Eco-socialism in the early poetry and prose of William Morris

  • Gillian E. Macdonald

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    William Morris was a highly significant political and cultural figure of the nineteenth century. He was a great artist-craftsman and was hugely influential in the rise of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the second half of the nineteenth century, a movement which saw the revival of traditional crafts as a reaction to the utilitarianism of industrial mass production. Already an accomplished artist and writer, Morris became, in the 1880s, a significant figure in the development of the socialist movement. Often described as the first English Marxist, Morris ‘became’ a socialist when he joined the Democratic Federation in 1883. Morris was also deeply concerned about the destruction of the natural world caused by the increasing number of factories and he detested the stark contrast between the poverty of the factory workers and the wealth of the factory owners. He viewed the two, that is, social equality and care of the environment, as inextricably linked. Arguably, his political ideology would be best described today as eco-socialism.
    This thesis will demonstrate that, even as a young man, before he became politically active Morris was already thinking deeply about contemporary social and environmental problems, most of which were caused by what he viewed as the scourges of his era, capitalism and its concomitant industrialisation. This will be achieved by an examination of the cultural, social and literary influences on Morris from his childhood up to 1876. This analysis will focus on some of his literary inspirations that have not been explored to date. The aim of this thesis will be achieved , in addition, by a critical reading of Morris’s early poetry and prose from his contributions to the OCM in 1856 to the publication of Sigurd the Volsung in 1876.

    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJo George (Supervisor)

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