Williams was to become one of Britain's greatest post-war cultural
historians, theorists and polemicists. He was a distinguished literary
and social thinker in the Left-Leavisite tradition. He was concerned
to understand literature and related cultural forms not as the outcome
of an isolated aesthetic adventure, but as the manifestation of
a deeply social process that involved a series of complex relationships
between authorial ideology, institutional process, and generic/aesthetic
form. Pioneering in the context of the British literary academy,
these concerns are heralded in the brief-lived post-war journal
Politics and Letters, which he co-founded. They are perhaps
best summarised in Culture and Society 1780-1950, his critical
panorama of literary tradition from the Romantics to Orwell, predicated
on the key terms "industry", "democracy", "class", "art" and "culture".
This ideological sense of cultural etymology became the basis of
his influential pocket dictionary Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture
by a commitment to his class origins and his post-war experiences
of adult education, his expansion of the traditional curriculum
for English also entailed an early engagement with the allied representational
pressures of film and cinema, in books such as Preface to Film,
Drama from Ibsen to Eliot, Drama in Performance, Modern Tragedy
and Drama from Ibsen to Brecht. His perception of the links
between film and drama remains evident in his 1977 Screen essay
on the politics of realism in Loach's TV film The Big Flame and
in his historical introduction to Curran's and Porter's British
Cinema History (1983).
preoccupation with the relationships between ideology and culture,
and the development of socialist perspectives in the communicative
arts, were to continue in such works as The Long Revolution,
May Day Manifesto 1968, The English Novel from Dickens to Lawrence,
The Country and the City, Marxism and Literature, Problems in Materialism
and Culture, Culture, Writing in Society, Towards 2000, Resources
of Hope, The Politics of Modernism, and Politics, Education,
Letters. Politics and Letters: Interviews with 'New Left
Review' provides a useful retrospective.
the 1960s Williams' work was to take on new dimensions. He published
his first, autobiographical novel, Border Country, which
was to be followed by Second Generation, The Volunteers and
The Fight for Manod. At the beginning of the decade, he was
to write his first book directly addressing the new world of contemporary
mass media, Communications, an informative and influential
volume in the early history of media studies in Great Britain and
internationally. He was to move to the centre of left cultural politics,
in the crucible of 1968, with his chairmanship of the Left National
Committee and his edition of the May Day Manifesto 1968.
the 1960s he was participating in what he remembered as innumerable
TV discussion programmes as the young medium found its style. Two
of his novels became TV plays, now sadly lost--a "live" version
of A Letter from the Country (1966) and Public Inquiry
(1967), filmed in his native Wales.
From 1968 to 1972 he contributed a weekly column on TV to the BBC
magazine The Listener. Now collected as Raymond Williams
on Television: Collected Writings, these illustrate Williams'
response to a wide range of TV themes and pleasures--from an enthusiasm
for television sport to a distrust in the medium's stress on "visibility",
to arguments about the economic and political relationships between
production and transmission.
went on to develop these ideas more formally in the book Television:
Technology and Cultural Form, one of the first major theoretical
studies of the medium, largely written on a Visiting Professorship
at Stanford in 1972. There he soaked up American TV, almost inevitably
developed his influential concept of TV "flow", and encountered
the newly emerging technologies of satellite and cable.
1970 he had contributed a personal documentary, Border Country,
to the BBC series One Pair of Eyes, which was to be followed,
at the end of the decade, by The Country and The City: A Film
with Raymond Williams, the last of five programmes in the series
Where We Live Now: Five Writers Look at Our Surroundings
(1979). In the 1980s he contributed to a trio of Open University/BBC
programmes--Language in Use: "The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd"
(1981), Society, Education and the State: Worker, Scholar and
Citizen (1982) and The State and Society In 1984 (1984).
He also appeared in Identity Ascendant: The Home Counties
(1988), an episode in the HTV/Channel 4 series The Divided Kingdom,
and in Big Words, Small Worlds (1987), Channel 4's record
of the Strathclyde Linguistics of Writing Conference.
contribution to cultural thinking was that of the Cambridge professor
who never forgot the Welsh village of his childhood. He was a theorist
of literature who himself wrote novels; an historian of drama who
was also a playwright; and a commentator on TV and the mass media
who himself regularly contributed to the medium in a variety of
ways. For him, unlike so many academics, the medium of television
was a crucial cultural form, as relevant to education as the printed
word. When Channel 4 began transmission in Great Britain in 1982,
it was entirely appropriate that this innovative Channel's opening
feature film should be So That You Can Live, Cinema Action's
elegy for the industrial decay of the Welsh valleys, explicitly
influenced by the work of Williams, from whose work the film offers
Second International Television Studies Conference, held in London
in 1986, was honoured to appoint him as its co-president alongside
Professor Hilde Himmelweit. But it was a gathering, eventually,
that he could not join, and by the time the next event came round
in 1988 the conference sadly honoured not his presence, but his
passing. The breadth of his impact in the U.K. cultural arena can
be gauged from the British Film Institute monograph, Raymond
Williams: Film/TV/Cinema (1989), produced to accompany a Williams
memorial season at the National Film Theatre and containing a contribution
by his widow.
