“There Was a World of Things… and a World of Words”: Narration of Self through Object in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Scenes of Childhood

Kristianne KalataWestminster College
Vol. 24, No. 2 (Fall 2005), 319-339.

This essay argues that Sylvia Townsend Warner’s stories effectively challenge boundaries of fact and fiction, personal and political, popular and literary. By explicating the generic mix of these stories as a type of experimental serialized autobiography, the essay positions Warner’s work firmly within a feminist modernist lineage. The article applies Gertrude Stein’s theories on the grammatical relations of word and thing to the thematic contents of Warner’s vignettes and demonstrates how these methods operate to produce political commentaries specifically on nationalism and broadly on traditionalism. Warner’s writing in these stories should not be set aside (as they have been) as only popular, for they manipulate the popular in order to access the literary and the political in a way that metamorphosizes the process and the product of self-writing into a modernist experiment that comments on issues of language, gender, and politics.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]