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Freedom and the city: contemporary British fiction and the cultural politics of disenfranchisement

Beaumont, Alexander Iain (2011) Freedom and the city: contemporary British fiction and the cultural politics of disenfranchisement. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Established approaches to contemporary British literature frequently focus on how novelists from the UK have engaged with the complex account of culture that was developed on the Left during the 1980s as a response to Thatcherism. Freedom and the City shifts the terms of this debate in a new direction by using the thought of Hannah Arendt to reappraise the relationship between culture, Left politics and the British novel in the contemporary period, and to reveal a previously unstudied political and narrative logic I term the “cultural politics of disenfranchisement”. This logic grew out of a model of freedom advanced by leftist cultural theorists such as Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy during the 1980s and early 1990s, which identified urban subcultures as a substitute for the formal freedom associated with established political structures. Through close readings of six contemporary authors—Jeanette Winterson, Hanif Kureishi, J.G. Ballard, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Maggie Gee—I uncover the process by which British writers working after Thatcher came to believe that one of the consequences of this experiment with freedom has been a disastrous abandonment of politics in its formal sense: as a clearly delimited and agonistic public space in which a plurality of subjects is recognised and their actions invested with political meaning. Because of this abandonment, I argue, in less than two decades the coexistence of flexible cultural identities and urban space has become a virtual narrative impossibility: today, the British novel is frequently marked by structures of failed utopianism, frustrated or incomplete experiments and even withdrawal and quietism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: contemporary, British, fiction, literature, novel, city, Arendt, cultural studies, left culturalism, Kureishi, Winterson, Ballard, McEwan, Ishiguro, Gee, subcultures, neoliberalism, Marxism
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Mr Alexander Iain Beaumont
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2011 11:45
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:46
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1564

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