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Radical Fictions

The English Novel in the 1950s

Nick Bentley

This book takes a fresh look at English fiction produced in the 1950s. By looking at a range of authors, some canonical, some less well known, it shows that the novel of the period was far more diverse and formally experimental than previous accounts have suggested. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary literary and cultural theories, the author examines the way in which issues and anxieties in 1950s society were articulated and addressed in fiction. These issues include the reformulation of Englishness in a rapidly decolonizing world; anxieties about immigration, racism, class and classlessness; new configurations of gender; and the fear of the Americanization of working-class culture, especially in the way it appeared to be influencing English youth. The first part of the book identifies some of these anxieties, and the response to them in non-fiction and writing by the emerging New Left. The second part contains a theoretically informed reading of important Fifties novels by Kingsley Amis, John Wain, Muriel Spark, Alan Sillitoe, Colin MacInnes and Sam Selvon.
Contents: Back to the Fifties – The Fifties Novel in Context – Form and Ideology in the Fifties Novel – The Early New Left: Class Revision – Anger Management: Kingsley Amis and John Wain – Muriel Spark: Exploring Fictions – Alan Sillitoe: Realism and the (Ir)responsibility of Writing – Colin MacInnes: Subcultural Fictions – Sam Selvon: The Lonely Londoners – Identity Parades.