Provincialism in James Wood

Speaking of Fluellen in Shakespeare’s Henry V

“…There is something piquant about a man who is at once an omnivorous roamer of the world’s knowledge and literatures, and at the same time a little Welsh provincial. His monologue on how Monmouth resembles the classical city of Macedon is both funny and moving.

I tell you, captain, if you look in the maps of the worlds I warrant you shall find, in the comparisons between Monmouth and Macedon, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon, and there is also moreover a river in Monmouth.

“I still meet people like Fluellen; and when a garrulous guy on a train starts talking up his hometown, and says something like “we’ve got one of those”–shopping mall, opera house, violent bar–“in my town, too, you know,” you are apt to feel, as toward Fluellen, both mirth and an obscure kind of sympathy, since this kind of importuning provincialism is always paradoxical: the provincial simultaneously wants and does not want to communicate with you, simultaneously wants to remain a provincial and abolish his provincialism by linking himself with you.”

James Wood. “How Fiction Works.” p. 125. 2018.

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