Margaret Storm Jameson: A Life

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From her childhood in Whitby to her long old age in Cambridge, the life of Margaret Storm Jameson (1891-1986), novelist, autobiographer, and political activist, spanned almost the whole of the twentieth century. A self-styled Little Englander by nature, and European by nurture, equally at home, or out of place, in the North Yorkshire moors and seascape of her birth, metropolitan London, rural France, and the capitals of Central Europe, she wrote of country, cities and the exile from both with equal knowledge and sympathy. Out of the changing landscapes of her present, she fashioned her vision of the future. The title of her autobiography, Journey from the North, is a simultaneous evocation and erasure of nostalgia for lost commonality, and in her long life as writer and activist, President of wartime PEN (the association of Poets, Essayist, Novelists) committed to the values of freedom and social justice, she fought to reconcile the conflicting forms of emergent modernity. Her own journey is the generic experience of twentieth-century Britain, and the England she urges on her contemporaries is one that shares the life and mind of Europe. The present book traces the history of that shared experience. It recovers, through her writing, the aspirations and the disappointments of the generation of socialists that was Class 1914. The soldiers returning from the front in 1918, to unemployment and the General Strike of 1926, fight in 1940 alongside Frenchmen, and against Germans, who are victims of the same system: class conflict, nationalist rivalries, imperialist ambition, all for Jameson have the same defining economic horizon. At the end of the odyssey the stark alternatives take shape: Washington or Moscow, the madness of American capitalism, or the oppression of Stalinist Communism.

Alongside the narrative of Jameson's life, and the experiences as daughter, wife, and mother that shaped her personality and her career, the book explores her concern with issues of culture and society, cultural memory, and cultural landscapes, her fascination with aesthetic form and the relation of writing to politics, her insight into the materiality of words, and her persistent probing of the nature of the writing subject. It draws on unpublished archive material and brings new research on neglected areas of cultural history into conjunction with literary-critical analyses of Jameson's novels and studies of her journalism and essays. There is an extensive Bibliography of her work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199558209
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/15/2009
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Birkett was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire and educated at the local grammar school and St Hilda's College, Oxford. She was Lecturer at Dundee University from 1971-88, Chair of French Studies at the University of Strathclyde, 1988-90, and since 1990 has held the established Chair of French Studies at Birmingham University. Her research derives from a number of specialist bases in French Studies, but has always been cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary. She was active in the 1970s and 1980s in the AUT (Association of University Teachers), at local and national levels, and was Secretary and President of the Association of University Professors and Heads of French in the early 1990s. From its inception in the mid-1980s, she was committee member, Deputy Convenor, and (until 2002) Convenor of the Standing Committee of Arts and Social Sciences.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction Writing and Politics: Life Lived at the Double 1

Introduction Writing the Landscape: Culture and Identity 5

Introduction Writing Herself: The Woman and the Masks 9

Pt. I The Little Englander

1 A Yorkshire Childhood 17

2 The Student in the North 34

3 London 1912-1918 45

4 London 1919-1924 59

5 London 1924-1928: Publishing, Passion and Politics 76

6 London 1928-Yorkshire 1931: 'Trying to be Superwoman' 96

Pt. II Socialism and Internationalism: the English Road to Europe

7 London 1932-1934: New People, New Politics 111

8 London 1934-1936: Expanding Horizons 126

9 Fiction and Form 139

10 1936-1938: Waking up to War 152

11 1938-1940: Crossing the Rubicon 166

Pt. III Europe At War

12 1940: Vile Betrayals 185

13 1941: Fighting with the French 202

14 1941-1943: Holding On 215

15 Fortifying the Nation: Narrative, Memory, and Culture 234

16 1943-1945: Struggling to the End 249

Pt. IV Going Home

17 1945-1949: Clearing Up 267

18 1949-1953: A European Future 284

19 1953-1959: Understand ing Exile 300

20 1960-1968: Letting Go and Settling Up 317

21 Final Recall 331

Notes 348

Select Bibliography 408

Index 425

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