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Tracing the ethical dimension of postwar British experimental fiction

Tracing the ethical dimension of postwar British experimental fiction
Tracing the ethical dimension of postwar British experimental fiction
This thesis examines the treatment of failure in the experimental fiction of Alan Burns, Eva Figes, B. S. Johnson and Ann Quin in order to reconsider their work’s faltering relationship to postwar British culture. The thesis reassesses the significance of failure in these authors’s experimental fiction by drawing on Ewa Ziarek’s analysis of the affiliation between modernism’s aesthetics of failure and the deconstruction of scepticism. Following Ziarek, it reads failure in the experimental texts of Burns, Figes, Johnson and Quin through the lenses of the philosophical revision of scepticism and of Emmanuel Levinas’s ethics of the Other to argue that we can rethink these novelists’s haunting relationship to postwar British culture by tracing their works’s ethical dimension. This methodology allows for a critical reinterpretation of the relationship between these experimental fiction writers and the postwar British public as it was imagined by a key supporter and funder of their work – the Arts Council of Great Britain. Though the Arts Council’s subsidization of postwar culture enabled the production of these experimental fictions, this thesis suggests that it also inhibited their modes of articulation through its subtle marshalling of the norms and conventions of the public, and thereby contributed to a tendency to misrecognize the significance of failure in these authors’s works. The first chapter introduces Burns, Figes, Johnson and Quin by sketching their fleeting formation as a group in the late nineteen-sixties, and their relationship to the Arts Council. The chapter then elaborates on the thesis’s methodology by exploring how a sense of failure also haunted Raymond Williams and Doris Lessing’s attempts to rethink the relationship between culture and community in postwar Britain. The chapters that follow focus in turn on texts by Figes, Johnson, Burns, and Quin in order to outline the relationship of their work to different discursive communities and to devise new ways to read the ethical significance of failure in their experimental fictions. As a whole, the thesis argues that a rereading of failure in the texts of Burns, Figes, Johnson and Quin can shed light on the lasting legacy of experimental writing in postwar British culture.
Clarke, Christopher
bb81c4bc-44bd-4244-a4c1-8cf93cfc9c2a
Clarke, Christopher
bb81c4bc-44bd-4244-a4c1-8cf93cfc9c2a
Middleton, Peter
9f64f346-a05f-4e54-bbf4-600c87a2b237
Marsh, Nicola
52e4155d-1989-4b19-83ad-ffa5d078dd6a

(2015) Tracing the ethical dimension of postwar British experimental fiction. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 193pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis examines the treatment of failure in the experimental fiction of Alan Burns, Eva Figes, B. S. Johnson and Ann Quin in order to reconsider their work’s faltering relationship to postwar British culture. The thesis reassesses the significance of failure in these authors’s experimental fiction by drawing on Ewa Ziarek’s analysis of the affiliation between modernism’s aesthetics of failure and the deconstruction of scepticism. Following Ziarek, it reads failure in the experimental texts of Burns, Figes, Johnson and Quin through the lenses of the philosophical revision of scepticism and of Emmanuel Levinas’s ethics of the Other to argue that we can rethink these novelists’s haunting relationship to postwar British culture by tracing their works’s ethical dimension. This methodology allows for a critical reinterpretation of the relationship between these experimental fiction writers and the postwar British public as it was imagined by a key supporter and funder of their work – the Arts Council of Great Britain. Though the Arts Council’s subsidization of postwar culture enabled the production of these experimental fictions, this thesis suggests that it also inhibited their modes of articulation through its subtle marshalling of the norms and conventions of the public, and thereby contributed to a tendency to misrecognize the significance of failure in these authors’s works. The first chapter introduces Burns, Figes, Johnson and Quin by sketching their fleeting formation as a group in the late nineteen-sixties, and their relationship to the Arts Council. The chapter then elaborates on the thesis’s methodology by exploring how a sense of failure also haunted Raymond Williams and Doris Lessing’s attempts to rethink the relationship between culture and community in postwar Britain. The chapters that follow focus in turn on texts by Figes, Johnson, Burns, and Quin in order to outline the relationship of their work to different discursive communities and to devise new ways to read the ethical significance of failure in their experimental fictions. As a whole, the thesis argues that a rereading of failure in the texts of Burns, Figes, Johnson and Quin can shed light on the lasting legacy of experimental writing in postwar British culture.

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Published date: March 2015
Organisations: University of Southampton, English

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 380677
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/380677
PURE UUID: cb4da28b-df53-4286-9852-221f35c5f959

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Date deposited: 24 Aug 2015 13:16
Last modified: 30 Sep 2017 04:02

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