The planetary in William Morris's late romances
Journal of William Morris Studies
William Morris Society
15 - 30
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The metaphor of the wet highway, which Morris had rehearsed in the Water of the Wondrous Isles prior to its appearance in The Sundering Flood, ascribes to the flood the qualities associated with an artifice. The flood functions more effectively than its human-made counterpart, the road. In this description, connection to distant lands appears as natural as the rivers, seas and oceans themselves – it does not have to be mediated by technological developments that are shaped by the capitalist mode of production. Morris’s approach here resonates with today’s discourse on planetarity, which focuses on ecological networks that rival capitalist globalisation. As Amy Elias and Christian Morale write, the planetary indicates ‘a historically unprecedented web of relations among peoples, cultures, locales’ that have an ecological basis.2 This essay argues that William Morris’s late prose romances construe the planetary, and that, for Morris, such webs have a primeval character rather than constituting a recent development.