The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000 (Cambridge Introductions to Literature)

The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000 (Cambridge Introductions to Literature)

Dominic Head

Language: English

Pages: 316

ISBN: 0521669669

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Dominic Head demonstrates how the novel yields a special insight into important areas of social and cultural history in the second half of the twentieth-century. His study is the most exhaustive survey of post-war British fiction available. Placing novels in their social and historical context, it includes chapters on the state and the novel, class and social change, gender and sexual identity, national identity, and multiculturalism. Accessible and wide-ranging, this is the most current introduction to the subject available.

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way beyond this opposition, since to Islam certain sacred things are unimpeachable or even (like the prophet Mohammed) unrepresentable, whilst to postmodernist practitioners everything is both questionable and available for any mode of representation. Towards Post-Nationalism Much migrant writing in Britain, chary of identifying with unaccommodating England, seeks, ostensibly, to enlarge perceptions of ‘Britishness’ in pursuit of propitious hybrids (Black-British, Jewish-British, and so on). It

renounces. The closer one looks at the key writers of the 1950s and 1960s, the more one finds unexpected subtleties and complexities, especially in those texts that depend on an evocation of gritty northern working-class experience. The class entrapment that pervades This Sporting Life, for example, coexists with something less easily identifiable. Storey engages with the problematic nature of social realism in a novel where the solidarity of place and setting – the provincial element – combines

associated with a feminist backlash, the critique of a perceived ‘girls on top’ culture often now being voiced by prominent feminist proponents of earlier decades. The novel that most clearly conveys this spirit of revisionism is Weldon’s Big Women (1997). Here 110 The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950–2000 Weldon examines elements of contradiction and hypocrisy in the feminist movement, by tracing the fortunes of a women’s publishing house (based on Virago) from the

extracting the lyrical moment from tragic inevitability’. In Patten’s view it is the cultivation of this lyricism that prevents both Johnston and MacLaverty from engaging ‘with a multitextured and abstruse society’.29 Bernard MacLaverty’s Cal (1983) falls into Patten’s category of novels that, even if ‘eloquent and well-executed’, represent some kind of ‘reductionist’ imaginative failure, where ‘wistful relationships’ are ‘swamped and severed by a faceless paramilitary machine’.30 On the face of

that is instructive. A ‘West Indian woman’ called Bertha tolerates in silence continued abuse from her fellow workers (p. 81); she ignores the complaints of the ‘nigger stink’ voiced by one particularly vile white woman Elaine, until one day Bertha’s patience snaps and this repeated taunt from Elaine earns her a vicious beating. The onlookers, who had become uneasy at the extremity of Elaine’s victimization of Bertha, now close ranks: ‘Bertha’s use of her fists, the silent ferocity of her attack,

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