(HENRY) WILLIAMS. Born in Llanfihangel Crocorney, Wales, 31
August 1921. Attended Abergavenny Grammar School, 1932-39; Trinity
College, Cambridge, M.A. 1946). Served in Anti-Tank Regiment, Guards
Armoured Division, 1941-45. Married: Joyce Marie Dalling, 1942;
children: one daughter and two sons. Editor, Politics and Letters,
1946-47; extra-mural tutor in literature, Oxford University, 1946-61;
Fellow, Jesus College, Cambridge, from 1961; reader, Cambridge University,
1967-74; Professor of Drama, Cambridge University, 1974-83; Visiting
Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, 1973; general
editor, New Thinkers Library, 1962-70; reviewer, The Guardian,
from 1983; adviser, John Logie Baird Centre for Research in Television
and Film, from 1983; president, Classical Association, 1983-84.
Litt.D.: Trinity College, Cambridge, 1969; D.Univ.: Open University,
Milton Keynes, 1975; D.Litt.: University of Wales, Cardiff, 1980.
Member: Welsh Academy. Died in Cambridge, 26 January 1988.
A Letter from the Country
1967 Public Inquiry
1979 The Country and the City
Reading and Criticism. London: Miller, 1950.
from Ibsen to Eliot. London: Chatto & Windus, 1952.
in Performance. London: Watts, 1954.
to Film, with Michael Orram. London: Film Drama, 1954.
Tragedy. London: Verso; Stanford, California: Stanford University
Culture and Society, 1780-1950. London and New York: Columbia
University Press, 1958.
Country (novel). London: Chatto & Windus, 1960.
Long Revolution. London and New York: Columbia University Press,
London: Penguin, 1962; 3rd edition, 1976.
Generation (novel). London: Chatto & Windus, 1964.
Day Manifesto 1968, editor. London: Harmondsworth Penguin, 1968.
From Ibsen to Eliot. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.
The Pelican Book of English Prose: From 1780 to the Present Day,
editor. London: Harmondsworth Penguin, 1970.
English Novel from Dickson to Lawrence. London: Chatto & Windus,
London: Fontana, 1971.
H. Lawrence on Education, editor, with Joy Williams. London:
Harmondsworth Penguin, 1973.
Country and the City. London: Chatto & Windus, 1973.
Technology and Cultural Form. London: Fontana, 1974.
Orwell: A Collection of Critical Essays, editor. Englewood Cliffs,
New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1974.
A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Fontana, 1975.
Drama: Forms and Development: Essays in Honour of Muriel Clara Bradbrook,
editor, with Marie Axton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
and Literature. London and New York: Oxford University Press,
The Volunteers (novel). London: Eyre Methuen, 1978.
Fight for Manod (novel). London: Chatto & Windus, 1979.
and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review. London and New
in Materialism and Culture: Selected Essays. London and New
York: Verso, 1980.
Human Communication and Its History, editor. London: Thames
and Hudson, 1981.
Culture. London: Fontana, 1981.
Sociology of Culture. New York: Schocken, 1982.
London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Towards 2000. London: Chatto & Windus, 1983.
in Society. London: Verso, 1983.
Garcia Marquez. Boston: Twayne, 1985.
London: Chatto & Windus, 1985.
of the Black Mountains. London: Chatto & Windus, 1989.
The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists, edited
by Tony Pinkney. London and New York: Verso, 1989.
Williams on Television: Selected Writings. New York: Routledge,
of Hope: Culture, Democracy, Socialism, edited by Robin Gale. London;
New York: Verso, 1989.
I Came to Say. London: Hutchinson, 1989.
Terry, editor. Raymond Williams: Critical Perspectives. Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 1989.
J.E.T. Raymond Williams: Making Connections. New York: Routledge,
Jan. The Alien Mind of Raymond Williams. Columbia, Missouri:
University of Missouri Press, 1988.
Fred. Raymond Williams. New York: Routledge, 1995.
Alan. Raymond Williams: Writing, Culture, Politics. Oxford
and New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Tony, editor. Raymond Williams. Bridgen, Mid Glamorgan, England:
Sern Books, 1991.
Nick. Culture, Ideology, and Socialism: Raymond Williams
and E.P. Thompson. Aldershot, England: Avebury, 1995.