‘Authentic’ Narrators and their Antagonists in Post-War Fiction.
My thesis analyses, and argues for the centrality of, three archetypal voices of authenticity deployed in stream-of-consciousness narration: the child, the vagrant or madman, and the nihilist consumer. I will explore how interior monologues from key post-war European and American novels function as social critique, voicing a distinctly post-war radicalism or atomisation. I question what each historical phase of the stream-of-consciousness form tells us about shifting conceptions of subjectivity, and human agency. I re-assess modern and post-modern debates regarding fiction’s ability to convey states of mind, in particular the arguably fragmented thoughts of the technologically-mediated consciousness.
This doctoral research unpicks the challenges for literary naturalism of attempting to capture a ‘true’ voice, through an outsider or ‘conformist’ character embedded within, or positioned outside of, social ideology. I focus throughout on the philosophies of authenticity at work in certain key post-war novels: from Samuel Beckett’s Molloy, James Kelman’s How Late it Was, How Late, to Kathy Acker’s Blood and Guts in High School and Tom McCarthy’s Remainder.
The question that guides this historicisation of the different forms of stream-of-consciousness style is: how have novelists of the post-war era attempted to voice authenticity? I examine whether post-war stream-of-consciousness novels represent a belief that art should fulfil a materialist or spiritual purpose and the ideological nature of that desire. If the poet since Romanticism has represented the spiritual art quest and the novelist the materialist, how are stream-of-consciousness writers fusing the two aims?
I ask whether the themes, archetypes and techniques of interior characterisation in contemporary fiction, demonstrates a belief in the novel’s ability to totalize experience, or communicate subjective ‘truths’ to readers. I identify and historicise which philosophies of ‘authenticity’ these novelists use to produce their versions of interiority. What does an age of ‘immaterial labour’ – an era where products are not objects but new social or interpersonal relations – demand of the novel in its characterisation of the ‘self’ as grounded, material and ‘real’?
I am a freelance writer and English tutor. My research interests centre on the British and American comi-tragic novel and Marxist critiques of culture. I have contributed essays and reviews to The Times Literary Supplement, Spiked-on-line and Battles in Print and have recently self-published a cultural studies book entitled Suburban Stardust Syndrome. I have run Further Education courses on Semiotics, Literary Theory, Twentieth Century Poetry, Modernism, Post-modernism and The Short Story. At present I teach Higher Education courses on Academic Writing and Research Skills.