In general, the semiotics of the cultural context in the narrower and broader sense of the word has taken the centre stage of critical investigation. The closely covered Victorian home, with its wallpapers, curtains, carpets, upholstery and table cloths, hermetically sealing off everything, while it seems to suggest security and protection, is rather engaged in a desperate and hopeless fight against the loss of the myth of security. Yet, despite these assumptions that ultimately separate Woolf from the Victorian domestic novel, Blair argues for a more subtle position which reinterprets the relationship between Woolf and the middlebrow as well.
Downstairs there was pure convention; upstairs pure intellect. Humble; Beauman. It is needless to emphasise how crucial the knick-knacks of the bourgois domestic space are in the construction of the textual space of the middlebrow. While exploring the meaning of home, vicarages and lodging houses alike that is, some of the places that constructivist modernism tends to deny as spaces of moral degeneration and vice , Briganti and Mezei also explore how these modernist texts remember their own domestic past, or their embeddedness in the domestic past.
Her theoretical assumptions are. Kennedy or Salman Rushdie. A brief look at the choice of writers included is enough to inform us of the evolution of the corpus and the canon. Vanessa Guignery, for her part, produces what could be defined as a synthesis with well-established writers like David Lodge while leaving room for a younger generation with Will Self and Arundhati Roy. It numbers twenty names, among which Zadie Smith, Sarah Hall, or Adam Thirlwell, but also a whole spectrum of new voices, some of which have not yet achieved complete recognition.
Postmodern British Fiction.
Dr. med. Claudia Breitkopf
Realism and After As the appropriation of the metaphor of the subaltern from post-colonial studies suggests, the focus has increasingly turned to the plurality of voices and of narratives within a British cultural context that has become not so much embattled as plural. Groes chooses to revisit the motif of cultural pluralism by emphasizing in fact what he calls a process of cultural dispersal that has to do with the psycho-geography of the city best illustrated by Ian Sinclair.
These essays show thus how much one may learn from reading British fiction from a more globalized perspective which is that of world-literature, as Madelena Gonzalez argues. Taking stock of such critical evolutions is crucial when it comes to understanding the dialogue British fiction entertains with the multiple voices of a complex cultural landscape. The new focus on globalization as a prism for studying literature and culture goes hand in hand with a questioning of the postcolonial paradigm and an attempt to reconfigure it under the aegis of critics who possess a recognized affiliation with Postcolonial Studies Ania Loomba, Benita Parry.
As the title of the work under discussion here suggests, Brennan reconfigures globalization as a form of cosmopolitanism and links it back to colonialism as one of the hegemonic forms by which metropolitan and colonial states justify the spread of their power. Invoking an eclectic array of cultural sources and models from Cuban music to the writings of C.
James, he advocates a return to the values of community and a sense of collective identity. His source material is not used to provide sustained critical readings so much as to serve as a pretext for an attack on what he sees as the dominant critical mode of Culturalism and the metropolitan norm, for, as he argues, Cultural Studies leaves the U. Brennan discusses the way in which Third World writers enter and are received within the U. Like many other Marxist-oriented critics, he seeks to make visible the dominant ideology and the role academics play in circulating and formulating ideology.
The problem seems to be the plethora of literature on the subject and the shortened extracts selected by the editors tend to result in a series of contradictory hypotheses about what globalization might actually be. However, these essays, although relevant in themselves, are more often than not only tenuously related to what follows and sometimes express a very specific political agenda not really consonant with the other articles in the section.
As the editors admit, some of the essays could happily sit in other subgroupings… The justification for this modus operandi is the openness and fluidity of a vast field of on-going research but the disadvantage is that it leaves the reader whirling in a welter of contradictory definitions, opinions and hypotheses. You have a cup of tea or coffee. You get dressed. For the authors in our third category, this could be interpreted as a manifestation of a tendency for culture to predominate over literature where the activity of criticism is concerned, at least within the English-speaking academy….
If, in practice, many scholars working in English Literature departments study literature from many nations, the tendency to organize literature into national groupings remains the dominant model for literary studies. The examination of the impact of digitization and the development of the Internet on publishing with which the study closes tends to reinforce the now familiar definitions of globalization sketched out in the introductory chapter, that is to say, those that consider the phenomenon as the manifestation of the universal domination of market capitalism in its advanced phase.
They suggest that Postcolonial Studies as a discipline has failed to address the conditions of globalization so far, as well as recognizing some of the limits of what they call Western culturalist readings and the strategic silences in postcolonial scholarship about its own implication in networks of global capital. This special issue is conceived of as an opportunity to fill in the gaps and is notable for engaging head-on with the complex phenomenon of globalization in relation to fiction. For Ania Loomba et al , Postcolonial Studies is only now in a position to be critical of itself because it has become established as a discipline within universities.
They point out that Postcolonialism and globalization theory have so far evolved separately, in the field of the humanities in the case of the former and in the social sciences in the case of the latter; thus they feel that it is urgent to scrutinize the links between the two and offer the volume as an occasion for them to seek a common cause.
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This dialectic is examined with precise and apposite examples drawn from cinema and fiction in the essays by Harish Trivedi and John McMurty but is also part of the very rationale for the volume as a whole. Like other works in the corpus under examination here, this volume both appeals to and questions a comparativist approach.
Emphasising the necessity of studying the political and economic conditions of cultural production and urging for an historically grounded analysis of literary phenomena, she remains faithful to the idea of a global emancipatory project and a revamped internationalism. She concludes with a coda on her native South Africa in its post-apartheid phase and the necessity of combining a remembrance of past histories of injustice with a critique of our contemporary condition as a means of working towards universal emancipation.
Dr. med. Christoph Weining
This three-headed beast is accused of having devoured our sense of history and agency by subordinating them to an obsession with ethnicity, difference and, above all, identity politics, instead of class politics. At all points, the culturalist mind-set is excoriated as being complicit with the capitalist model. But it is also the price we pay for the chance of a brighter future. His disillusionment comes from the conviction that since the demise of the New Criticism in the 70s and the rise of Theory, literary criticism has lost its way and become disconnected from literature and, above all, from the text.
