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‘She finds a metaphor for her condition without defining it’: Ann Quin and the British “Experimental” Novel of the Sixties

HODGSON, JENNIFER (2014) ‘She finds a metaphor for her condition without defining it’: Ann Quin and the British “Experimental” Novel of the Sixties. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Literary historians have positioned British experimental prose of the mid-century – that of Ann Quin, Christine Brooke-Rose, Brigid Brophy, B.S. Johnson, Alan Burns
and others – as an adjunct to debates surrounding the post-war re-emergence of realism. Critical responses to anxieties about the situation of the novel at mid-century
(linked to a wider crisis of identity in post-war Britain), in surveys by Lodge, Bergonzi and Bradbury, tend to set up an opposition between a detached, obscure and aloof experimentalism (belatedly and exhaustedly modern, overshadowed by Joyce and Beckett) and a liberal and more humane, indigenous tradition of realist fiction.
Contemporary surveys have largely reiterated this dichotomy by avoiding rigorous engagement with the specific formal techniques of this mid-century experimentalist writing, and have therefore failed to engage with its complex and often hidden legacies.

This study turns to the work of the neglected British writer, Ann Quin, as a focal point for an exploration of the experimental tendency within the fiction of the sixties. More broadly, it attempts to investigate the literary sixties as an important flashpoint in debates surrounding the role of the novel within British culture.
Focusing, in equal measure, upon the close reading of Quin’s corpus, and the wider task of situating Quin within her many literary, intellectual and cultural contexts, this study seeks to position Quin within a “hidden” tradition of experimental writing in
Britain. And, not only as an legatee of Joyce and Beckett, but also of a coterie of lesser-known (or “minor”) later modernists, such as Patrick Hamilton, Elizabeth Bowen and Henry Green. This study also seeks to trace British experimental writing’s under-theorised relationship with British postmodern writing.

Through the reassessment of the troubled fate of British experiment writing, this study also attempts to make a timely intervention within current debates about the
forms and functions of fiction in Britain: the role of the novel in culture, for example, the issues of canonicity and concerns about the nurturing of innovative writing in Britain.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Dec 2014 09:53

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