using‘meticulously observed external detail’. Writing of the 1930s, not the‘Thirties’, Cottrell’s project develops from the work of new modernism studiesexpanding the canon of writers considered worth discussing among the multitudewho were active in that decade. Specifically this means a turn away from theidea that if the 1920s was formally experimental, the 1930s was Realist andpolitical, an idea encapsulated in the earlier view of the decades as that ofthe ‘Auden Generation’.

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JulkaisuGeorge Orwell Studies
TilaJulkaistu - 2018
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