This collection brings together a selection of original, research-led essays on more than a dozen avant-garde British writers of the 1960s, revealing this to be a crucial - and crucially overlooked - period of British literary history.
In the decades following the immediately postwar period in Britain, a loose grouping of experimental writers that included Alan Burns, Christine Brooke-Rose, B. S. Johnson, and Ann Quin worked against the dominance, as they saw it, of the realist novel of the literary mainstream. Late Modernism and the Avant-Garde British Novel reassesses the experimentalism versus realism debates of the period, and finds a body of work engaged with, rather than merely antagonistic towards, the literary culture it sought to renovate. Charting these engagements, it shows how they have significance not just for our understanding of these decades but for the broader movement of the novel through the century. This volume takes some of the claims made about experimental fiction--that it is unreadable, nonlinear, elliptical, errant, plotless--and reimagines these descriptors as historically inscribed tendencies that express the period's investment in the idea of the accidental. These novels are interested in the fleeting and the fugitive, in discontinuity and shock. The experimental novel cultivates an interest in methods of representation that are oblique: attempting to conjure the world at an angle, or in the rear-view mirror; by ellipsis or evasion. These concepts--error, indeterminacy, uncertainty, accident--all bear a relation to that which evades or resists interpretation and meaning. Asking what are the wider political, ethical, and philosophical correlates of this incommensurability, Late Modernism and the Avant-Garde British Novel reads experimental literature in this light, as suffused with anxiety about its adequacy in the light of its status as necessarily imitative and derivative, and therefore redolent of the forms of not-knowing and uncertainty that mark late modernism more generally.
A collection of essays on the 1960s experimental writer B.S. Johnson, this book draws together new research on all aspects of his work, and, in tracing his connections to a wider circle of continental, British and American avant-garde writers, offers exciting new approaches to reading 1960s experimental fiction.
This book scrutinizes a range of relatively overlooked post-WWII British women writers who sought to demonstrate that narrative prose fiction offered rich possibilities for aesthetic innovation. What unites all the primary authors in this volume is a commitment to challenging the tenets of British mimetic realism as a literary and historical phenomenon. This collection reassesses how British female novelists operated in relation to transnational vanguard networking clusters, debates and tendencies, both political and artistic. The chapters collected in this volume enquire, for example, whether there is something fundamentally different (or politically dissident) about female experimental procedures and perspectives. This book also investigates the processes of canon formation, asking why, in one way or another, these authors have been sidelined or misconstrued by recent scholarship. Ultimately, it seeks to refine a new research archive on mid-century British fiction by female novelists at least as diverse as recent and longer established work in the domain of modernist studies.
Using a broad range of archival material from Washington University, St. Louis, the University of Glasgow, and the British Library, Useless Activity: Work, Leisure and British Avant-Garde Fiction, 1960-1975 is the first study to ask why the experimental writing of the 1960s and 1970s appears so fraught with anxiety about its own uselessness, before suggesting that this very anxiety was symptomatic of a unique period in British literary history when traditional notions about literary work – and what 'worked' in terms of literature – were being radically scrutinised and reassessed. The study is divided into five chapters with three of those dedicated to the close analysis of work produced by three writers representative of the 1960s British avant-garde: Eva Figes (1932–2012), B.S. Johnson (1933–1973), and Alexander Trocchi (1925–1984). The book argues that these writers’ preoccupations with concepts related to work, such as leisure, debt, and various forms of neglected labour like housework, allow us to rethink the British avant-garde's relation to realism while posing broader questions about the production and value of post-war literary avant-gardism more generally. Useless Activity proposes that only with an understanding of the British avant-garde’s engagement with the idea of work and its various corollaries can we appreciate these writers' move away from certain forms of literary realism and their contribution to the development of the modern British novel during the mid-twentieth century.
The nouveau roman and Writing in Britain After Modernism recovers a neglected literary history. In the late 1950s, news began to arrive in Britain of a group of French writers who were remaking the form of the novel. In the work of Michel Butor, Marguerite Duras, Robert Pinget, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, and Claude Simon, the hallmarks of novelistic writing--discernible characters, psychological depth, linear chronology--were discarded in favour of other aesthetic horizons. Transposed to Britain's highly polarized literary culture, the nouveau roman became a focal point for debates about the novel. For some, the nouveau roman represented an aberration, and a pernicious turn against the humanistic values that the novel embodied. For others, it provided a route out of the stultifying conventionality and conformism that had taken root in British letters. On both sides, one question persisted: given the innovations of interwar modernism, to what extent was the nouveau roman actually new? This book begins by drawing on publishers archives and hitherto undocumented sources from a wide range of periodicals to show how the nouveau roman was mediated to the British public. Of central importance here is the publisher Calder & Boyars, and its belief that the nouveau roman could be enjoyed by a mass public. The book then moves onto literary responses in Britain to the nouveau roman, focusing on questions of translation, realism, the end of empire, and the writing of the project. From the translations of Maria Jolas, through to the hostile responses of the circle around C. P. Snow, and onto the literary debts expressed in novels by Brian W. Aldiss, Christine Brooke-Rose, Eva Figes, B. S. Johnson, Alan Sheridan, Muriel Spark, and Denis Williams, the nouveau roman is shown to be a central concern in the postwar British literary field.
