Dunlap Award Winner Shyam Patel

The William Morris Society in the U.S. is pleased to award the 2018 Dunlap Fellowship to Shyam Patel, a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of California, Irvine. His dissertation concerns the relationships among moral perfectionism, political utopianism, and aesthetic organicism in the work of British authors and artists (including William Morris) in the second half of the nineteenth century. Here is Shyam’s summary of his project:
In the Morris portion of my dissertation – “Romanticism, Socialism, and Organicism: The Aesthetic of William Morris’ Late-Career Politics” – I locate the ideological unity of Morris’ dedication to artistic production and political activism in the Romantic tradition of organicism, whose simultaneous critique of political economy and advocacy of aesthetic autonomy Morris sought to embody over the course of his multifaceted career.  Focusing on the last decade of Morris’s life, I argue that the complementarity of the Romantics’ organic models for artistic activity and social life helps to demonstrate both the aesthetic dimensions of Morris’ work organizing for the Socialist League (from 1884 to 1890) and the political dimensions of his work managing the Kelmscott Press (from 1891 to 1896).  I claim that Morris’ turn from the former to the latter represents not an apolitical “retreat” into pure aesthetics, but rather an attempt to practically realize on a smaller, private scale the Romantic union of aesthetic and political organicism that his previous cultural criticism and socialist activism sought to secure on the grander scales of public opinion and policy, respectively.
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Kelmscott Press edition of Coleridge

The Joseph R. Dunlap Memorial Fellowship will allow me to visit special collections at The University of Maryland and The University of Texas at Austin that contain manuscripts, letters, and ephemera from Morris’ work with the Kelmscott Press and the Socialist League.  The research at these collections will help me to develop this project in two directions.  On the one hand, it will allow me to complete a standalone article that reads Morris alongside the Romantic tradition of organicism, in order to challenge the ambiguities, equivocations, and binary oppositions that have become calcified in the scholarship concerning Morris’s relationships to Romanticism and socialism.  On the other hand, this research will be integrated into a dissertation that considers the function of organicist metaphors in Victorian aesthetics, sociology, and political economy more broadly, placing Morris in meaningful relation to Romantic and Victorian figures with whom he is not ordinarily associated, including Coleridge, De Quincey, Spencer, Mill, Dickens, and Hardy.
Hammersmith branch, Socialist League. Morris stands fifth from right on second row.

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