Preoccupied, like Spivak, with the difficulty of teaching students how to study literature, he gestures towards both formalism and aesthetics, but in a much vaguer and more fervently Romantic way than the celebrated postcolonial critic. Prefaced by a useful chronological table of Theory landmarks, the study starts from the premise that Theory has forever altered the landscape of literary studies.
The essays in the volume not only engage with the practicalities of teaching Theory as a subject in universities, but also examine the future and rationale for literary studies. The assessment of quality is to be based on the uses different authors make of the double pattern and a series of comparative exercises will involve a contest between the following trios of great and lesser literary and cultural icons: Shakespeare v.
Beckett v. Coronation Street ; Philip Larkin v. Ezra Pound v. Thribb; Salman Rushdie v. Kingsley Amis v. Tom Wolfe. For example, if you are temperamentally and ideologically committed to experiment and modernism can you distinguish between displays of craftsmanship and the replacement of skill with randomness? In a broader sense, does the presence of demonstrably excellent writing guarantee that the work itself is of great value?
Like Lentricchia, Cunningham, who is Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford, is keen to assert the primacy of text over theory. One of the problems engendered by many of the essays in the collection, as indeed by the introduction, is precisely the conflation of very different positions and personas under the umbrella heading of Theory. Their aims are indeed worthy but in the face of the continuing existence of Theory, it seems impossible now to behave as if its major precepts can be utterly discounted, however questionable they may appear.
However, the obscurely utopian thrust of her programme raises many important questions which are not addressed. Ethics and ideology, for example, are central in the battle between the pro- and anti- camps, but generally the volume confines itself to a lukewarm defence of a form of liberal humanism. The phenomenon will undoubtedly be accentuated by the attribution of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Canadian short story writer, Alice Munro.
As a form that develops in the margins of literary study, the short story has attracted variable degrees of critical attention throughout literary history, and short fiction criticism tends to circle back and dwell upon recurrent preoccupations such as generic marginality and definition, formalism, narrative wholeness, and publishing.
The research in this area over the last four to five years expands upon these areas, while displaying a sense of haunting by previous critics. The persistent legacy of Edgar Allan Poe, for example, is strikingly present. Recent publications from approximately onwards present subtle, yet significant, developments in what appears to be an international, border-crossing landscape of recurrent critical preoccupations.
Toolan perpetuates a long tradition of formalist study in short story research through a close textual analysis of lexico-phrasal patterning in relation to reader expectations and narrative progression. Such emphasis on the process of reading perpetuates the work of prominent short story critics such as Susan Lohafer, who studies concepts of closure and preclosure in Reading for Storyness: Preclosure Theory, Empirical Poetics, and Culture in the Short Story.
In this volume March-Russell provides not only an introduction to the study of the short story, he also seeks to re-investigate recurrent ideas about the short story form, and suggests new trends. He evokes, for example, the critical turn in British universities triggered by creative writing programs. According to March-Russell, such programmes foster playful modes and a subversion of critical writing that are wrapped up with a more radical future for short story studies According to Cox, creative writing B.
She evokes, for example, teaching methods that involve the creative rewriting of texts. Such approaches are decidedly practice based, and are, as Cox explains, a means by which to engage writers in discussions of short story theory. Ailsa Cox is also editor of Short Fiction in Theory and Practice, a recently formed first published in , academic, practice-based journal that seeks to provide an international resource and outlet for writers, readers, translators and publishers of the short story.
The journal welcomes experimental, rigorous forms of critical discourse and seeks to open up the realm of short story theory to new modes of study. This convergence is brought to bear upon the evolution of postcolonial studies towards issues of eclecticism, migration, diaspora and globalization. The collection focuses on stories from the s to the present day, and proposes a studied interaction between the short story and the hybridization of the field of postcolonial literature with an emphasis on liminality and the fluidity of sexual, textual, national and ethnic identity.
The referenda were defeated — strongly in Scotland, and overwhelmingly in Wales, where, on St. It was to be 18 years before the Labour Party would govern Britain again. Labour had been traditionally strong — almost at times dependent — on support from the industrial areas of both Scotland and Wales.
Accordingly, as soon as the party returned to power in May , within six months it again held referenda on devolution in Scotland and Wales. This time, the result was quite different. Home rule was fully embraced in Scotland, and also won a narrow victory in Wales. The apparent rapidity of these transformations is one of the important factors in understanding contemporary British public culture. There are two considerations which mitigate the margin of the original failure in Nationalist movements had already existed for a considerable time in both nations.
Tom Nairn suggests in The Break-Up of Britain that Welsh nationalism had been strongly associated with the Welsh language which had in turn been in numerical decline for decades , and hence with a cultural rather than a political nationalism. But few would fail to recognize some truth in the contrast. In Scotland, according to Nairn, the problem was almost exactly the opposite of the Welsh problem: the nationalist movement was mainly focused on political and economic factors, especially land reform and the vexed question of who precisely would profit from the discovery of North Sea oil.
Scottish nationalism, in other words, did not include a sufficient cultural basis to allow it to pass into the popular imagination and gain momentum.
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Welsh nationalism, on the other hand, was excessively grounded in cultural matters, and so was unable to offer a substantiated political agenda capable of appealing to members of the Welsh electorate who were not Welsh language speakers. One of the premises of this study is that fiction is an appropriate place for the consideration of large matters of public political culture.
The referenda defeats of might have been heavy, but the fact that they were staged at all represented a step forward for the previously dissipated nationalist movements in each country, and hence can be seen as staging posts on the historical path towards devolution in , rather than totally at odds with it. Moreover, and of more fundamental concern for this study, is the fact that the break-up of Britain is not by any means uniquely concerned with political change in Scotland and Wales. Nairn writes at the start of his study that the original impetus for his work was provided by a series of cultural and political conflicts across Britain.
These included nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales, but not necessarily in any central or leading way, compared to a whole series of other public conflicts. The s, for example, were characterized by labour unrest and a series of industrial disputes. It was a period in which feminist activists were beginning to challenge the roles traditionally assigned to women within the bourgeois nuclear family.
It was also a period of violent racial antagonism, as exemplified by the Ugandan refugee crisis. Each of these historical phenomena contributed to an overall situation in which the consensuses that had governed British public and cultural life for decades was gradually beginning to evaporate. With the loss of consensus in the public sphere went also the easy sense of a single national interest and even a single national identity.
