Jerusalem Building: Lolly Willowes, Blake and Rural Politics

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Sylvia Townsend Warner’s work is richly allusive, yet the precise purpose of her myriad references and echoes to earlier works of literature often remains opaque. This essay explores one particular intertext in her work from the 1920s: the poetry of William Blake. In her essays, poetry, and in particular Lolly Willowes (1926), Warner, I argue, attempts to liberate Blake from both jingoistic nationalism and from progressive improvement. It is in particular in the intertextual dialogue she opens up with rural preservationist J. W. Robertson Scott that we can see how Warner seeks to free Blake from those who believed that the Jerusalem could be literally built, rather than it being the preserve of an unfettered imagination. As I demonstrate, Laura Willowes has a series of Blakean epiphanies that allow her to become a critic of the materialism of modernity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-441
JournalModernist Cultures
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2020


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