Nationality of a World State: (Re)constructions of England in utopian fiction
Embargo end date31/10/2017
This thesis examines the utopian writings of Robert Hugh Benson, H. G. Wells and Aldous Huxley in the context of contemporary and modern nationally conscious discourses. Focusing on the period of 1910-1939, the present study explores the terms and strategies whereby utopian visions of a World State, premised on religion or universal governance, engage with, and contribute to, constructions of England as a specific topography, with a political culture, social hierarchies, religious sensibilities, and literary tradition. Informed by literary history, utopian theory, studies of national character and nationalism, the thesis argues that the writings of Benson, Wells and Huxley communicate an ascertainable reciprocity between these authors’ utopian imagination and national susceptibilities. The thesis investigates the ways in which the studied fictions endorse visions of a World State, offering a mediated response not only to the contemporary condition of England, but also to England’s topographic, political, and socio-cultural continuity. Of particular interest is a re-invocation of Southern England as either a fictional setting or a liminal environment for the emergence of a World State. The study also investigates the narrative anxieties about the retreat of Liberalism from the national political scene, being superseded by the restrictive regimes of a World State; and a fictional renewal of social hierarchies as nationally conscious models for efficient government. The thesis further accounts for the authorial engagements with continuity, examining Benson’s investment in dynastic rule, Wells’s hostility to revolution, and Huxley’s redefinition of the ‘English poetic mind’ to oppose the dissolution of national literary traditions in a global future. In exploring the extent to which alternative versions of England (Catholic, Cosmopolitan, Alien) dominate the visions of world unity, this thesis contends that the nationality of a World State manifests itself not in the universal ends that such visions seek to achieve, but in the nationally conscious means they press into service.