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A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction



A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction

James F. English (Editor)

ISBN: 978-1-405-15215-0 April 2008 Wiley-Blackwell 296 Pages


A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction offers an authoritative overview of contemporary British fiction in its social, political, and economic contexts.

  • Focuses on the fiction that has emerged since the late 1970s, roughly since the start of the Thatcher era.

  • Comprises original essays from major scholars.

  • Topics range from the rise and fall of the postcolonial novel to controversies over the celebrity author.

  • The emphasis is on the whole fiction scene, from bookstores and prizes to the changing economics of film adaptation.

  • Enables students to read contemporary works of British fiction with a much clearer sense of where they fit within British cultural life.

Notes on Contributors ix

Introduction: British Fiction in a Global Frame 1
James F. English

The increasing importance since the 1970s of transnational markets and circuits of exchange, and the consequent repositioning of British fiction in “world literary space.”

Part I Institutions of Commerce

1 Literary Fiction and the Book Trade 19
Richard Todd

The triangulated relation between (i) authors and agents, (ii) publishers, and (iii) retail booksellers, and
the rise of the retailers to a position of dominance.

2 Literary Authorship and Celebrity Culture 39
James F. English and John Frow

The phenomenon of literary celebrity and its new articulation of the authorial signature with the brand
name. Authors considered include Martin Amis, J. K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, and Fay Weldon.

3 Fiction and the Film Industry 58
Andrew Higson

The interaction of contemporary British literature and the cinema, considered as both businesses and
cultures. Discusses the full range of novels adapted for the screen, with an extended case study of the
adaptation of A. S. Byatt’s Possession.

Part II Elaborations of Empire

4 Tropicalizing London: British Fiction and the Discipline of Postcolonialism Nico Israel 83

The emergence of postcolonial theory and, subsequently, of a canon of postcolonial novels. Discusses such theorists as Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall, and Paul Gilroy, and the novelists Anita Desai, Hari Kunzru, Hanif Kureishi, V. S. Naipaul, Ben Okri, and Salman Rushdie.

5 New Ethnicities, the Novel, and the Burdens of Representation 101
James Procter

The shifting relationship between race, writing, and representation from the late 1970s to the present, with particular reference to the work of Monica Ali, Farrukh Dhondy, Hanif Kureishi, Salman Rushdie, and Zadie Smith.

6 Devolving the Scottish Novel 121
Cairns Craig

Contemporary Scottish fiction in the context of Scottish nationalism and the politics of devolution, with reference to the work of Janice Galloway, Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, A. L. Kennedy, and Alan Warner.

7 Northern Irish Fiction: Provisionals and Pataphysicians 141
John Brannigan

How fiction in Northern Ireland has responded to the politics of the interregnum since 1993, with particular attention to the work of Seamus Deane, Glenn Patterson, Deirdre Madden, Robert McLiam Wilson, and Ciaran Carson.

Part III Mutations of Form

8 The Historical Turn in British Fiction 167
Suzanne Keen

The rising status of historical fiction in contemporary Britain as more self-consciously “literary” forms of the genre have emerged alongside traditional verisimilar historical novels and women’s historical romances. Among the many authors discussed are A. S. Byatt, Bernadine Evaristo, Hilary Mantel, Craig Raine, Salman Rushdie, and Edmund White.

9 The Woman Writer and the Continuities of Feminism 188
Patricia Waugh

The persistent concerns and contradictions in women’s fiction since the 1960s, with reference to Angela Carter, Margaret Drabble, Helen Fielding, Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, and Fay Weldon.

10 Queer Fiction: The Ambiguous Emergence of a Genre 209
Robert L. Caserio

The consolidation of queer fiction as a recognized and important literary category in Britain, and the ongoing tension between this body of literature and the politics of gay rights and gay identity. Writers considered include Pat Barker, Neil Bartlett, Alan Hollinghurst, Jackie Kay, Adam Mars-Jones, Colm Toibin, and Jeanette Winterson.

11 The Demise of Class Fiction 229
Dominic Head

The waning of class consciousness in British fiction as the traditional, adversarial model of class has given way to new understandings both of social inequity and of collective empowerment. With reference to a range of writers, including Nell Dunn, Livi Michael, Alan Sillitoe, and Raymond Williams.

12 What the Porter Saw: On the Academic Novel 248
Bruce Robbins

The academic novel considered as a disguised version of the upward mobility story, with the university serving as a figure for the welfare state, the frame in which the ambiguities of upward mobility are played out. Focuses on the novels of Kingsley Amis, Malcolm Bradbury, A. S. Byatt, Amit Chaudhuri, and David Lodge.

Index 267

"Blackwell's new Companion to contemporary British fiction is a delight to review. It delivers on its promises to be innovative, highly readable, lively and topical, and it warrants wholehearted endorsement as an essenital addition to any library that is seriously developing resources for undergraduate and taught postgraduate study."
Reference Reviews <!--end-->

"James English's companion contains a series of fresh, lively and insightful readings of the key figures in post-war British fiction from Martin Amis to Zadie Smith. Its coverage of the multiple, changing contexts - from globalization and the 'new ethnicities' to the rise of book groups and online retailing - in which that fiction is produced and consumed is generously wide-ranging and satisfyingly informative. This is an authoritative and approachable book." Michael Greaney, Lancaster University

“James English's A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction is a valuable addition to discussions of recent writing. The essays collected here are wide-ranging, well-informed, and critically astute. This book will make a strong contribution to our understanding of the contemporary British novel.” Andrzej Gasiorek, University of Birmingham

  • An authoritative overview of the social, political and economic contexts of contemporary British fiction (since the 1970s).

  • Brings together 12 original essays by an international team of scholars (from the UK, US, Australia and Germany).

  • Highlights the recent transformation of the fiction scene, examining bookselling, book reviewing, literary prizes and the changing relationship between literature and the cinema.

  • Topics covered range from the rise and fall of the postcolonial novel, to controversies over the celebrity author, and the demise of class fiction.

  • Enables students to read contemporary works of British fiction with a much clearer sense of where they fit within British cultural life.