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"A courage steadfast, luminous": Christopher Caudwell and the communist hero

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Given Christopher Caudwell’s position as a pioneering figure of Anglophone Marxist theory, it is perhaps surprising how obscure his name has become today. This critical neglect is all the more unfortunate because of his central interest in, and contribution to some of the central cultural concerns of the 1930s – detectives, aviation, exploration and, of course, political action. Caudwell’s remarkably large oeuvre (given his untimely death aged 30) includes detective fiction, books and magazine articles about aviation, impressively nuanced works of social and cultural criticism, literary studies, science fiction, as well as assorted poetry and prose. This chapter will examine Caudwell’s literary output as a whole and argue that one way of constructing a narrative out of his varied interests is to chart his changing attitudes towards heroes and heroism. Thus, early on in his career, his search for the hero led him to the detective, the pilot and the explorer. With his eventual politicisation, his attention moved away from figures like T.E. Lawrence to Lenin, as a more acceptable political hero. An account of the role played by heroism in Caudwell’s thought will help to illuminate the central concern with heroes and heroism that marked much of the 1930s.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHeroes and Heroism in British Fiction Since 1800
Subtitle of host publicationCase Studies
EditorsBarbara Korte, Stefanie Lethbridge
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783319335575
ISBN (Print)9783319335568, 9783319815466
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2016

    Research areas

  • Marxism, Detective Fiction, Aviation, 1930s, T.E. Lawrence, Heroism, Communism, Lenin

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