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Bloomsbury attitudes to the Great War
Author: Jonathan Atkin

The Great War still haunts us. This book draws together examples of the ‘aesthetic pacifism’ practised during the Great War by such celebrated individuals as Virginia Woolf, Siegfried Sassoon and Bertrand Russell. It also tells the stories of those less well known who shared the attitudes of the Bloomsbury Group when it came to facing the first ‘total war’. The five-year research for this study gathered evidence from all the major archives in Great Britain and abroad in order to paint a complete picture of this unique form of anti-war expression. The narrative begins with the Great War's effect on philosopher-pacifist Bertrand Russell and Cambridge University.

Biographical essays on twentieth-century writers and artists

The book contains eleven essays, with an introduction and index. Six of the essays focus chiefly on four pivotal members of the influential “Bloomsbury Group” – the artists Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell, the art critic Clive Bell, and the writer Virginia Woolf. Significant new light is shed on them, partly through the presentation of previously unpublished pictures, photographs, and texts, partly through the fresh examination of relevant manuscripts and images. At the same time the life and work of Fry’s wife, the artist Helen Coombe, and her feminist friend the suffragette-supporting inspector of prisons Mary Louisa Gordon, who were never “Bloomsberries”, receive close attention. The five non-Bloomsbury essays too are based on primary source-materials, including previously unpublished texts and images. The first presents thirteen letters from the British writer Rose Macaulay to the Irish poet and novelist Katharine Tynan. It is followed by two essays about the prodigious teenage talents and achievements of Dorothy L. Sayers, destined for fame as a detective novelist and religious writer. The penultimate piece is about the exotic origin and eventful life of Richard Williams Reynolds, who taught J. R. R. Tolkien at school; and the last illuminates the artist Tristram Hillier and especially the personally and professionally important first visit he made to Portugal in 1947. The collection combines homogeneity and variety, and this combination contributes to a rich and balanced picture of the cultural scene in the first half of the twentieth century.

Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

2 Bloomsbury What were the anti-war feelings chiefly expressed outside ‘organised’ protest and not under political or religious banners – those attitudes which form the raison d’être for this study? As the Great War becomes more distant in time, certain actions and individuals become greyer and more obscure whilst others seem to become clearer and imbued with a dash of colour amid the sepia. One thinks particularly of the so-called Bloomsbury Group.1 Any overview of ‘alternative’ attitudes to the war must consider the responses of Bloomsbury to the shadows of

in A war of individuals
Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

. As well as the extraordinariness of his character, it was this apparent paradox which lay within Sassoon and, I began to realise, many others, which I wanted to explore when I began the research that forms the basis for this book. My earlier undergraduate research on the attitude of the Bloomsbury Group to the Great War had told me that, far from all opposing the conflict as one, as generally believed, the individuals who constituted this most famous circle of friends reacted in many different ways to the coming of war. Some of the younger ‘members’, such as the

in A war of individuals
Abstract only
Martin Ferguson Smith

Bloomsbury in this book’s title denotes the so-called “Bloomsbury Group” or “Bloomsbury Set”, the influential circle of innovative artists, art critics, writers, and economists, associated especially with the Bloomsbury area of London, who were active in the early decades of the twentieth century. They were linked, in varying degrees of closeness, by familial and other personal relationships and a “modern” attitude to literature, art, socio-political structures, morality, and sexual behaviour. The

in In and out of Bloomsbury
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A cultural practice
Author: Vincent Quinn

Drawing on materials from the medieval period to the twenty-first century, Reading: a cultural practice explores how concepts of reading change according to historical and social context. Combining a history of reading with insights drawn from critical theory, the book argues that reading is always implicated in ideology, and that reading is especially linked to religious and educational structures. Examining a variety of texts and genres, including books of hours, Victorian fiction, the art and literature of the Bloomsbury Group, and contemporary social media sites, the opening chapters give an overview of the history of reading from the classical period onwards. The discussion then focuses on the following key concepts: close reading, the common reader, reading and postmodernism, reading and technology. The book uses these areas to set in motion a larger discussion about the relationship between professional and non-professional forms of reading. Standing up for the reader’s right to read in any way that they like, the book argues that academia’s obsession with textual interpretation bears little relationship to the way that most non-academic readers engage with written language. As well as analysing pivotal moments in the history of reading, the book puts pre-twentieth-century concepts of reading into dialogue with insights derived from post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction. This means that as well as providing a history of reading, the book analyses such major preoccupations in reading theory as reading’s relation to visual culture, how reading is taught in schools, and feminist and queer reading practices.

Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

Bertrand Russell was just one man largely thinking and acting alone – and therein rests his reputation. But to what extent – whether in private or public – did similar anti-war concerns to those of Russell and the Bloomsbury Group express themselves among the intelligentsia? In common with Russell, E. M. Forster believed the Great War to be partly due to misdirected destructive energies; forces that could be channelled during times of peace into creative efforts. In his letter to Siegfried Sassoon, he explained that his other hope for the future, though ‘very faint’, was for a League of Nations. This was a hope that Forster shared with both his frequent correspondent Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and with other intellectuals such as the writer and ruralist Edward Carpenter. The emotional response of Carpenter and Dickinson to the war was matched by that of Henry James. In contrast with James, the dry, precise tone of George Bernard Shaw provided perhaps the most prominent intellectual commentary of his time on the war's ebb and flow.

in A war of individuals
Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

In her Society at War (1931), the social analyst Caroline Playne concluded that the experience of thinkers and artists who had languished under the Great War was just as real as that of the shattered soldiers. The Bloomsbury Group, perhaps typically, reacted to the Great War on an individual basis. Other people also based their objection to the conflict on aesthetic or humanistic grounds, and did so from a wider cross-section of the cultural landscape. Although most of these people were from the educated middle classes, similarly linked anti-war feelings occurred throughout the war and beyond, and emanated from differing contexts; from the equally well known to the obscure, from male to female and from those who fought to those who did not. With the advent of the Great War, conflicts of morality ensued. Those who volunteered for military service in the early months of the war voluntarily laid down individualistic claims for a variety of reasons, not least due to the pull of pre-war collectivist patriotism and a resulting sense of moral duty.

in A war of individuals
Der Blaue Reiter and its legacies
Author: Dorothy Price

This book presents new research on the histories and legacies of the German Expressionist group, Der Blaue Reiter, the founding force behind modernist abstraction. For the first time Der Blaue Reiter is subjected to a variety of novel inter-disciplinary perspectives, ranging from a philosophical enquiry into its language and visual perception, to analyses of its gender dynamics, its reception at different historical junctures throughout the twentieth century, and its legacies for post-colonial aesthetic practices. The volume offers a new perspective on familiar aspects of Expressionism and abstraction, taking seriously the inheritance of modernism for the twenty-first century in ways that will help to recalibrate the field of Expressionist studies for future scholarship. Der Blaue Reiter still matters, the contributors argue, because the legacies of abstraction are still being debated by artists, writers, philosophers and cultural theorists today.

Author: Lucy Bland

This book recounts the little-known history of the mixed-race children born to black American servicemen and white British women during the Second World War. Of the three million American soldiers stationed in Britain from 1942 to 1945, about 8 per cent (240,000) were African-American; the latter’s relationships with British women resulted in the birth of an estimated 2,000 babies. The African-American press named these children ‘brown babies’; the British called them ‘half-castes’. Black GIs, in this segregated army, were forbidden to marry their white girlfriends. Up to half of the mothers of these babies, faced with the stigma of illegitimacy and a mixed-race child, gave their children up for adoption. The outcome for these children tended to be long-term residency in children’s homes, sometimes followed by fostering and occasionally adoption, but adoption societies frequently would not take on ‘coloured’ children, who were thought to be ‘too hard to place’. There has been minimal study of these children and the difficulties they faced, such as racism in a (then) very white Britain, lack of family or a clear identity. Accessibly written and illustrated with numerous photographs, this book presents the stories of over forty of these children. While some of the accounts of early childhood are heart-breaking, there are also many uplifting narratives of finding American fathers and gaining a sense of self and of heritage.