A photograph of children playing cricket in 1930s East London adorns the cover of Cities of Affluence and Anger. The image is loaded with visual cues about social space, imperialism, Englishness, class, and cultural politics. Moreover, it exemplifies Peter Kalliney's method of situating "the cultural and aesthetic implications of urban class politics in the articulation of modern English national identity" (22). Cities of Affluence and Anger underscores the persistence of class (understood as both a material condition and an ideological predisposition) as a determining factor of national identity by analyzing diverse geographic sites and "English exceptionalism" (7) in canonical British novels across the twentieth century.
Kalliney's analysis covers three broad historical phases: turn-of-the-century land-reform movements and the two world wars; the post-war establishment of the welfare state; and the abandonment of the welfare state model in the 1980s and entrance into the emerging global economy. Chapter 2 discusses how E. M. Forster's and Evelyn Waugh's country-house narratives rethink the implications of imperialism. Chapter 3 turns to Virginia Woolf and the imperial architecture of urban London, and offers a fine foray into the cultural politics of public parks. Chapter 4 delves into the murky politics of the welfare state in the works of the Angry Young Men—Alan Sillitoe and John Osborne, mostly—and examines their renovations of the domestic narrative in the metropolitan home according to a masculine mode of class anger. Chapter 5 investigates the complex feminist satire of Angry domestic fiction by Doris Lessing, while chapter 6 examines an emergent global political subjectivity in the immigrant neighborhoods of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Though Kalliney's methodological approach to class and cultural politics is unsurprising, he reads modernist, midcentury, and postcolonial texts equally well, and positions them within "debates about the nature of modern Englishness" with remarkable success (35).
Kalliney turns to George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier in order to lay the foundations of his argument. Like Orwell, he presents the relationship between class as a material condition and class as an ideological disposition in simple terms without being simplistic. The introduction reminds us that the class system in England is very much tied to the fortunes and misfortunes of British imperialism. Signs of imperial decline urge a "turn inward" (6), Kalliney suggests, and give rise to an "emerging discourse of English exceptionalism" (7), a sense of national identity that no longer relies on the expansive [End Page 795] imperial imagination. Building on the work of Jed Esty, Ian Baucom, and Simon Gikandi, Kalliney argues that new "definitions of class politics—and a domestic geography of class—became vital spaces in which to imagine English national coherence" (8), often resulting in an unstable mixture of pride and shame, affiliation and abjection, exclusion and belonging. While critical arguments that reach conclusions of paradox and ambivalence can be frustrating, Kalliney's are instead convincing and satisfying.
Chapter 2 focuses on Forster's Howards End and Waugh's Brideshead Revisited in the context of a long modernist moment in which Britain's imperial forces undergo retraction and the domestic front is rendered unstable by internal and external conflicts. The two country-house novels aim "to redraw the spatial coordinates and cultural signposts of a postimperial England before the material collapse of empire" (41), which Kalliney reads alongside other social discourses of land reform. While the historical detail and nuanced readings of the novels work smoothly and effectively, Kalliney could push the analysis and its conclusions much further here by incorporating, say, an Anglo-Irish "Big House" novel. Bowen's The Last September, for example, suits the themes and conclusions of this early chapter while it increases the political stakes of the discourse of land reform by narrating British imperialism in retreat.
Chapters 3 and 4 comprise the heart of the book, with the former showcasing Kalliney's excellent analysis of monuments, parks, and public space within the disconnected, modernist narrative of Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Kalliney's closer readings...