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Dreamers and Radicals

  • Code Apogée


  • Composante(s)

    UFR Langues et Civilisations

  • Période de l'année

    Semestre 1


The subject of this seminar is the history of British radicalism, with a focus on two moments: the late 19th century around the work of William Morris, and the post-war years, up to the 1980s.

It will explore the intellectual, artistic and material production both of Morris and his circle and of alternative cultures in the post-war period.


1st 6 weeks: Béatrice Laurent

Steeped in the romantic poetic tradition as well as in Pre-Raphaelite art, William Morris’s program of artistic transformation of Victorian Britain was paradoxically a product of the age whose ‘civilization’ he was so adamant to condemn. Morris’s rejection of middle-class mass culture motivated his efforts to restore ancient crafts; to revive medieval ways of life such as the Victorians invented them; and finally to strive to make his dream of a better world come true through political activism.

News from Nowhere (1890), “a Utopian romance” as well as a book supporting anarchist ideology, details the radical reconstruction of society. It will serve as a base for the exploration of late-Victorian aesthetics and politics, and will help students appreciate the contemporary scope and significance of William Morris’s revolutionary cultural legacy.


2nd 6 weeks: Mathilde Bertrand

The second half of the seminar will examine the evolutions of radicalism in post-war Britain through the development of alternative cultures and “new social movements”, while exploring intellectual debates within the British left. Developing in arenas outside of parliamentary politics, post-war radicalism sought to combine theory and practice with a view to redefining political action. The seminar will pay close attention to artistic expression and cultural practices within radical cultures. The themes covered will include the intellectual debates of the New Left in the late 1950s and early 1960s; the cultural politics of the underground in the 1960s; the challenges of feminism; the emergence of participatory forms of political action around “community politics” and “community arts” practices; the influence of Black and Asian political and cultural organisations on a post-colonial critique of Britain’s imperial legacies; the cultural and class politics of Punk and the question of its position in the British history of radicalism.

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Contrôle des connaissances

  • Une note d’oral (50%) – exposé présenté en séminaire
  • Une note d’écrit (50%) – compte-rendu de lecture ou dossier de recherche

Étudiants dispensés : compte-rendu de lecture ou dossier de recherche.

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Informations complémentaires

Ouvert aux étudiant·es en mobilité sous réserve du nombre de places disponibles. 

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1st 6 weeks: Béatrice Laurent

  • Goodway, David. Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward, 2nd edn. PM Press, 2011.
  • Laurent, Béatrice (ed.) Lectures d’une oeuvre: William Morris, ‘News from Nowhere’, ed. Du Temps, 2004.
  • MacCarthy, Fiona, Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960, Yale UP, 2014.
  • Morris, William. News from Nowhere [1890]. Edited with introduction by Clive Wilmer. London: Penguin, 1998 (or another edition).


2nd 6 weeks: Mathilde Bertrand

  • Cork, Richard. Everything Seemed Possible: Art in the 1970s. London and New York: Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Dines, M. and Worley, Matthews (eds). The aesthetic of our anger: anarcho-punk, politics and music. Minor Compositions, Colchester, 2016.
  • Dworkin, Dennis. Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1997.
  • Fountain, Nigel. Underground; The London Alternative Press, 1966-74. London: Comedia, 1988.
  • Hebdige, Dick. Subculture; The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen, 1979.
  • Nelson, Elizabeth. The British Counter-Culture 1966-1973; A Study of the Underground Press. London: Macmillan Press, 1989.
  • Walker, John. Left Shift ; Radical Art in The Seventies. London : I. B. Tauris, 2002.
  • Wilson, Fiona. Art Labor, Sex Politics. Feminist Effects in 1970s British Art and Performance.  Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press: 2015.
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