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Sport and the Literary Imagination

Essays in history, literature, and sport

Jeffrey Hill

The development of sport in the twentieth century has been examined from a variety of angles. Rarely, though, has the work of the creative writer been considered in detail. This book directs its attention to this neglected area, examining a selection of novels in which the subject of sport has featured prominently. It highlights the ways in which novelists in the second half of the twentieth century have approached sport, explained its place in society, and through the sporting subject constructed a critique of the historical circumstances in which their narrative is set. The study therefore seeks to complement the increasing body of work on the representation of sport through such media as film, television, and autobiography. It also brings a fresh dimension to the use made by historians of literary sources, suggesting that creative fiction can be far more valuable as historical evidence than has customarily been acknowledged.
Contents: The Historicity of the Text: A Historian’s Reading – ‘Mean Drab Times’: Robin Jenkins’s The Thistle and the Grail – ‘Acting Big’: David Storey’s This Sporting Life – ‘You are up against mean, small-minded men’: Brian Glanville’s The Rise of Gerry Logan – Men, ‘A Boy’s Game’, and America: Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter and Philip Roth’s American Pastoral – ‘The Relentless Pain and Responsibility of Club Football’: Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch – ‘I’ll Kill ’Em All’: Ring Lardner’s Midge Kelly – ‘A Perfected Model of an Imperfect World’: Thomas Keneally’s A Family Madness – ‘You Don’t Upset the Shaygets’: Howard Jacobson’s The Mighty Walzer.