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Raymond Williams (Raymond Henry Williams) Biography

(1921–88), (Raymond Henry Williams), are, The Long Revolution, The Country and the City, Border Country

Welsh critic, scholar, and novelist, born in Pandy, on the Welsh border, the son of a railway signalman, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. From 1974 to 1983 he was Professor of Drama at Cambridge. His continuing concern was culture and society, the title of his highly regarded book published in 1958, where culture was often, though not exclusively, literature, and society was both a determining and to-be-determined force. Williams had an acute sense of cultural crisis, feeling that the renowned split between self and world which is supposed to have happened in the later nineteenth century was a belated symptom rather than a version of the crisis itself. Once we see the individual as naturally opposed to society, Williams thought, we are too late, caught up in the crisis, not facing or resolving it: we are the crisis. In The Long Revolution (1961) and The Country and the City (1973), distinguished studies in literary and social history, and in his novels, especially the trilogy composed of Border Country (1960), Second Generation (1964), and The Fight for Manod (1979), Williams sought to register and recover lost social alternatives, rejected pictures of possibility. Culture (1981), Toward 2000 (1983), and Resources of Hope (edited by Robin Gable, 1989) are also central to his envisionings of a more viable and integrated sociocultural order. Although never doctrinaire, he became increasingly engaged with Marxist theory; Marxism and Literature (1977) and the essays collected in Problems in Materialism and Culture (1980) address a range of questions raised by a theoretically sophisticated materialism and its consequences. His sympathies with Marxism are evident in Orwell (1971), the most notable of his critical studies of a single author. Williams was effectively the founder of the movement which came to be called Cultural Materialism, a British, Marxist-inclined relative of the American New Historicism. His interest in other modern media gave rise to Communications (1962), Television: Technology and Cultural Form (1970), and the essays of Contact: Human Communication and Its History (1981). His widely read Keywords (1976), a concise and thoughtful study of many of the major terms of current intellectual discourse, is a fine instance of a social meditation which has an immediate social use. Among Williams's other critical works are Drama from Ibsen to Eliot (1952), revised as Drama from Ibsen to Brecht in 1968, The English Novel from Dickens to Lawrence (1970), and The Politics of Modernism (1989); his writings as a novelist also include Loyalties (1985) and the two volumes of The People of the Black Mountains, The Beginning (1989) and The Eggs of the Eagle (1990), a treatment of his native landscape and its inhabitants memorable for its imaginative intensity and historical scope. See also Marxist literary criticism and Popular Culture.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography