Keywords

Raymond Williams

First published in 1976, and expanded in 1983, KEYWORDS reveals how the meanings of 131 words – including ‘art’, ‘class’, ‘family’, ‘media’, ‘sex’ and ‘tradition’ – were formed and subsequently altered and redefined as the historical contexts in which they were used changed.

Neither a defining dictionary or glossary, KEYWORDS is rather a brilliant investigation into how the meanings of some of the most important words in the English language have shifted over time, and the forces that brought about those shifts.

Reviews of Keywords

  • ‘A revelatory unpacking of the complicated disputes that lay – dormant, as it were – within familiar words’ Guardian

    ‘Williams’s essential point about the social and political stakes in simple words and phrases is as true today as it was in the 1970s: think of the many battles that have erupted around terms like “liberal,” “torture,” “pro-life” or “intelligent design”’ New York Times

    ‘This book is an erudite, elegant, and awful warning to anybody tempted to lay down the lexicographical law, in order to apply one authoritative fixed sense to a highly variable and controversial value word’ The Times

    ‘Keywords is useful and stimulating to all who work with words or merely love them’ Wall Street Journal

    ‘The book’s greatest value, perhaps, is its exemplification of how all of us should respond to the words we hear and use: with surprise, distrust, curiosity, and unflagging vigilance’ Yale Review

    ‘An invaluable book … A unique coda to the words of one of our most original and provocative thinkers’ Harpers

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