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The Concept of Work in Post-War British Experimental Fiction

Webb, Christopher; (2019) The Concept of Work in Post-War British Experimental Fiction. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Despite the emergence of a wide gamut of British experimental writing from the late-1950s through to the mid-1970s, there was a consensus that this particular type of writing constituted a ‘“useless” activity’. This was the conclusion not only amongst the various newspaper critics who frequently criticised the Arts Council for supporting ‘hippy art’, but amongst experimental writers themselves, such as Eva Figes (whose remark this was, used when she described her occupation as a novelist in the Guardian in 1968). The experimental writing of this period is fraught with an anxiety about its own uselessness. This thesis argues that this was symptomatic of a unique period in British literary history when traditional notions about work—and what ‘worked’ in terms of literature—were radically scrutinised and reassessed. The Concept of Work in Post-war British Experimental Writing proposes that only with an understanding of the British avant-garde’s engagement with the idea of work and its various corollaries can we fully appreciate the contribution to the development of the modern British novel during the mid-twentieth-century made by these writers, and to probe some of the reasons for their move away from realism. The thesis begins by examining the historical context in which these writers were working and the influence of Samuel Beckett’s work on the British avant-garde before moving on to analyse in detail the works of Alexander Trocchi, B. S. Johnson and Eva Figes, whose preoccupations with concepts related to work, such as leisure, public debt, and forms of neglected labour, allow us to think about late-modernism’s relation to realism in a new way and, more broadly, what they might tell us about avant-gardism in general.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Concept of Work in Post-War British Experimental Fiction
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
Keywords: Work, Experimental Fiction, Avant-garde, B.S. Johnson, Alexander Trocchi, Eva Figes, Women's labour, labour, writing, post-war, British, Fiction, Samuel Beckett
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of English Lang and Literature
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10068438
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