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Priestley's EnglandJ. B. Priestley and English Culture$
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John Baxendale

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780719072864

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719072864.001.0001

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Englands and Englishness

Englands and Englishness

(p.76) 3 Englands and Englishness
Priestley's England

John Baxendale

Manchester University Press

This chapter deals with England and its culture. England is tied up with Priestley's identity as a writer, and his estrangement from modernism in the 1920s and 1930s. Modernism saw itself as an international movement, taking up the engagement with the European literature pioneered by the previous generation of realists such as Arnold Bennett. From his early days, Priestley pitched his literary tent on English soil, writing about the Englishness of English literature, and its relation to national character. Like Orwell later on, he suspected the high intelligentsia of loving every country but his own. To highbrows, he commented half-seriously in 1926 ‘a foreign author is infinitely the superior of an English one of about the same standing.’ They believe that their fellow-countrymen are little better than idiots. It is not so much the highbrows' lack of patriotism that he is criticising here as their lack of regard for ordinary English people—a populism that characterizes Priestley's patriotism.

Keywords:   England, Englishness, Priestley's identity, modernism, English literature

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