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Thatcherism and the fiction of liberal dissent : the 'state of the nation' novel in the 1980s

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:37 authored by Jon. Begley
This thesis provides an examination of a revival of the 'state of the nation' novel in response to political and cultural conditions of Britain in the 1980s. Encompassing individual authors such as Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Margaret Drabble as well as examples of campus fiction and zeitgeist personification, it analyses a variety of fictional critiques of Thatcherism and the 'enterprise culture'. It addresses both the cultural position of these works within the context of liberal dissent and the political implications of their fictional modes of opposition. Adopting the end of the post-war consensus and its cultural ideas as an informing framework, it investigates the ideological and aesthetic challenges posed by a period of social, economic and political transition. Drawing attention to the connections between the 'state of the nation', form, liberal realism and the idea of a common culture, it explores the engagement of these novels with the difficulties of representing, and responding to, the fractured condition of Britain in the 1980s. It identifies a series of narrative tensions that highlight an intensification of the traditional problems of delineating and encapsulating the 'nation'. Furthermore, these formal tensions are examined in relation to the political limitations of liberal-humanism and the discordance between consensus ideals and the ideological and cultural directions of the decade. Ultimately, this thesis evaluates the cogency of these fictional expressions of liberal dissent in the context of the 1980s and addresses the question of whether the 'state of the nation' novel remains an adequate aesthetic framework for the analysis, and critical dissection, of contemporary Britain.


Date of award


Author affiliation


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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    University of Leicester Theses