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Rural modernity, rural modernism and deindustrialisation in Norman Nicholson’s poetry

Frayn, Andrew



This article argues that the Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson (1914–1987) is an exemplary writer about rural modernity, whose work also enables us to conceptualise a rural modernism. Nicholson lived all his life in his home town of Millom, an industrial town excluded from the Lake District National Park at its creation. The sharp contrast between the idealised beauty of the Lakes and the labour and grime of the town brings into focus the relationships which characterise rural modernity. While Nicholson’s poetry is, for the most part, highly specific in its writing of place, and has been disparaged for provincialism, the interpersonal relationships, and the relationships between humans and work, are highly typical. From his earliest publications he is conscious of the impact of deindustrialisation, and this essay brings together for the first time discourses of rural modernity and deindustrialisation, concluding with readings of Nicholson’s two poems on the closing and dismantling of Millom’s ironworks. Reading Nicholson and Millom as exemplifying rural modernity enables us to discern aspects of form and content which define rural modernism and develop the field. I conclude by reflecting on the enduring impact of rural deindustrialisation in the twentieth century.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 10, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 7, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Feb 13, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 7, 2023
Print ISSN 0013-838X
Electronic ISSN 1744-4217
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 104
Issue 3
Pages 478-499
Keywords rural modernity, rural modernism, deindustrialisation, twentieth-century poetry, Norman Nicholson


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