Modern Fiction Studies 41.3-4 (1995) 531-562
--E. M. W. Tillyard, "The Nature of the Epic" (48)
--Georg Lukács, The Historical Novel (113; emphasis added)
--Jane Marcus, "Alibis and Legends" (285)
--Terry Castle, "Sylvia Townsend Warner and the Counterplot of Lesbian Fiction" (231)
--J. M. Bernstein, The Philosophy of the Novel (266)
By locating the story of a lesbian couple within the context of ... [Show full abstract] the 1848 revolution in Paris, Sylvia Townsend Warner's novel Summer Will Show (1936) launches a double critique. The novel attempts to intervene both in the Marxist tradition of historical narrative and in the modernist novel's turn away from narrative to "lyrical" or "introspective" forms. By incorporating modernist assumptions, Summer Will Show resists the totalizing tendency of Marxist historical narratives while at the same time insisting upon historical representation as a precondition for (re)narrativizing same-sex relationships. The novel, therefore, also resists assertions like the one made by Marxist theorist Georg Lukács when he argues that the experience of "sexual abnormality" has no narrative structure because it has no temporal structure, being neither "rooted in the social order of the past" nor "anticipating the future" (Historical Novel 113). At the same time, "sexual abnormality" produces no significant historical effects because there is no social space, no "common territory," where these "abnormalities" could come into conflict with heterosexual norms and enter into a historical dialectic with them. Without the possibility of such a dialectic, "sexual abnormality" can never become the "motor of history." This assertion is only possible if Lukács assumes homosexuality to be located firmly within the private sphere of "love, marriage, family, etc." and therefore clearly distinguishable from class relations. In other words, for Lukács "sexual abnormality" is always only a theme for domestic fiction, not the historical novel with its focus on real social enmities.
Summer Will Show, however, applies to narratives of both lesbian sexuality and class struggle the same point that J. M. Bernstein makes in his reading of Lukács's theory of class consciousness as a theory of narrative. By focusing on the centrality of narrative in Lukács's thought, Bernstein locates an anti-foundational tendency within Lukács's Marxism. For example, Bernstein concludes that "the premise of praxial action, of a collective narrating of experience, need not presuppose the actual existence of a collective consciousness. It does, of course, presuppose that there are spaces where such narratives can begin to be...