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Spectres of Thatcher: Narratives of National Identity in Contemporary Britain

MULLEN, ANTONY (2019) Spectres of Thatcher: Narratives of National Identity in Contemporary Britain. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

Full text not available from this repository.
Author-imposed embargo until 03 June 2022.

Abstract

What do we mean by Thatcherism? In answering this question, this thesis forges a new interdisciplinary framework, drawing upon recent debates in political science and political history, for reading contemporary British writing in relation to Thatcherism. In doing so, it highlights the problems with some literary critics’ deployment of the concept in recent years, such as reducing it to a mere synonym for neoliberalism or neglecting to define it at all.
Thatcherism is, in this thesis, primarily defined as a mode of nationalism. Using newly-available archival material, I contend that Margaret Thatcher’s political project should be understood – above all else – as one focused upon the restoration of ‘true’ Britishness and British values. This nationalist aspect of Thatcher’s politics had the potential to contradict her more neoliberal rhetoric and policies, and thereby render ‘Thatcherism’ entirely incoherent – but it did not. This, I argue, was because Thatcher’s adoption of, and reliance upon, a narrative framework allowed her to present the various ideological strands that constituted her eponymous -ism as a coherent political vision rooted deep in British history.
It is through the prism of this framework that the (hitherto overlooked) influence of Thatcherite ideas of Britishness on the literature of, and since, the 1980s is most clearly exposed. The (literary) period covered by this study begins with Martin Amis’ Money: A Suicide Note (1984) and ends with Ali Smith’s Autumn (2016). Following an initial chapter dedicated to defining ‘Thatcherism’, my argument develops over three subsequent chapters: these, in turn, deal with questions of nationhood in relation to individualism, society, and history. By examining how British writers like Alan Hollinghurst, Hilary Mantel and Jonathan Coe have recognised (and, more importantly, challenged) the development of a distinctly Thatcherite idea of Britishness, this study offers a unique understanding of how contemporary British fiction has charted the legacy of Thatcherism – and the implications of that legacy – as well as providing a new way of conceptualising ‘Thatcherism’ (that is, in relation to a narrative about nationhood).

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Thatcherism; British fiction; national identity; neoliberalism; Postwar Britain
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jun 2019 13:26

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