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.
M. Wynn Thomas is Emyr Humphreys Professor of English at Swansea University. A Fellow of the British Academy, he has published twenty books on American poetry and on the two literatures of Wales.
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