The domains of feminism, and of ethnicity, are at least as significant in asking how individual subjects perceive their relationship to the political state, and may be even more so. According to Nairn, the conflicts that give rise to the break-up of Britain are conflicts brought about by the economic inequalities of capitalist society. He thus wrote The Break-Up of Britain with, as it were, his socialist hat on as much as with his nationalist hat on. Williams —88 belonged to that first generation of working-class children who received scholarships to study at Cambridge in the s and s, and 6 Postmodern Fiction and the Break-Up of Britain devoted his career to extending the educational franchise.
He was enormously influential in bringing political questions into the cultural environment and hence in democratizing educational institutions and cultural practices. Late in his career, Williams increasingly came to see that implicit in the extension of the democratic franchise was the need for reform of political institutions across Britain. Like Nairn, he advocated reform of the House of Lords, and the establishment of certain regional political assemblies across Britain. First, we are trying to discover an identity.
And second but related to this we are trying to discover political processes by which people really can govern themselves. The goals of devolution, as Williams points out, were to discover new identities and achieve new forms of political representation. This suggests that the political processes and the new identity politics at the heart of The Break-Up of Britain were not confined to devolution in Scotland and Wales.
On the contrary, the break-up of pan-British social cohesion was occurring on all sorts of other terrains. As a result of these changes, the radical academic Anthony Barnett developed the Charter 88 movement in the run-up to the General Election. At the same time, Williams was also an innovative novelist. His novel The Volunteers, for example, imagined a Britain set in the then futuristic world where political devolution had been achieved — and explored some of the challenges involved in that process. In other words, by writing a novel in giving fictional realization to the possibility of successful home rule in Wales, he was using his writing to try and contribute to that political end.
Here again we can see that the rigid distinction between politics and culture does not always hold up. At the time of his death in , Williams was working on a further novel entitled People of the Black Mountains. Initially, it takes the form of a realist narrative in which a young man goes out into the mountains on the border between Wales and England, in search of his missing grandfather.
Each historical episode becomes, in effect, a separate story. Continuity is provided not just by the physical place, and the overall quest narrative, but also by important historical details. Characters in one section, for example, become the mythical figures of another section two hundred years later. The names of characters here become transmuted into the names of places there — so that each generation leaves its mark. People of the Black Mountains is profoundly innovative, starting as it does in or around the year 23, B. Can we call a collection of stories linked thematically across time a novel — or simply a collection of stories — and why does this matter?
That technique of using the trans-historical imagination can be described as a postmodern technique for engaging with existing genres, while also trying to contribute 8 Postmodern Fiction and the Break-Up of Britain something new to them. But before this point can be explored in detail, it is necessary to consider the emergence of the concept of postmodernism. Origins of Postmodernism The postmodern movement arose in architecture during the s and s when a number of architects in the United States of America and Britain became dissatisfied with the practices they had inherited from architectural modernism in the public sphere.
The modernists in turn had been inspired by the opportunities for innovation that the interaction of culture and advanced technology seemed to offer. The leading figures of modernist architecture, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and above all Le Corbusier integrated technological precision and geometrical accuracy into their plans for public buildings, transforming the traditional concept of a home into a machine for living in. Half a century after the work of Le Corbusier, however, it had become apparent that combining technology with art in such a manner would not necessarily create a harmonious living environment.
The emphasis on urban standardization, for example, led to an apparent lifelessness in the buildings themselves. Moreover, the buildings were cramped, unable to be adapted for a variety of purposes, and ecologically highly unsound. They were tantamount to so many creepers choking the life out of an urban jungle.
An early American postmodern architect like Jane Jacobs, by contrast, entitled her critical study The Death and Life of Great American Cities to refer to the need for regeneration of the urban environment following the failings of modernism. The realization that the interaction between human beings and their landscape played a formative role in shaping human society was an important stimulus to the postmodern movement.
The possibility that an innovative architectural postmodernity might be mobilized to challenge some of the inequalities of a society divided into rich and poor was one of its early insights. When Charles Jencks talks about the importance of double coding in understanding the origins of postmodernism, this applies in a number of different ways.
The postmodernists, like the modernists, believe in the interaction of culture with technology. Jencks believes that postmodern architecture can communicate both with a general public, and with a specialist body of other architectural professionals. Skilled architects by contrast might be interested in the ways in which each of these buildings refers to others in the postmodern tradition, by means of visual echoes.
Thus postmodern architecture is doubly coded in the sense that it can speak simultaneously to a highly specialized sector or professional elite, and to a willing general public, in terms appropriate to each. What all of this points to is the capacity of postmodernism to cut across and combine different styles, traditions, and even disciplines. This is precisely what we find happening in postmodern fiction.
Doctorow and Carlos Fuentes all combine different genres, and integrate different historical moments into the present, combining the intellectually highbrow with the populist and even the kitsch. By now, though, these writers have already been the focus of several critical studies of postmodernism. It is with a younger generation of British postmodern novelists that this study is concerned. Postmodern Fiction and the Break-Up of Britain Critical concepts of postmodernity arose in late twentieth-century architecture.
The break-up of Britain is a historical process, rooted in the movement towards home rule and devolved political power in Scotland and Wales. In other words, both postmodernism and the break-up of Britain are informed by an important spatial dimension. Since the s, social scientists and 10 Postmodern Fiction and the Break-Up of Britain scholars across a range of disciplines have been increasingly aware that physical space is not value neutral.
On the contrary, social space is thoroughly imbricated with public and hierarchical relationships, and ultimately, with different forms of power. The spatial turn that arrives with the moment of postmodernity lays bare the power nexus between individuals, peoples, and organizations at a range of levels.
Accordingly, the portrayal of different kinds of social space is an important element in much postmodern fiction. In the decade immediately following the war, the dominant fictional response was to conjure away the problems faced by an encroaching exterior world reality, and offer fictional solace in the strongly delineated world of home. Farrell by contrast embraces the spatial turn wholeheartedly.
