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William Morris: The Modern Self, Art, and Politics

Abstract

A concern to pin ideological labels on Morris has obscured the continuing importance of romanticism and Protestantism for his socialist politics. Romanticism led him to seek self-realisation in an art based on naturalness and harmony, and Protestantism led him to do so in the everyday worlds of work and domestic life. From Ruskin, he took a sociology linking the quality of art to the extent of such self-realisation in daily life. Even after he turned to Marxism, he still defined his socialist vision in terms of good art produced and enjoyed within daily life. Moreover, his over-riding concern to promote a new spirit of art, not his dislike of Hyndman, led him to a purist politics, that is, to look with suspicion on almost all forms of political action.

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