• “Neither mickling nor muckling" Northern Reflexivity in the Novels of the British “New Wave”

    John Stephenson (see profile)
    British literature, Culture--Study and teaching, English literature, Area studies
    Item Type:
    Harvard University
    20th Century Literature, Britsh New Wave, Northern England, Cultural studies, Regional studies
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    This study proposes that the novels associated with the early 1960s cinematic “British New Wave,” though popularly representative of Northern England, have suffered from under-reading with respect to place-specific identity. Contemporary journalistic construction of the “angry young man,” and subsequent working class-focused analyses obscured textual expressions of northernness available to readers for whom northern place provides “belonging.” Partly as a result of the social change upon which commentators fixated, northern identity was extremely visible in its articulation in the post-war years, and the “New Wave” corpus provides a rich resource for its continuing analysis. Would a specifically “northern” re-examination of the texts by an “insider” reader provide a novel interpretation of the works and their authors, as well as revealing the ways in which this identity is assumed and communicated? Through close reading of texts “of the north,” supported by reference to analyses of place and critical approaches to the novels, the study demonstrates the progressive rarefication of a selfconscious, “performed” identity that nevertheless constitutes a genuine expression of attachment to place. Furthermore, the works of the “New Wave” authors Braine, Sillitoe, Waterhouse, Storey, and Barstow negotiate changes in northern landscape and community, their fully “reflexive northernness” interrogating both itself and more “settled” modes of belonging. The “loud” northern voice characterising this literature of the 1950s and 60s resolved the incongruities of post-industrial regional identity to some extent, enabling a partial return to a still conscious, but quieter “just is” northernness.
    Last Updated:
    7 years ago


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