Morris and Marxist Theory

Authored by: Owen Holland

The Routledge Companion to William Morris

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9780415347433
eBook ISBN: 9781315229416
Adobe ISBN:


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Morris’s relationship to the Marxist tradition has often proved to be a source of controversy for those who seek to construe him as an ultimately harmless bourgeois gentilhomme – an ‘antiquary, artist, poet, upholsterer, scolder of dons, and sympathetic retailer of old-time stories’ – who did not pose any real political danger to the ruling social order of his day. 1 During the 1870s, Morris was frequently identified with ‘the idle singer of an empty day’ who features in the Prologue to his poem The Earthly Paradise (1868–70). That he also went on to become one of the most eminent Victorians to espouse the necessity of a revolutionary socialist transformation of bourgeois society can still today seem somewhat jarring, particularly if one only knows of Morris through his pattern designs or his youthful Pre-Raphaelitism.

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