History and Poetics in the Early Writings of William Morris, 1855–1870
Florence S. Boos
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
384 pp. 6x9
$44.95 cloth 978-0-8142-1289-9
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“Florence Boos’s name is virtually synonymous with important discoveries, recoveries, and interpretations of the work of William Morris. Truly, she is without peer when it comes to guiding readers into and through the world of Morris’s poetic and prose romances, socialist lectures, and other writings.” —Margaret D. Stetz, University of Delaware
“Boos makes use of countless archival sources and manuscripts scattered across various libraries in Britain and brings to these sources her deep knowledge of Morris’s oeuvre and of Victorian poetry more broadly. This is an intensely rewarding work of scholarship.” —Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, University of California, Davis
Florence S. Boos’s History and Poetics in the Early Writings of William Morris, 1855–1870 examines Morris’s literary development in the context of his Victorian contemporaries, probing the cross-influences of temperament, cultural ambiance, early reader reactions, and his restless search for an authentic poetic voice. Boos argues that to understand this development, we must understand how Morris reinterpreted and transformed medieval history and legend into modern guise. In doing so, Morris preserved a duality of privacy and detachment—the intimacy of personal lyrics and the detachment (and silences) of historical judgment.
Boos’s study is the first to utilize surviving original manuscripts, periodical publications, and poems unpublished during Morris’s lifetime. History and Poetics in the Early Writings of William Morris, 1855–1870 traces Morris’s literary evolution through his juvenile poems; the essays, poems, and prose romances of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine; the startlingly original verses of The Defence of Guenevere; and the ten years of experimentation that preceded his two best-known epics, The Life and Death of Jason and The Earthly Paradise. This book explores the young poet’s successive efforts to find a balancing ethical framework through poetry—a framework that was at once a motivation for action and a template for authentic, shared popular art, one that reemerges forcefully in his later work.
Florence S. Boos is Professor of English at the University of Iowa.