1st Edition

Edward Upward and Left-Wing Literary Culture in Britain

Edited By Benjamin Kohlmann Copyright 2013

    Offering the first book-length consideration of Edward Upward (1903-2009), one of the major British left-wing writers, this collection positions his life and works in the changing artistic, social and political contexts of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Upward’s fiction and non-fiction, from the 1920s onwards, illustrate the thematic and formal richness of left-wing writing during the twentieth-century age of extremes. At the same time, Upward’s work shows the inherent tensions of a life committed at once to writing and to politics. The full range of Upward’s work and a wealth of unpublished materials are examined, including his early fantastic stories of the 1920s, his Marxist fiction of the 1930s, the extraordinary semi-autobiographical trilogy The Spiral Ascent and his formally and thematically innovative later stories. The essays collected here reevaluate Upward’s central place in twentieth-century British literary culture and assess his legacy for the twenty-first century.


    Writing of the struggle: an introduction to Edward Upward’s life and works, Benjamin Kohlmann

    Playing up: Edward Upward in Cambridge and beyond, Charlotte Charteris

    In the 30s: Upward, literature and politics, Ben Clarke

    Modalities of 30s writing and writers: the case of Edward Upward

    Valentine Cunningham; ’Only degradation and slavery?’: the figure of the teacher in the writing of Edward Upward, Simon Grimble

    Radical eccentricity and postwar ordinariness, Nick Hubble

    ’History will not always be living here’: Edward Upward’s comic historiographies, Steven Matthews

    The post-war Kunstlerroman: Edward Upward and Henry Williamson taking themselves seriously, Mark Rawlinson

     Upward’s later stories, modernist intimacy and the Marxist unmentionable, Stuart Christie

    Edward Upward and the critique of everyday late life, Helen Small

    ’Walkers, not marchers’: the scope of walking in Upward’s late fiction, Rod Mengham

    Edward Upward’s remains, Joseph Elkanah Rosenberg




    Benjamin Kohlmann is Assistant Professor of English at Freiburg University, Germany, having previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University. His most recent articles have been published in ELH, PMLA, and Modernism/Modernity.

     A Baker & Taylor Literary Essentials Title

    'Though often pigeonholed because of his political life, Edward Upward is perhaps the most neglected British writer of the last century. The Spiral Ascent is certainly a neglected masterpiece, both for its arresting formal and stylistic features and as an historical fiction of singular importance. Equally remarkable are his short stories, and to my mind the very late stories in particular, like The Scenic Railway. This superb collection studying the man and his work is long overdue.’

    -- Jerome McGann, The University of Virginia, USA

    'This is an important, insightful and intriguing collection of essays on Edward Upward, the highly influential and comparatively unknown member of the Auden circle and Christopher Isherwood's closest literary friend. In wide-ranging discussions we are provided with a rich sense of his accomplishments. Upward played a central role in shaping the defining character of English literature of the 1930s and its concern with both art and politics.’ 

    --Peter Stansky, Stanford University, USA 

    'This essential collection of essays offers a compelling introduction to a leading left-wing figure of the 1930s who is now largely forgotten. … Kohlmann provides a brisk and satisfying summary of Upward’s long life - and the twelve essays cover the author’s Cambridge years, his Communist affiliation, his three decades as a schoolmaster and his early and lifelong commitment to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.'

    -- David Collard, Times Literary Supplement

    'Why should Upward matter to literary history more generally? An answer can come in how this volume proves two substantial points: firstly that there are numerous lines of intriguing scholarship waiting to be advanced about art and political commitment which radiate from what might be termed ‘the long 1930s’; but also, ultimately, that the significance of Upward cannot just rest on the 1920s and 1930s writing alone. Part of the strength of Edward Upward and Left-Wing Literary Culture in Britain is that it properly answers the question why critics care about the very differing things he wrote; and then how these novels, short stories and tracts then shed light on the wider culture.'

    -- Leo Mellor, University of Cambridge, UK