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Rural Modernity in BritainA Critical Intervention$
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Kristin Bluemel and Michael McCluskey

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474420952

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474420952.001.0001

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The Spinster in Eden: Reclaiming Civilisation in Interwar British Rural Fiction

The Spinster in Eden: Reclaiming Civilisation in Interwar British Rural Fiction

(p.135) Chapter 8 The Spinster in Eden: Reclaiming Civilisation in Interwar British Rural Fiction
Rural Modernity in Britain

Stella Deen

Edinburgh University Press

A middle-aged spinster presides over the rural and urban landscapes of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes, or The Loving Huntsman (1926), E. H. Young’s Miss Mole (1930), and Winifred Holtby’s South Riding (1936). Each novel surveys a postwar community’s recovery from the war and ties its resiliency to a represented continuity between urban and rural England. In this chapter, Stella Deen finds in the three novels a progression from a libertarian to a communal notion of civilization. While Lolly Willowes’s representation of rural modernity is a manifesto for the right ‘to have a life of one’s own’ (243), Holtby’s protagonist arrives at the insight that ‘we are members of one another’ (490). Major elements of the ‘spinster in Eden’ pattern are repeated in novels such as F. M. Mayor’s The Rector’s Daughter (1924), Lettice Cooper’s National Provincial (1938), and Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts (1941).

Keywords:   Spinster novels, Sylvia Townsend Warner, E. H. Young, Winifred Holtby, World War I, ‘Civilization’, F. M. Mayor, Lettice Cooper, Virginia Woolf

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