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Contextualising British experimental novelists in the long Sixties

Darlington, JA 2014, Contextualising British experimental novelists in the long Sixties , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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This thesis focuses upon five novelists – B.S. Johnson, Eva Figes, Alan Burns, Ann Quin, and Christine Brooke-Rose – whose works during the 1960s and early 1970s (Marwick’s “Long Sixties”) represent a unique approach to formal innovation; an approach contemporaneously labelled as “experimental”. A number of attempts have been made to categorise and group these texts with varying levels of success. Utilising new archive research, this thesis aims to unpack for the first time the personal relationships between these writers, their relationship to the historical moment in which they worked, and how these contextual elements impacted upon their experimental novels. The thesis is broken into six chapters; a long introductory chapter in which the group is placed in context and five chapters in which each writer’s career is reassessed individually. The B.S. Johnson chapter focuses upon how shifting class formations during the post-war era impact upon the writer’s sense of class consciousness within his texts. The Eva Figes chapter encounters her novels through the consideration of her contribution to feminist criticism and the impact of the Second World War. The Alan Burns chapter investigates the impact of William Burroughs upon British experimental writing and the politics of physical textual manipulation. The Ann Quin chapter engages with experimental theatre and new theories of being appearing in the Sixties which palpably inform her work. The Christine Brooke-Rose chapter reassesses her four novels between 1964 and 1975 in relation to the idea of “experimental literature” proposed in the rest of the thesis in order to argue its fundamental difference from the postmodernism Brooke-Rose practices in her novels after 1984. Overall, by presenting the “experimental” novelists of the Sixties in context this thesis argues that a unity of purpose can be located within the group in spite of the heterogeneity of aesthetics created by each individual writer; overcoming the primary challenge such a grouping presents to literary scholars.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: White, G (Supervisor)
Themes: Memory, Text and Place
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Humanities, Languages & Social Sciences > Centre for English Literature and Language
Schools > School of Arts & Media
Funders: University of Salford
Depositing User: JA Darlington
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2014 15:14
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2016 01:38

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