Review of Pacifism and English Literature: Minstrels of Peace, by R.S. White
Some twenty years ago, Cary Nelson’s pivotal Repression and Recovery: Modern American Poetry and the Politics of Cultural Memory (1989) invited us to re-examine the lost paths of our literature by setting canonical figures and texts into social contexts, and by reintroducing lost or minor figures and texts back into our literary conversation. Since, to paraphrase Nelson, history is a palimpsest between the past and the contemporary, rediscovering lost pasts can be a way to re-envision the future. R.S. White’s Pacifism and English Literature: Minstrels of Peace executes such a Nelsonian turn in its polemical exploration of the history of English literature through a pacifist lens, seeking out moments when the literature mirrors a pacifist vision. White asserts, in his introduction, he will ‘make no claim that there is a coherent and sustained tradition or “school” of pacifist literature’ (1), but the book reads as a genealogy of a pacifist literature if one were possible.
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