• Janice Rossen


From one point of view it was simply an accident of circumstance that Barbara Pym began to write about anthropology in her novels after 1950: in 1946 she started work for a group of anthropologists at the International African Institute in London. From another perspective, the discipline suited her writing style so exactly that it became a natural extension of talents she already possessed, and furthered her development as an artist. Returning from her term with the WRNS in Italy during the Second World War, she began work at the IAI, initially doing tasks such as indexing and proofreading, and eventually becoming an assistant editor of the journal Africa. The job immersed Pym in a new field of study and introduced her to a new set of people. Taking what was close at hand for subject matter in her novels, in Excellent Women she created characters who were anthropologists, such as Everard Bone and Helena Napier, both of whom had ‘“[trailed] round Africa”’ collecting data, and she set some of her scenes in a building which housed learned societies (EW, 9). In addition to providing material for her novels through bringing her into contact with anthropologists, the discipline of anthropology itself became increasingly important to Pym as a novelist.


Fictional World Foreign Culture Dinner Party Good Stead Comic Aspect 
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  1. 3.
    David Cecil, Obituary for Barbara Pym, Royal Society of Literature (1980).Google Scholar

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© Janice Adelle Rossen 1987

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  • Janice Rossen

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