'Story with an Hypothesis': women and war in Sylvia Townsend Warner's forgotten short story

Jake O'Leary

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Originally published in a British interwar periodical, Sylvia Townsend Warner’s short story, “Story with an Hypothesis” (1935), has never been collected. This critical introduction seeks to refocus attention on the story and argues for its importance in Warner’s oeuvre as a transitional feminist text. “Story with an Hypothesis” reflects Warner’s mid-1930s anxieties about war’s likely effects on women and represents her recognition that the threat of war required women’s liberation to be imagined and narrated differently. In the 1920s, much of Warner’s work was characterized by what Mary Jacobs has called “fantastic ruralism”, a mode of pastoral writing with which Warner imagined natural spaces as liberating women from urban, patriarchal modernity. This introduction argues that “Story with an Hypothesis” constitutes both an example of fantastic ruralism and a feminist dramatization of its limitations in an era of looming war. In its representation of its protagonist’s failure to escape her militaristic partner’s control, despite the liberating potential of its country setting, the story signals
Warner’s abandonment of fantastic ruralism and foreshadows her 1936 novel, Summer Will Show, in which women’s liberation is contingent not on withdrawal into rural solitude, but on migration to the centre of political and social crisis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-358
Number of pages11
JournalFeminist Modernist Studies
Issue number3
Early online date24 Sept 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Sept 2019


  • Sylvia Townsend Warner
  • women
  • war
  • interwar
  • environment
  • nationalism


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