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H. G. Wells: The Literary Traveller in His Fantastic Short Story Machine

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Halszka Leleń

The book offers a thorough study of the literary tensions and two-world structure of the fantastic short stories by H. G. Wells (1866–1946). It exposes trickster games in the storytelling and pinpoints Wells’s staple methods of artistic composition – the mounting of various literary tensions built upon the body of traditional, dexterously combined genre elements and innovative topoi.
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Chapter 1: Wells’s Tensions Contextualized

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Chapter 1:  Wells’s Tensions Contextualized

Tensions in Wells Criticism

The need for the analysis undertaken in this book has been suggested by the still quite widespread popular classification of Wells as the writer of fiction marked by brilliant ideas and poor artistic execution. Richard Brown analyses the results of the literary dispute between the high modernist writers, Woolf and Henry James, and the Edwardians, Bennett, and Wells, as detrimental to both sides. In particular, he complains about the resulting belated appraisal of the aesthetic features of Wells’s fiction, which is only now being gradually rehabilitated (Richard Brown 55). Richard Brown is obviously right as the popular handbooks of English literature often underestimate Wells’s artistic value. The consequence of this contention with the modernists is the frequent over-generalization in the attitudes adopted by literary scholars and critics in their assessment of Wells. In consequence, such opinions as that of David Daiches have pervaded the literature textbooks and re-established the disparaging approaches to Wells’s fiction among the critics: “Wells was sometimes an artist in spite of himself who, as his correspondence with Henry James reveals, had little sense of artistic form and no awareness of the significance for fiction of new concepts of time and consciousness” (2: 1157). Daiches sees Kipps and The History of Mr Polly (1910) as Wells’s “best literary work,” chiefly on the grounds of their portrayal of the English lower middle class. When the scholar calls Wells “essentially […] a Victorian,...

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