The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles and The Singapore Grip cannot be considered a trilogy in the conventional sense of tracing one or more families across one or more generations of a life story. The narrative of each novel is discrete in that plot-based sense. Farrell portrays a structural congruence between the first attempt in India to gain independence from Britain in the s; the sectarian troubles that have afflicted Ireland since partition; and Singapore on the brink of Japanese invasion.
In other words, the linking theme of the trilogy is space, and how different constructions of public space make manifest certain power relationships. The spatial turn reveals that what is happening at one point on the globe might be informed and even directed by events at another entirely separate point. For although The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles and The Singapore Grip Introduction 11 are historical novels, they are imbued with a peculiarly modern and even contemporary idiom, which has the effect of focusing attention onto the moment at which they were written, rather than the different moments at which their action is imagined to occur.
In other words, history itself is revealed in postmodern fiction to consist of a series of overlapping and ironically recurring scenarios, each of which has an important relationship with the present. At the conclusion of Chapter One, I suggest that the perpetual movement towards a ubiquitous present has become even more accelerated in a series of novels in which the period from the s to the present day is imagined as being both a separate historical period, and an important moment of the present. This opens up a second perspective on postmodern fiction and the spatial turn, whereby the presence of the past is revealed in a striking and sometimes surprising number of spatial locations.
This is probed further in Chapter Two, which analyses a series of novels that have drawn an implicit parallel between the end of the British empire overseas, and political devolution domestically. As with the Farrell trilogy, the implication seems to be that certain historical scenarios recur with specific variations across a range of societies and periods. Afterwards thus sets off as a historical novel, and ends up in the present.
Greig, like Seiffert, seems to suggest that the power nexus that exists between different global spaces is important in understanding contemporary Britain. Moreover, this can only be done through recourse to the history of each society, and an understanding of how the past comes to be operative in the present. Philip Tew has suggested that the work of recent novelists contributes to a general reconfiguration of concepts of Britishness and narratives of British identity.
The coming to maturity of a large number of second and third generation immigrant authors coincides in time with political devolution in Scotland and Wales, and a changing political landscape in Northern Ireland. Immigrant British ethnicities and devolution politics both contribute to the new kind of British novel that has emerged since the s: both are aspects of the postcolonial predicament and the need for new narratives of identity.
If social space is an important medium for the reification of power relationships, then the capacity to contest its meaning is at least potentially transformative. Our Fathers portrays a society in which unwholesome or unsanitary housing manifests power relationships through economic inequality, literally imprisoning subjects within their own poverty.
To engage in a public programme of housing is in this sense to offer to build the nation anew. By extrapolation, the failure of such a programme bears heavily on the dissolution of the unitary state, just as the incongruities and injustices of the past weigh heavily upon the present. Our Fathers can be seen as a symptomatic novel of British postmodernity in that it explores the relationship that exists between critical concepts of space and political processes of change — leading ultimately to devolution. Economic inequality is one of the areas in which the power-space nexus becomes particularly visible.
Another such area is that of gender. In literature, public spaces such as courts, castles, palaces and prisons have been ascribed to men for five centuries, while private places such as homes, schools and hospitals have been ascribed to women. If the power-space nexus imprisons low-income families in their own poverty, then it is also Introduction 13 true that it imprisons men and women in their gender.
This imprisonment is physically instantiated by the different spatial domains in which they operate. As she is interested in inverting the patriarchal hegemony, she creates in Heligoland a novel that is part-realist and part-fable. Her female protagonist Rowena has survived orphanage in India and servitude on a country estate in Scotland.
The names of her masters, Lord and Lady Grouseclaw, indicate that the novel is to be read as an allegory of traditional power relationships and the ways in which they might be opposed. Although she becomes imprisoned by the traditionally feminine role of housekeeper in a communal estate in London, she also achieves a hard-won truce for herself. Heligoland bears many of the features that have been described as postmodern. In the portrayed connection between India and Scotland, there is an embedded awareness of the co-presence of different points on a global terrain, and of how actions in one impact upon events in the other.
This opens up a dialectical relationship between space and time, where the affinity that exists between different kinds of place in a connected system is symbolically repeated by the relationship between different periods of time. What happens in one time period may be ironically repeated in another, just as what happens in one place might have a particular impact in another. The presence of the past, and of past locations, are both important elements in Heligoland.
By parodying a didactic fable in an otherwise realist novel, Mackay creates a fictional form capable of registering opposition to the masculine hegemony over social space. This becomes even more strongly the theme in Chapter Four, which provides analysis of A. As feminist writers and experimental novelists, Byatt and Atkinson are aware of the power-space nexus that exists, and of the impact it has in the specific domain of gender.
Accordingly, each writer undertakes a subversive parody of monarchic culture, in which monarchy is associated with patriarchy and hegemony. In The Virgin in the Garden, Byatt imagines a pageant commissioned to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in , written on the theme of the earlier Elizabethan golden age of the sixteenth century. Byatt allows 14 Postmodern Fiction and the Break-Up of Britain her pageant to disintegrate into farce, thereby drawing attention to the disjunction between pompous and undemocratic state-authored rituals, and their incongruous human realization in the nation at large.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum too takes the coronation as an important climax. In other words, the patriarchal masquerade of state power is brought directly into a private social space that would more traditionally be ascribed to women. As with The Virgin in the Garden, Behind the Scenes at the Museum emphasizes the lack of fit between male authority and female experience.
In addition, Behind the Scenes at the Museum is set in the flat above a pet shop, which turns into a scene of carnage when a fire breaks out, the animals perish, and the family are compelled to move home. The image of the expulsion from the garden of Eden had been a mainstay of patriarchal culture and authority for two millennia. In her ironic refrain of the expulsion archetype Atkinson mobilizes the power of parody in order to demonstrate her opposition to patriarchy. Just as A.
Byatt parodies the myth of an Elizabethan golden age, and Kate Atkinson parodies the expulsion from Eden motif, I suggest at the start of Chapter Five that Jeanette Winterson is another feminist writer capable of accessing the politics of parody. Biblical narratives of this kind are in many ways ripe for the plundering by parodic postmodern writers, though, and feminist critique is by no means the only grounds on which such work has been carried out. The linking theme of each fable is the oceanic feeling, expressed through a series of sea voyages undertaken by the different protagonists and capable when read cumulatively of generating a sense of the ocean itself as being the main highway and connecting force in the world.
