What has become of William Morris the socialist, the author of one of the finest works of utopian political fiction, and the founder of the Socialist League? How can we wrest him away from the image of him as the "intellectually disorganised artist beloved by the heritage industry"? In this essay on Kristin Ross's Communal Luxury, Matthew Beaumont analyses Ross's attempt to rescue Morris for the present, and for the task of liberation.
This article first appeared in The Journal of William Morris Studies, 21.4 (2016), where it formed part of a symposium-in-print on Kristin Ross's Communal Luxury. Back issues can be purchased here. A chronological index of the Journal is available online.
Who walks alone in the streets at night? The sad, the mad, the bad. The lost, the lonely. The hypomanic, the catatonic. The sleepless, the homeless. All the city's internal exiles.
“Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night,” wrote the poet Rupert Brooke. If nightwalking is a matter of “going astray” in the streets of the metropolis after dark, then nightwalkers represent some of the most suggestive and revealing guides to the neglected and forgotten aspects of the city.
Out this month by Matthew Beaumont, Nightwalking - a nocturnal history of walking in London - shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers: Chaucer and Shakespeare; William Blake, the supreme nightwalker Charles Dickens; and many more. Walking in the city is revealed as a place divided between work and pleasure, the affluent and the indigent, where the entitled and the desperate jostle in the streets.
Now out in paperback is one of our bestsellers - A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros. In this book he charts the many different ways we get from A to B — the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble — and reveals what they say about us.
Also out in paperback this month is The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International by McKenzie Wark. “If I read a more entertaining and thought-provoking work on cultural phenomena this year, I will be, frankly, astonished” said Nick Lezard in his Guardian review of the book. We agree. Re-reading the group’s history in the light of our contemporary experience of communications, architecture, and everyday life, shaping situationist psychology among urban explorers for the eventuality of the situationist city.
Inspired by these brilliant, newly published books, we present Verso's updated guide to political walking - after all, there's no such thing as a good walk unless your nose is firmly stuck in a book.
Cities are inherently paradoxical spaces. They constantly shift and elide our gaze, seemingly at the centre of modern industry and technology; they also contain zones of immense ruin and neglect. This second, ruinous, city is fundamental to the first one yet its spaces are hidden from sight. What occurs if we shift our vision from the lustrous and glittering light of the soaring skyscrapers to the labyrinthine passages filled with darkness and destitution? Matthew Beaumont’s new book, Nightwalking, is based on the insight that it is through its most maligned products, its exclusions and cast-offs, that cities reveal the most about themselves.