In the Shadow of the Pulpit

Literature and Nonconformist Wales

Author(s): M. Wynn Thomas

Language: English

Genre(s): Welsh Interest

Series: Writing Wales in English

  • October 2009 · 320pages · 216x138mm

  • ·Paperback - 9780708322253
  • · eBook - epub - 9781783164776
  • · eBook - mobi - 9781783164783
  • · eBook - pdf - 9780708323427

About The Book

Ranging from the nineteenth-century to the present, this book explores several central aspects of the ways in which the English-language poetry and fiction of Wales has responded to what was, for a crucial period of a century or so, the dominant culture of Wales: the culture of Welsh Nonconformity. In the introduction, the author reflects on why no sustained attempt has hitherto been made to investigate one of the formative cultural influences on modern ‘Anglo-Welsh’ literature, the Nonconformist inheritance. The importance of addressing this strange and significant cultural deficit is then explained, and a preliminary attempt made to capture something of the spirit of Welsh Nonconformity. The succeeding chapters address and seek to answer such questions as: What exactly did the Welsh chapels believe and do? Why have the English-language writers of Wales, from Caradoc Evans and Dylan Thomas to R.S. Thomas and the authors of today, been so fascinated by them? How accurate are the impressions we’ve been given of chapel life and chapel people in the English-language poetry and fiction of Wales? The answers offered may alter our views both of the Welsh Nonconformist past and of Welsh writing in English. One of the ideas advanced is that many of Wales’ most important writers went to war with the preachers in their texts, and that their work is therefore the site of cultural struggle. Theirs was a war in words waged to determine who would have the last word on modern Welsh experience.


'This is a crucially important analysis that should blaze a trail for succeeding generations to discover paths not only through the wilderness of their world but also their own selves. As I did as I read. Matters became clear which had been little more than a mist of intuition.' Emyr Humphreys 'Today it requires an exceptional effort of patient scholarship and historical empathy to convey how profoundly the thoughts, words, habits, and deeds of those who lived only a generation or so ago were shaped by religious influences-often never more so than when they sought to rebel against them. In this new history of the Welsh dissenting culture and its impact on major Anglo-Welsh writers, Professor Thomas eloquently and convincingly demonstrates how crucial its influence was. Anyone seriously interested in what the "Protestant imagination" was and for many actually still is will find great value in his insights, whose horizon extends across the Atlantic as well as through the centuries of Welsh history and literature from the Reformation to the mid-twentieth century.' Lawrence Buell, Harvard University


Preacher’s World 1 A bluffer’s guide to Welsh Nonconformity 2 The Nonconformist century 3 Bringing Nonconformity to book Writer’s World 4 War of words: the preacher and the writer 5 Spoiled preachers 6 Wales BC Individual Worlds 7 ‘Marlais’: Dylan Thomas and the ‘tin Bethels’ 8 ‘Fucking and forgiveness’: the case of Glyn Jones 9 ‘Solid in goodly counsel’: the chapels write back

About the Author(s)

M. Wynn Thomas

M. Wynn Thomas is Professor of English and Emyr Humphreys Professor of Welsh Writing in English at Swansea University.

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