The ocean in this sense generates a feeling of the globe as such, undivided by national, political or cultural frontiers. There, five linked short stories set in radically different time periods from the pre-historic to the space age invite the reader to cultivate a mental image of the world when looked at from a point outside it. Mitchell, like Barnes, portrays a world as a single unbounded entity, free from borders and where the concept of a nation-state has ceased to be operative. Negatively, it gives rise to a dystopian fantasy in which nations have ceased to exist simply because the power of transnational capitalism has enabled corporations to transcend the boundaries of individual nationstates in the scale of their operations and the reach of their power, obliging every human being on Earth to bow down before the capitalist system.
Positively, it suggests a form of cosmopolitanism, whereby different peoples, different cultures, and speakers of different languages are not precluded from social association with each other by a pre-conceived boundary or frontier. Cosmopolitanism is the theme of the final chapter, which explores the contribution made by writers from specific ethnic communities to the imaginative process that has been described as the break-up of Britain.
All three novels are firmly embedded in one particular place which is also a point of intersection with other spaces and other cultural practices. Again, all three novels speak of one particular time, while successfully conveying the presence of the past in the present. Kazuo Ishiguro goes a step further than this, deploying a range of intersecting linguistic codes to achieve a precise effect.
In setting his historical novel in an English country house of the s, Ishiguro appears to have decided to fashion a plot and a novel out of a cast list of characters that is exclusively white and European. That the Japanese-born Ishiguro should make such a choice seems startling. The new analysis presented draws strongly on the different linguistic codes employed by Ishiguro and argues that in effect, the language in question is the language of a contemporary, urban, cosmopolitan society. This after all is the society in which Ishiguro writes.
In other words, because they are fashioned through such a language, all of the characters of The Remains of the Day can be imagined and read as members of a cosmopolitan society, and ultimately as members of different ethnic subcultures. This is the case not because Ishiguro explicitly tells us that his characters are Indian, or African.
On the contrary, he says no such thing. In other words, his characters are historical characters imagined into being in the present. In this sense, Ishiguro, like so many other postmodern novelists, reveals the presence of the past in the contemporary, just as J. Farrell had done by endowing his historical characters with a thoroughly modern consciousness. His imaginative reach is global, but the precise focus of each novel is firmly local, fixed in particular places at particular times.
In global terms, the nation-state appears to have become superseded, a unit now too small and too bounded for the generation of useful cultural and imaginative analysis. In the postmodern imagination, the borders between nation-states are thrown open, allowing the nation itself to be transcended by larger ethnic and linguistic categories, even as it is breaking up into smaller competing and conflicting units.
The contemporary nation-state, in other words, is a dialectical entity, negated and superseded even at the moment of its own assertion. This has important implications for the work of fiction. In British postmodern fiction, portrayal of the break-up of a coherent, unified or consensual national culture brings in its train an opportunity to pay particular attention to the contemporary make-up of Britain itself.
What was it just then that emerged in England? On the other hand, the coincident publication of so many major novels — Dombey and Son, Wuthering Heights, Vanity Fair, Jane Eyre, Mary Barton, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall — was enough to suggest to Williams that this rich and varied novelistic explosion could be interpreted as both symptom and cause of a wider historical change much longer in the offing.
The forms of fiction produced in can be approached in a similar way. Snow, J. Tolkien, William Golding and George Lamming, is suggestive that this was a period of significant innovation in literary form, which might in turn have been brought about by broader historical change. This change, while undoubtedly of longer genealogy than the mere two years of publication, can be understood quite strikingly from an examination of the field of fiction produced in those years. The mids occupy a moment of considerable importance within the history of Britain in the twentieth century, just as Williams argued that was of central importance in relation to the history of the nineteenth.
In the mid-nineteenth century, this was primarily a matter of a growing impoverished urban proletariat, born of a rapid process of industrialization, giving rise to an unequal and socially divided society. In the mid-twentieth century, the condition of England was still one of class division. This had been complicated by the historical transformation of Britain, from dominant imperial power to island nation.
In this sense, it has often been suggested that the s novel anticipates the social liberation and the moment of the s. Jim Dixon buys in to his sense of cultural identity, in which national interest becomes imbricated with sexual desire through the operation of a particular code. Only one of them appears as a character. They are respectively Irish, Scottish and Welsh names. Claire McEachern has shown that in that play, Shakespeare symbolically employs a fantasy of a united army of Irish and Scottish, Welsh and English soldiers in order to dispel any doubt about the — fragile — state of the union of Britain at the time the play was written.
Four hundred years later, Amis employs the same technique at the moment when the British empire began to collapse. It is possible that when the empire began to fall apart, so did the desired national unity. The union imagined as a sexual relationship between Jim and the three passive women is staged as a similar union of national identity performed between different nations to give access to a wider political union.
Through this fantasy of sexual penetration, a fantasy of penetrative imperial identity is also enacted. In other words, for all its overt posturing towards sexual emancipation, Lucky Jim is not the anti-establishment novel that it was once hailed as. Like many novels produced during the s, it can be interpreted as a response to contemporary problems of frustrated desire and nationhood. As such, the novels in question should more properly be seen as the remnants of an old social and cultural order, rather than the harbingers of the new.
Usually at some point the villain captures Bond and confiscates his weapon, thus leaving him symbolically castrated and temporarily unable to exercise that symbolic power which is his wont. For not only this symbolic castration, but also the distracting seduction of a beautiful girl, invariably threaten to distract Bond from the task in hand and leave England at the peril of the villain. The novels end with Bond up, the girl down, and the villain defeated.
The historical challenges facing England during the s are symbolically resolved in this way. Alan Sinfield has reminded us that during the Cold War period, not only was deviant sexuality a criminal offence, it was also interpreted as being 20 Postmodern Fiction and the Break-Up of Britain harmful to public morals and hence the national interest.
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Many of the best known novels of the s offer symbolic resolution to the conflicts that had come over the British empire during the s and s. Raymond Williams has suggested that the allegories of J. The political satire of C. In other words, far from anticipating the social and political revolutions of the s, the novel in Britain in the s falls back on a kind of comforting nostalgia.
