This article argues that Rebecca West’s sustained scrutiny of imperialism tends to coincide with her theoretical and formalist approaches to fantasy, and from this arises literary innovation significant both to modernist and late modernist contexts. It demonstrates that West’s creative achievement in Harriet Hume (1929), which partially adapts the conventions of other middlebrow and modernist fantasy literature of her day, is usefully read in conjunction with her assessment of interwar geopolitics, and especially her interest in the collective, sociopolitical fantasies that gather around contested national spaces. Furthermore, in Harriet Hume West elaborates a rhetoric of fantasy—stylistically whimsical, and ideologically what might be called a fantasia on national themes—that was elevated to new importance a decade later in her archetypal attack on imperialism, the Balkans travelogue Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941).
Fantasias on National Themes: Fantasy, Space, and Imperialism in Rebecca West
Annabel Williams is a library fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, where she is researching the work of Arthur Koestler for a new project about remote-control culture in the twentieth century. Her research interests include modernism, travel narratives, and war and political writing, on which she has published in Modernist Cultures and Textual Practice. She is currently completing her first monograph, “Off-stage, a War: Cosmopolitanism, Travel, and Late Modernism.”
Annabel Williams; Fantasias on National Themes: Fantasy, Space, and Imperialism in Rebecca West. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 December 2020; 66 (4): 405–430. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-8770673
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