Aesthetics, Anti-politics, and Literature in Britain, 1817-1918
Mark A. Allison
“Socialism” names a form of collective life that has never been fully realized; consequently, it is best understood as a goal to be imagined. So this study argues, and thereby uncovers an aesthetic impulse that animates some of the most consequential socialist writing, thought, and practice of the long nineteenth century. Imagining Socialism explores this tradition of radical activism, investigating the diverse ways that British socialists—from Robert Owen to the mid-century Christian Socialists to William Morris—marshalled the resources of the aesthetic in their efforts to surmount “politics” and develop non-governmental forms of collective life. Their ambitious attempts at social regeneration led some socialists to explore the liberatory possibilities afforded by cooperative labor, women's emancipation, political violence, and the power of the arts themselves.
Imagining Socialism demonstrates that, far from being confined to the "socialist revival" of the fin de siècle, important socialist experiments with the emancipatory potential of the aesthetic in Britain may be found throughout the period it calls the "socialist century"—and may still inspire us today.
Mark A. Allison is Associate Professor and Chair of English at Ohio Wesleyan University, where he is also Co-director of the University Honors Program. His work has appeared in English Literary History (ELH), Nineteenth-Century Literature, and Utopian Studies, among other venues.
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