Time and again, the s novel seeks to console its readers for the political changes that had come over the world with the end of the war, and from which Britain could not remain insulated forever. By seeking to conjure away some of the challenges facing Britain on the world stage, they proffer a combination of anger and denial as the The Novel — and Britain — in Transition 21 main strategies for dealing with the changes brought about in British society by decolonization.
The changes in British society after were rapid, and initially the dominant form of fiction in Britain was one in which malign or threatening influences were castigated, absorbed, or symbolically conjured away. Though it took some time for a new fictional form to emerge, less orientated towards carrying out the kind of symbolic holding job that we find in Lucky Jim, and more geared towards making a positive resource out of political change, by the s, such a form had begun to emerge.
The political changes that had come over Britain during mid-century could not be kept out of British fiction forever, and once their presence was registered, there would be an important transition from out-moded settlement to political fragmentation, where the imagined political strength and unity of the earlier period would be approached with scepticism and cynicism. By expressing the imperial world of in an idiom that is external to it, Farrell wishes to draw attention to the incongruous nature of imperial rule, incongruous both to the India of the s and to the Britain of the s.
Krishnapur is imagined to be an Indian plains city, with a small military cantonment and the standard tranche of colonial society: Hopkins the station collector, Willoughby the magistrate, the action hero Lieutenant Harry Dunstaple, and the reflexive intellectual George Fleury. When the first sepoy rebellion against British rule occurs, the general reaction is one of patronizing confidence. In a sense, from the beginning the collector must grapple against the colonial machine as much as he is engaged in defending the cantonment against local uprising. The Jacksons and Burltons of the colony represent typical colonial figures.
Having entirely internalized the imperial ideology of moral superiority and practical skill, they are unable to believe that a sepoy rebellion can possibly pose any serious risk to their security. Farrell endues them with a confident world outlook that borders on racist discrimination: to them it is self-evident that the European officers cannot be undermined by the servile Indian sepoys. The collector has to rouse them from this excess of confidence in order to regiment an appropriate defence to the danger.
Farrell also wishes to address the problem of assumed superiority in British society that was evident in Lucky Jim and the novel of the s. The difference between the novel of the s and the novel of the s can be characterized as a difference between nostalgia and cynicism. Farrell wishes readers to see that an earlier, exaggerated self-confidence in British society was predicated on the imposition of colonial injustices overseas. The Novel — and Britain — in Transition 23 To replace this kind of confidence with cynicism is to attempt to explore a British identity that avoids such constructs.
The technique Farrell uses in The Siege of Krishnapur is one of simultaneous connection and distancing. He brings the world of the Raj directly into contemporary Britain, in order to show the lack of fit between the two. It is a technique that can be described as the deliberate use of anachronism. The Siege of Krishnapur mobilizes a similar ironic contrast between modern scientific ideas and their location in a historical period before they are presumed to have become current. Fleury does not speak in reply, but his thoughts are interpolated by Farrell.
By inserting his own brief comment into the debate here, Farrell brings modern scientific knowledge to bear on the scenario that is otherwise located in the nineteenth century. The suggestion that the idea of evolution would have made Fleury famous hints at the fame and notoriety achieved by Charles Darwin for precisely the same thing.
In other words, Farrell, like John Fowles, endues his characters with a trans-historical understanding that springs from the dialogue between characters located in the nineteenth century, and readers located in the late twentieth. A third example comes when the doctors Dunstaple and McNab discuss different causes of cholera.
By inserting an authorial commentary on the beliefs of the characters in parenthesis, Farrell uses the trans-historical understanding of the reader to highlight important differences between the two societies in question. When Fleury first arrives in India, for example, he visits the grave of his mother who is buried there. The elevated linguistic and literary style derived from the use of the third-person is at odds with the comical description of Fleury, where the tone is irreverent. This juxtaposition of incongruities strengthens the combination of farce and peril that typifies the novel.
The idiom employed is drawn from modern scientific and technical discourse rather than the age of imperial adventure. The juxtaposition of the two hints at a deeper incongruity. By placing a modern, cynical idiom in the mouth of a supposed hero of empire, Farrell is able both to bridge the century and a half that separates modern Britain from imperial India, and re-assert a distinction between them. In effect, Hopkins and Fleury are contemporary British citizens transported back to the era of the Raj.
Their inability to fit into the heroic requirements of the empire indicates precisely why it is appropriate to embrace the end of empire, rather than mourn it. It is often suggested that the period since the s is an age of apathy and disillusionment in the political and cultural spheres.
For almost three decades after the Second World War, a high material standard of living for the average Briton enabled a general belief in the continuing prosperity of the earlier period, and this prosperity generated a certain quiescence in The Novel — and Britain — in Transition 25 the political sphere. Cynicism, moreover, is not just the absence of cultural confidence. Cynicism is a particular kind of sinecure. It can be defined as a cultural strategy of distancing. Cynicism in the literary context is a technique for addressing the cultural and political changes that came over Britain during the drift from empire to small island, without becoming caught up in nostalgia or defensive obfuscation.
Literary cynicism is a means of re-examining the aesthetic and moral values of an imperial period that during the s was coming to a rapid close. It performs a specific kind of distancing by suggesting that just as those values were remote and incongruous with the colonized territories on which they were imposed, so too are they equally remote from the daily values of contemporary British society. The literary cynicism that has emerged since the s offers a means of combining an interest in the structural changes in British society in terms of class, race and gender with a willingness to embrace a post-imperial definition of British society.
It is, in other words, a means of coming to terms with the excesses of an imperial past, while also gesturing towards a non-imperial present and future. Conventionally, a trilogy would explore the life of a particular person, or group or dynasty of persons, over several different moments in the course of one lifetime, and would feature recurring characters, themes and motivations.
Indeed, his literary creation is not really concerned with the naturalistic concepts of character, or plausible behaviour, or consistency of motivation at all.
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Farrell is aware that all fictional characters are externally created constructs, and as such, emphasizes their constructed nature as literary types, rather than their naturalistic life stories as such. In this sense, he is more interested in historical situations than in characters. More specifically, he is interested in what happens when the kind of literary character specific to one form or genre is placed in the historical setting appropriate to another.
