Morris's prose romances and the origins of fantasy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter examines the series of prose romances that William Morris wrote in the 1850s, 1880s and 1890s and that were rediscovered in the twentieth century by writers, editors and critics of fantasy. The first section, ‘Romance and Fantasy’, recovers the moment of Morris’s canonisation as the ‘inventor’ of imaginary-world fantasy and briefly considers his influence on J. R. R. Tolkien, before tracing fantasy’s roots back to the eighteenth and nineteenth-century definitions of the romance genre. The second and third sections, ‘The Romances of the 1890s and the Germanic Romances’ and ‘The Political Romances and the Romances of the 1850s’, provide an overview of the key formal and thematic characteristics of Morris’s texts, proceeding in reverse order from his final medievalist fantasies, via his socialist timeslip dream visions to the short-form romances of his student days. These sections highlight the variable significance of communalism at different stages of Morris’s writing career and introduce comparisons with contemporary works by Mark Twain and Edward Bellamy. The final section of the chapter offers a case study of The Story of the Glittering Plain (1890), focusing on the themes of mortality and kinship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to William Morris
EditorsMarcus Waithe
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781108939942
ISBN (Print)9781108832175, 9781108940634
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2024

Publication series

NameCambridge Companions to Literature
PublisherCambridge University Press

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • William Morris
  • fantasy
  • romances
  • Middle Ages
  • socialism


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