Not the last word on the Sixties Avant-Garde : an afterword

White, G ORCID: 2019, 'Not the last word on the Sixties Avant-Garde : an afterword' , in: British Avant-Garde Fiction of the 1960s , Edinburgh University Press.

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The foregoing chapters of this book present a full gallery of 1960s British experimental writing from the relatively popular to the more obscure. Not only do these essays start to redress a gender imbalance in awareness of experimental writers but the cumulative effect is to change the perspective from which the field of British writing in this period has usually been seen. In the 1960s, the conventional mainstream centre held sway, jostling for canonical positions among themselves. With the ‘avant-garde’ defined as beyond the mainstream taste (‘highbrow’, ‘difficult’) the experimentalists fell by the wayside by their own hands or by their ongoing exclusion, with the term ‘experimental’ used as a term of opprobrium, as several essays in the collection note. The accounts of the field in the 1980s and 1990s always positioned the experimentalists at the margins, but literature is a long game and the experimentalist’s work had taken hold with key upcoming writers who could see the through lines of influence from modernism to the 1960s. The reputation of the experimentalists has begun to be revised since the millennium. The difference is a fragmentation of the field of literature away from notions of the ‘the Great Tradition.’ Local narratives and circuitous paths are now mapped as an effect of postmodern rejections of grand narratives. Modern readers are less likely to be influenced by the critical wisdom of the past and more likely to be swayed by the enthusiasm of avant-garde authors of the present and their fans on websites and blogs. Literary readership has now, mostly, caught up and approaches texts with more open minds and a willingness to regard a novel as an experience rather than (just) a vehicle for a narrative. Where the avant-garde of the past is in print they can be found by their readership but, with internet sales and auctions, even out-of-print authors can be found and read. The so-called experimental writers of the 1960s can now be seen as accessible and engaging gateway texts to the more challenging and avant-garde practitioners of contemporary literature. This essay sketches out a map of the shifting terrain.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Mithcell, K and Williams, N
Schools: Schools > School of Humanities, Languages & Social Sciences > Centre for English Literature and Language
Journal or Publication Title: British Avant-Garde Fiction of the 1960s
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
ISBN: 9781474436199
Depositing User: Dr Glyn White
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2019 14:25
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 00:32

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