In The Siege of Krishnapur, for example, he places a modern anti-hero in the setting of an imperial epic adventure and explores the disjunction that arises as a result. In the India of the s, the Ireland of the s, and the Singapore of the Second World War, he sees the stirrings of the beginning of the end of the British empire. In each case, he goes on to use a range of literary devices for juxtaposing the historical break-up of the empire with a contemporary interpretation of it. The tendency in colonial history for similar situations to recur in radically different societies enables Farrell to understand the history of the empire from the perspective of a single historical trajectory.
The capacity of this trajectory to then tell us something about contemporary Britain is the unifying theme of the trilogy. There is a continual shuttling back and fore between the portrayal of the different societies in question, and the society in which the writing itself is carried out. Strictly speaking, Troubles was the first instalment of the empire trilogy, although its action is located considerably after that of The Siege of Krishnapur. The narrative parallels with The Siege of Krishnapur become apparent almost immediately. Neglected by its owner, and in a worsening economic climate, the very fabric of the hotel rapidly begins to disintegrate, and this dilapidation again recalls that of the residency in The Siege of Krishnapur.
This is significant, for as political debates about the future of Irish republicanism are discussed by a procession of visitors to the Majestic, these inevitably become registered as matters of personal interest to Major Archer. As a former soldier in the British army, readers would naturally expect him to feel strongly opposed to any concession towards the Irish nationalist cause. As his experience in Ireland grows, so too does his interest in the republican cause, and his belief in its justice. In other words, Farrell locates The Novel — and Britain — in Transition 27 the key historical developments within the mind of a character not a priori aligned with them.
Just as George Fleury is an anti-hero placed in the age of heroism, so Major Archer too is placed in a situation incongruous to him.
He is also in this sense an anti-hero: not because his values are questionable, but because as a literary construct produced in the s, he expresses a scepticism towards the ideology of empire which would have been less readily available to characters in novels produced before this point. In Troubles, scepticism is portrayed as a personal perspective on public matters. It is through his personal relationships with Edward Spencer and the staff and residents at the Majestic that Major Archer expresses his scepticism of the imperial project.
They must need it badly if they come out to cut it at night. The Major, though part of an army whose existence is devoted to the maintenance of those structures, is more able to think as a disinterested individual and see some justice in the cause of the poor. The Major says to Edward: I sometimes wonder. Troubles, p. This device of dressing up political attitudes in personal responses recurs throughout the novel. As news of Fennian activity reaches the Majestic, the spinster ladies who reside there circulate rumours expressing fear at the extent of atrocities being perpetrated by the Irish against the occupiers.
In other words, the Major is shown to be more willing to downplay reports of criminal behaviour, and implicitly more willing to sympathize 28 Postmodern Fiction and the Break-Up of Britain with nationalist activity, than the unionist members of the community he is theoretically present to serve. By placing such personal attitudes in the mind of a figure not wholly appropriate to them, Farrell is able to draw attention to the complexity of political matters in the Ireland of the s, and to the process of political change that was getting under way.
Indeed, it might be that the real period of change is not so much the one in which the novel is set, but that in which it was written: the mids, the period of the troubles in Irish paramilitary conflict and one staging post on a long journey that would see power-sharing finally come to Northern Ireland.
As a result, it is possible to read the novel in such a way as to see the historical connections between the period in which it was written, and that in which it was set. Moreover, Farrell is also at pains to point out the connections that exist between the early movement for Irish separatism, and similar anti-imperial nationalisms around the globe.
Throughout the novel, the incidents are interspersed with fictitious newspaper articles read by the residents of the Majestic. The effect of these is to frame the Irish troubles in the context of global anti-colonial nationalist movements. Events in India give the Irish nationalists accelerated momentum and vice versa. It is for this reason that every report of political action elsewhere on the globe is juxtaposed with some comparable activity in Ireland.
Irish soldiers in India refuse to support the cause of the British empire once they have heard what is happening in Ireland. The final instalment of the trilogy, The Singapore Grip, offers a recapitulation of some of the themes and scenarios presented in the earlier novels. Again, however, it is the historical society being presented, and its striking structural congruence with the earlier societies, that generates the main thread of continuity. The Singapore of , like the Krishnapur of and the Kilnalough of , is a society under siege. As the siege tightens, the internal dynamics and contradictions of the society are brought to the forefront, so that as with the India of the Raj and the Ireland of the troubles, what finally pulls it apart is a combination of external pressure and internal conflict.
As with the official residency of Krishnapur, and the crumbling Majestic hotel, the fate of the residents of the British quarters of Singapore is rendered both terrifying and farcical. As with the earlier portrayals of crumbling imperial rule in India and Ireland, this depiction of farce in peril is a conscious narrative tool. It prevents melodramatic sympathy from lodging too strongly with the colonizers, however dramatic their personal circumstances, and instead deflects the historic imagination onto bigger questions of imperialism and democracy.
As the explicit coda to the empire trilogy, The Singapore Grip detaches the thematic problems that it raises from the historical society in which they are raised, and transplants them into contemporary Britain. One technique Farrell uses for achieving this is to contrast the opulence of modern exportrich Singapore with the dilapidation of war. He does not merely ask us to imagine what Singapore was like back then, he tells us that we can see for ourselves. Farrell employs the deliberate use of anachronism to shuttle between past and present in a way that makes the two almost indistinguishable.
Describing his own visit to Singapore in to research the novel, Farrell tells us that the homeless urchins of the war period have now gone: Their place has been taken by prosperous-looking workers from the electronic factories out for an evening stroll with their children, by a party of polite Japanese tourists with cameras who have strayed here by mistake, and by the author of this book writing busily in a small red notebook and 30 Postmodern Fiction and the Break-Up of Britain scratching his knuckles where some lonely, last-remaining mosquito.
Singapore Grip, p. What finer technique for accessing the trans-historical imagination can be envisaged? The novel breaks off with the Japanese army arriving on the island and all British civilians being marched off to internment camps for the duration of the war. And yet the trilogy as a whole refuses to end there. Instead it leaps forward, not just through the internment, and the post-war years of reconstruction and political change, but directly up to the moment of writing: But more years pass and yet more.
