Figures of Catastrophe: The Condition of Culture Novel

Figures of Catastrophe: The Condition of Culture Novel

by Francis Mulhern


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Figures of Catastrophe: The Condition of Culture Novel by Francis Mulhern

A bold new vision of the modern English novel

The leading critic Francis Mulhern uncovers a hidden history in the fiction of the past century, identifying a central new genre: the condition of culture novel. Reading across and against the grain of received patterns of literary association, tracing a line from Hardy and Forster, through Woolf, Waugh and Bowen, to Barstow, Fowles, Rendell, Naipaul, Amis, Kureishi and Smith, he elucidates the recurring topics and narrative logics of the genre, showing how culture emerges as a special ground of social conflict, above all between classes. The narrative evaluations of culture’s ends—the aspirations and the destinies of those whose lives are the subject of these novels—grow steadily darker over time, and the writing itself grows more introverted.

A concluding discussion elicits the characteristics of the English condition of culture novel, in an international setting, and closes in, finally, on the central conundrum of the genre: its uncanny reprise, in its own plane, of the historical arc of the modern labour movement in Britain, from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century through its post-war heyday to the seemingly inexorable decline of recent decades.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784781910
Publisher: Verso Books
Publication date: 01/26/2016
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Francis Mulhern comes from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. He was educated at University College Dublin and the University of Cambridge. His books include The Moment of ‘Scrutiny’, Culture/Metaculture, and the edited collection Lives on the Left. He is Associate Editor of New Left Review.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction to a Genre 1

1 Imagining Other Lives 15

2 The Aristocratic Fix 37

3 The Horror… 62

4 End-States 83

The Condition of Culture Novel 116

Index 157

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