Barbara Pym’s fiction has been viewed as an anthropological approach to the social mores of postwar Britain. In this article, I use one of her last novels, Quartet in Autumn, to sharpen that reading to think through how Pym articulated an aesthetics of decline by trumpeting the dying world of the White English spinster. Quartet fictionalizes the agony of what Ramon Soto-Crespo calls “decapitalized Whiteness,” that is, where economic loss and a sense of racial disenfranchisement go hand in hand. The transatlantic desire it satisfied for a world that was lost yet redeemable through good old-fashioned English “women’s” literature prefigures the nostalgia for a preglobal Britain that has underwritten much of Brexit’s affective appeal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-48
Number of pages13
JournalHistorical Reflections
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • Brexit
  • Decapitalized Whiteness
  • Gender and racial disenfranchisement
  • Literary reputation
  • Little Englandism
  • Postwar women’s fiction
  • Structure of feeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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