The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000

The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000

The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000

The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

This is a book that is devoted to the discussion of fiction – reference is made to more than a hundred novelists, and to some two hundred fictional works. I am concerned chiefly with novels, but I also discuss significant works of shorter fiction. My aim has been to produce a history of post-war fiction in Britain that places the literary texts centre stage, and that allows them, rather than a predetermined critical agenda, to reveal the significant patterns and themes in the literary culture. Inevitably, one's own critical perspective is fashioned by a particular intellectual climate, but the withholding, or (at least) the judicious deployment, of favoured critical frameworks is often a necessary part of uncovering the significance of a novel. One needs to bear in mind that the theoretical preoccupations that have become dominant in the academy since 1980 – and that may be overtly alluded to in the work of a Carter, a Rushdie or a Winterson – had no relevance to the novelists of the 1950s and earlier 1960s, whose work unfolded against a very different cultural and intellectual background.

At the beginning of such a project, however, some kind of general framework for reading is required, most especially to explain what is unique to the novel as a form of knowledge, and to help justify the claim, which underpins this work, that the novel in Britain from 1950–2000 yields a special insight into the most important areas of social and cultural history. The survey as a whole stands as a full justification of this claim; but to sketch a short explanation I can do no better than turn to a novel for a suggestion about the effects of narrative fiction.

In John Fowles's Daniel Martin (1977) there is an important symbolic scene at an abandoned site of Amer-Indian habitation in New Mexico. Daniel Martin, on a quest for personal authenticity, and the means by which this quest might be advanced in the form of a novel, sees the ancient site of Tsankawi as hugely significant to his goals. He begins to long for a particular kind of medium, 'something dense, interweaving, treating time as horizontal, like a skyline; not cramped, linear and progressive'. The longing is inspired by the ancient inhabitants of Tsankawi, and 'their inability to think of time except in the present, of the past and future except in terms of the present-not-here'. This approach to temporality creates 'a kind . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.