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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Writing Wales in English: The Fiction of Emyr Humphreys - Contemporary Critical Perspectives
Linden Peach
ISBN: 9780708322161 (0708322166)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Mehefin 2011
Cyhoeddwr: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press, Caerdydd
Fformat: Clawr Meddal, 216x138 mm, 254 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Ar gael Ein Pris: £18.99 
Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer i'r teitl hwn.
 
Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Astudiaeth arloesol o waith Emyr Humphreys, un o brif lenorion Cymru, yn pwysleisio maint ei gyfraniad i lenyddiaeth Cymru yn yr iaith Saesneg, ynghyd ag arwyddocâd ei lenyddiaeth wrth gynnig llwyfan i bynciau trafod cyfoes megis hunaniaeth, cenedl, ffeministiaeth, amgylchedd a gwrthdaro crefyddol.

An introduction to the work of Emyr Humphreys, one of Wales's leading writers, highlighting his impressive contribution to Welsh writing in the English language, and to contemporary critical and cultural agendas such as issues of identity, nation, feminism, environment and religious conflict.
Linden Peach’s critical biography of Emyr Humphreys provides us with new critical contexts by which we can more fully appreciate the characters and narratives composed by this ‘Nobel-winning class’ novelist.

It is perhaps harder in this liberalised new century to acknowledge the political backdrops that Humphreys’ early works would have been written against. Largely this concerns the sensitive issue of Welsh nationalism. Humphreys’ work spans half of one of the most turbulent centuries in Welsh modern history, and the reader is invited to scan for the imprint of this massive social change within the texts. Learning about Humphreys’ acquisition of the Welsh language is key to gaining a more rewarding read of his more famous works. For example, Peach points out that The Little Kingdom and A Toy Epic both share ‘an uncertainty about the recovery of the Welsh Language’ which is perhaps natural given the conflicts that had arisen from Humphreys' separation from his mamiaith. Humphreys grew up experiencing the division between the church and his native language. The church-run schools disallowed and actively punished the use of the language resulting, unsurprisingly, in split communities and, on a more personal level, a discord between culture and spirituality. Humphreys was acutely perceptive of the erosion of his dislocated culture. The proximity of his native north-east Wales to England via the Wirral meant that there was a more pronounced anglicisation than in other areas. In response to the customs of his nation’s ostensible dilution, Humphreys centralised Wales within his work and often portrayed it as ‘its own entity’ as opposed to the poor relation principality of England.

He resisted idealising his homeland, however, and produced a neat line in what Peach terms ‘dilemma fiction’, exploring the tensions arising from a rapidly changing political and technological landscape. I was particularly interested in Peach’s gendered readings of Humphreys’ work. Chapter 5 examines the relationship between feminism and the novels. Peach claims that the second wave of feminism in the 1960s imprinted heavily on Outside The House of Baal, and that in more recent works (such as The Shop) we can see that gender is portrayed by the writer as being performative rather than naturally inherent – which poses some interesting questions! Again, this argument is anchored in Welsh history and Peach sketches out the less-than-rapid adoption of feminist principles within Wales after the 1960s.

As an addendum, it should be pointed out that this book bases its readings on theoretical frameworks. It is an accessible read, but best suited to those who have some background or understanding of literary theory. It is fitting that the book should have been written this way. Humphreys himself planned his fiction from theoretical perspectives. We are shown, for example, that Humphreys’ initial plan for Outside the House of Baal was explicitly drawn along the lines of Freudian and Marxist structures. This angle is also the selling point of this book. This socio-cultural ‘sieving’ of Humphreys’ oeuvre will compel you to re-read A Toy Epic and Outside the House of Baal again. Simply so that you can spot the cues and prompts that Peach so beautifully selects and expands upon.

Jemma King


It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Tabl Cynnwys:
Part One: Frames and Contexts
1. Humphrey’s Life and Works
2. What Kind of Fiction?
3. History, Space and Progress
4. Bodies in Time: Psychoanalytic Contours
5. Women, Feminism and Post-feminism
Part Two: Readings
6. Resistance, Gender and Performative Identity: A Man’s Estate
7. Contested Masculinities: A Toy Epic
8. Time and Being: Outside the House of Baal
9. Land of the Living and Epic Theatre
10. Warring Families: Unconditional Surrender and The Gift of a Daughter
11. Strangers in a Strange Land: Natives, Ghosts and Strangers and Old People are a Problem
12. Intimate Strangers: The Shop
13. Independence, Globalism and Nonconformity: The Woman at the Window
14. Afterword
Bywgraffiad Awdur:
Professor Linden Peach is currently Head of Department of English and History, Edge Hill University. He has written numerous well received books and essays; chapters in books on twentieth and twenty-first-century literature, and is known for his previous work on Welsh writing in English. He has also written on Virginia Woolf, Angela Carter, Contemporary Irish fiction and Toni Morrison.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
This pioneering book explores Emyr Humphreys’s fiction from a range of contemporary critical perspectives and stresses its relevance to the 21st century. Through stimulating readings which highlight subjects such as gender identity, contested masculinities, problematic father and daughter relationships, war, pacifism, strangeness and ‘otherness’, and cultural discourse in complex linguistic environments, Linden Peach argues that Humphreys’s work is best understood as ‘dramatic’, ‘dissident’ and/or ‘dilemma’ fiction. Generally rooted in north Wales, it is seen as providing fresh insights into modern Welsh history, Nonconformity and globalisation. The book will appeal to readers wishing to explore and understand the work of one of the most prolific and significant modern Welsh writers.

This will be the first in-depth study of Humphreys – described by R. S. Thomas as 'the supreme interpreter of Welsh life in English'. In it, Peach will discuss the principal thematic concerns of his writing and link his work to contemporary critical agendas. It will offer readers the first discussion of Land of the Living and subsequent works such as Old People are a Problem. It will constitute a positive re-appraisal of Humphreys’s work, highlighting issues that, as it happens, now drive contemporary critical agendas such as nation, nationhood and identity, religion and conflict, spirituality and socio-economic change, gender issues, the body, and the environment. It will highlight for the first time the strong psychoanalytic dimension of his work.
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