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‘Devolution and Cultural Catch-Up: Decoupling England and its Literature from English Literature’.

Dix, H., 2013. ‘Devolution and Cultural Catch-Up: Decoupling England and its Literature from English Literature’. In: Gardiner, M. and Westall, C., eds. Literature of an Independent England Revisions of England, Englishness and English Literature. Basingstoke, Hants, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 188-202.

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Robert McLiam Wilson’s 1989 novel Ripley Bogle uses an unreliable narrator to expose the differences – regional, linguistic and national – between communities Bogle, the protagonist, experiences in Cambridge and Northern Ireland. Bogle is an English Literature student and then drop-out whose rejection of canonical study is the rejection of Arnoldianism and a traditionally organist and imperialist discipline that reanimates the debate about civic values and literary culture. A similar device is used in Sebastian Faulks’s 2007 novel Engleby in which Mike Engleby abandons English Literature at University only to later become a journalist probing the political landscape and personalities of the 1980s and after. Embroiled in disappearance and death, Engleby’s psychological unpredictability enables a reading of Britain’s socio-political death. These interconnected novels stand either side of Britain’s devolutionary divide and, as a pair, are suggestive of England’s need to readdress its own literary culture in the face of devolution. They are also symptomatic of a wider cultural catch-up required within England after 1999. Where the other devolved nations have sought to advance new and challenging national literary concerns and forms distinct from the pan-British literary canon of the past (and its restrictive exclusion based on class, gender and race), England has only recently come to view its literary culture as national. However, this has provided a potential filled moment of redefinition that will help free England and its authors from the pan-British sensibility of imperial dominance. This chapter argues that such redefinition, and resistance to the canon, developed immediately before and dramatically after devolution is evident in Graham Swift’s Last Orders (1996) with its resistive yet civic working class community and in the representations of marginalised, disempowered sections of England’s population offered in Alan Kent’s Proper Job, Charlie Kurnow (2005), Stella Duffy’s The Room of Lost Things (2009) and Jim Crace’s All That Follows (2010). These authors seize the opportunity provided by devolution to re-examine England’s national identity and to probe its relation to political enfranchisement, civic responsibility and literary vitality as England culturally catches up with its own socio-political reality.

Item Type:Book Section
Number of Pages:272
Additional Information:Accepted version my be added to BURO 36 months after publication.
Uncontrolled Keywords:Canon ; Devolution ; Class ; Regionalism ; Nationalism ; Imperialism ; Contemporary Literature
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:20675
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:13 Feb 2013 17:10
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 13:46


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