David Jones and Rome: Reimagining the Decline of Western Civilisation
Hunter Evans, Jasmine Louise
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
David Jones (1895-1974), the Anglo-Welsh, Roman Catholic, poet, artist, and essayist, believed that Western civilisation was in decline. From his formative experience as a private in the First World War to the harrowing destruction of Western and British culture that he perceived during the Second World War and in its aftermath, Jones shaped his artistic vision of modernity on the basis of a complex and dynamic concept of ancient Rome. Jones developed this vision through his poetry, paintings, inscriptions, essays, interviews and letters over a period which spanned most of his adult life. It was not founded in any form of classical education, but was fashioned from his own experiences, his extensive reading, his conversations with friends, and, most importantly, from the discourses surrounding Rome’s relationship with the modern world which were prevalent in his contemporary society. This thesis offers the first sustained study of Jones’s reception of Rome and brings together a wide range of published and unpublished material. It situates Jones’s vision of Rome within a broad context divided into four central areas of contemporary discourse: British political rhetoric, the cyclical historical movement, the defence of cultural unity and continuity, and the Welsh nationalist movement. Exploring the deep and previously uncharted relevance of Jones’s works to twentieth-century British intellectual history reveals the enduring fascination of the Roman analogy as a way to comprehend the crisis of modernity.