Let us suppose that Kate Blackett, now a woman with grown-up children of her own, is sitting at her breakfasttable in a quiet street in Bayswater. Opposite Kate at the table is a man reading The Times for 10 December Singapore Grip, pp. In The Siege of Krishnapur, Farrell uses the technique of endowing his characters with a peculiarly modern idiom and consciousness to connect the India of the s with his own contemporary Britain of the s. The Singapore Grip completes the trilogy by declaring the end of the period of empire in the Far East, and by jumping several decades at its conclusion, to situate its surviving characters in the London of , at the precise moment of writing.
In each of these novels, the different techniques enable Farrell to use a portrayal of anti-imperial action to provide a running commentary on his own contemporary Britain. By , however, it is The Novel — and Britain — in Transition 31 no longer easy to consider as part of our contemporary world view.
It is logical, therefore, that the next step would be the emergence of a kind of novel that shows the recent past itself becoming part of history. They cannot be called historical novels in the traditional sense, because of their degree of proximity to the present. It is significant that they are all coming of age novels, where a child-like or immature perspective is brought to bear on some of the main public and political questions of the period in a way that interrogates the founding assumptions of the dominant ideology.
During the mids, Ben Trotter and his friend Philip Chase suffer the trials and excitement of growing up, before coming to a hard-won truce with themselves. First, Ben must suffer the pain of seeing his sister Lois fall victim to the Birmingham public house bombings of , in which her boyfriend Malcolm is killed and Lois is so deeply traumatized that she loses the ability to speak. This instils in Ben a caring imperative that he is both unwilling and unable to shake off. The changed relationships with his sister, parents and friends into which Ben is catapulted turn the local society in which he exists into a microcosm for the charged political currents that historically would start to flow through Britain during the period in question.
The caring imperative makes Ben himself reluctant to socialize widely outside the house and he develops both a stutter and a stammer. His friend Philip Chase is supportive and helpful in the manner of an inarticulate schoolboy. Doug, with whom the other two boys collaborate on a music magazine project, is slightly more detached.
Cecily Boyd, star of the school dramatic society, strings Ben along for most of the novel without ever inquiring about his family circumstances. The geographical location in question does not generate a sense of being the beating heart or control centre of the nation, but it does contribute to a microscopic effect. Coe generates the impression that his novel and its characters are situated just above an imaginary position at the geometric centre of the country, and that we as readers are looking down from this viewpoint at the United Kingdom as a whole, rather than at a narrow section of it.
Labour unrest and economic uncertainty, the growth of Irish paramilitarism, the press for separatism in Scotland and Wales, a rapidly accelerated process of immigration leading to difficulties of adjustment and conflict but also to multi-cultural enrichment, and the changing roles of women in society all complicate a series of class relations.
At times, Coe even seems to step out of the period in which the novel is set, as if to look back over it with a deeper historical perspective: People forget about the s. They remember that the unions had real power in those days but they forget how people reacted: all those cranks and military types who talked about forming private armies to restore order and protect property when the rule of law broke down. They forget about the Ugandan Asian refugees who arrived at Heathrow in , and how it made people say that Enoch had been right in the late sixties when he warned about rivers of blood.
They forget that in those days, the National Front sometimes looked like a force to be reckoned with. He is aware, however, that at the time they were happening, the connections between these things might very well have been less clear to an observer living through them — especially if the observer in question happens to be a rather unexceptional school boy. As a result, Coe chooses to hint at those interconnections without being able to tie them down.
This rapidly escalates into a large-scale strike, with accompanying protest demonstrations and conflict. A press photographer having his camera seized and stamped to pieces. An elderly West Indian being rammed up against a low garden wall and then levered over it, his legs contorting as he landed in a twisted heap.
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It is like a montage of different elements of contemporary British society: the factory owners; the workers; their families; immigrant workers; the strikers; the police with whom they clash. Coe integrates personal drama and public activism. The general sense he creates is of an indeterminately sensed series of connections between what is happening to Ben and Philip and their families, and the wider world.
In other words, he paints a picture of a society utterly divided, and it is our retrospective knowledge that enables us to fill in the interpretative blanks, and see that the divisions exist along the lines of Irish paramilitarism, the crisis in capital, labour militancy and incipient racism. Uncle Glyn is thus an important mechanism in the novel and much hangs on the way in which he is portrayed. And funnily enough, neither do the friends I was just talking to. Where the matters of labour unrest, racism and its discontents, and Irish troubles are portrayed through characters with a level of dignity corresponding to the seriousness of the issues, the portrayal of Uncle Glyn is different.
Bill Anderson, for example, approaches the trade union strikes that he organizes and the problems of race relations that accompany them with a blend of integrity and solidarity. Uncle Glyn is not portrayed like this. He is made to seem like an over-zealous extremist, almost a lunatic. Where the causes embodied in Anderson are depersonalized and given their own consideration in the novel, the issue of Welsh difference is made to seem as if it is merely the petty rant of an over-wrought individual.
As a result, Uncle Glyn is only able to articulate Welsh nationalism in personal terms that deny it the same level of seriousness afforded to those other concerns, and that in effect trivialize it. Do you think the native Indians of America. This personal, demonic approach to a historical situation is at odds with the more subtle, and more successfully integrated, portrayals of labour unrest and social and racial inequality.
The mids was a period in which the Kilbrandon Commission was set up to investigate the constitutional governance of the different nations of Britain, culminating in the Act of and referenda in Scotland and Wales in That Coe fails to afford the alternative nationalisms the same measure of seriousness that he extends to those other problems is a weakness of the novel, but not necessarily a disabling one.
Chapter Two Voyages In J. This conjunction does not inhere in any one of the novels any more than any of the others. The effect of this excursion beyond the text and into narrative history is to invite the reader to collude in the identification of a structural congruence between the two phenomena.
In other words, far from being intrinsic to the texts of the trilogy, the interpretation offered in the foregoing chapter is drawn from extrinsic cultural and historical factors. In this sense, we might say that the interpretation offered reveals the trilogy to carry more weight than the sum of its parts.
It would take a very substantial and skilfully integrated novel to address the complexity of such historical issues internally.