British Fictions of the Sixties focuses on the major socio-political changes that marked the sixties in relationship to the development of literature over the decade. This book is the first critical study to acknowledge that the 1960s can only be understood if, next to its contemporary socio-political history, its fictions and mythologies are acknowledged as a vital constituent in the understanding of the decade. Groes uncovers a major epistemological shift, and presents a powerful meta-narrative about post-war literature in the UK, and beyond. British Fictions of the Sixties offers a re-examination of canonical writers such as Iris Murdoch, Angela Carter, Muriel Spark and John Fowles. It also pays critical attention to avant-garde writers including Ann Quinn, Bridget Brophy, Eva Figes, Christine Brooke-Rose, and J.G. Ballard, presenting a comprehensive insight into the continuing power the decade exerts on the contemporary imagination.
In 1960, when World War II might seem to have been receding into history, a number of artists and writers instead turned back to it. They chose to confront the unprecedented horror and mass killing of the war, searching for new creative and political possibilities after the conservatism of the 1950s in the long shadow of genocide. Al Filreis recasts 1960 as a turning point to offer a groundbreaking account of postwar culture. He examines an eclectic group of artistic, literary, and intellectual figures who strove to create a new language to reckon with the trauma of World War II and to imagine a new world. Filreis reflects on the belatedness of this response to the war and the Holocaust and shows how key works linked the legacies of fascism and antisemitism with American racism. In grappling with the memory of the war, he demonstrates, artists reclaimed the radical elements of modernism and brought forth original ideas about testimony to traumatic history. 1960 interweaves the lives and works of figures across high and popular culture—including Chinua Achebe, Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Paul Celan, John Coltrane, Frantz Fanon, Roberto Rossellini, Muriel Rukeyser, Rod Serling, and Louis Zukofsky—and considers art forms spanning poetry, fiction, memoir, film, painting, sculpture, teleplays, musical theater, and jazz. A deeply interdisciplinary cultural, literary, and intellectual history, this book also offers fresh perspective on the beginning of the 1960s.
Artistic vanguards plot new aesthetic movements, print controversial magazines, hold provocative art shows, and stage experimental theatrical and musical performances. These revolutionaries have often helped create America's countercultural movements, from the early romantics and bohemians to the beatniks and hippies. This work looks at how experimental art and the avant-garde artists' lifestyles have influenced, and at times transformed, American culture since the mid-nineteenth century. The work will introduce readers to these artists and rebels, making a careful distinction between the worlds of the high modern artist (salons and galleries) and the bohemian.
This is the story of two short-lived artist-run spaces that are associated with some of the most innovative developments in the arts in Britain in the late 1960s. The Drury Lane Arts Lab (1967–69) was home to the first UK screenings of Andy Warhol's twin-screen 3 hour film Chelsea Girls, challenging exhibitions (John and Yoko / John Latham / Takis / Roelof Louw), poetry and music (first UK performance of Erik Satie's 24-hour Vexations) and fringe theatre (People Show / Freehold / Jane Arden's Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven / Will Spoor Mime Theatre). The Robert Street 'New Arts Lab' (1969–71) housed Britain's first video workshop TVX, the London Filmmakers Co-op's first workshop and a 5-days-a-week cinema devoted to showing new work by moving-image artists (David Larcher / Malcolm Le Grice / Sally Potter / Carolee Schneemann / Peter Gidal). It staged J G Ballard's infamous Crashed Cars exhibition and John & Dianne Lifton's pioneering computer-aided dance/mime performances. The impact of London's Labs led to an explosion of new artist-led spaces across Britain. This book relates the struggles of FACOP (Friends of the Arts Council Operative) to make the case for these new kinds of space and these new art-forms and the Arts Council's hesitant response – in the context of a popular press already hostile to youth culture, experimental art and the 'underground'. With a Foreword by Andrew Wilson, Curator Modern & Contemporary British Art and Archives, Tate Gallery.
Some humanist critics contend that only realist texts have an ethical function, that there is no ethical message behind the parodic and self-conscious games played by experimental fiction and that, since emotion neutralises the ethical faculties, there is no ethical dimension in such excess-pedling postmodernist genres and modes as kitsch, melodrama and romance. Yet, one may argue that the defamiliarisation imposed by parody, metafictional overkill and sundry devices symptomatic of emotional paroxysm on the realist text involves some measure of criticism of received truth and makes for the practice of a non-deontic ethics of truths that is also fairly often an ethics of alterity. This volume examines analytical evidence for the ethical component in key experimental British novels from the 1960's to the present, with special focus on John Fowles, Brigid Brophy, B. S. Johnson, Angela Carter, Peter Ackroyd, A. S. Byatt, Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Will Self, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes.