Propaganda, Pacifism and Periodicals: Conflicted Antifascism in Sylvia Townsend Warner's Spanish Civil War Writing

Jake O'Leary

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


In a 1975 interview, Sylvia Townsend Warner candidly discussed writing articles about the Spanish Civil War as a means of publishing pro-Spanish Republic propaganda in British periodicals. ‘Barcelona’, for example, was published in the Communist Party-affiliated Left Review in December 1936. However, Warner also wrote poetry about Spain, and one such poem, ‘Benicasim’, can offer us a new perspective on Warner’s relationships with antifascism, propaganda, and Popular Front periodicals and magazines.

Published in Left Review in March 1938, ‘Benicasim’, my paper will argue, challenges assumptions of an uncomplicated relationship between Warner’s antifascism and her engagement with the war in Spain. Its speaker’s shifting subject position, her choice of verbs to represent the actions of wounded soldiers, and use of metaphor to identify the landscape of Benicasim with death all work to undermine the conventions of the propaganda poem, producing a text more akin to the First World War poems of Wilfred Owen.

By reading ‘Benicasim’ alongside Warner’s diaries and letters, propaganda like ‘Barcelona’ and the 1936 pacifist open letter to Time and Tide, which Warner signed, my paper will explore the development of Warner’s conflicted antifascism in relation to pacifism and the Spanish Republic’s war of self-defence. It will also examine Warner’s use of the lyric poetic form to produce anti-propaganda writing within the context of Left Review’s editorial line of support for the Republican war effort and the International Brigades.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018
EventSylvia Townsend Warner and Modernism - Friends Meeting House, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Apr 20187 Apr 2018


ConferenceSylvia Townsend Warner and Modernism
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Sylvia Townsend Warner
  • modernism
  • Periodicals as Topic
  • Periodical
  • Spanish Civil War
  • pacifism
  • Propaganda
  • fascism


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