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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10443/4130

Title: Coming of age : the First World War in British fiction, 1989-2014
Authors: Stern-Peltz, Marie Cecilie Hoxbro
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis breaks with conventional distinctions between British adult and young adult fiction to offer a comparative study of ‘coming of age’ in the historical novel since the late 1980s. 1989 marks the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War and the symbolic end of the Cold War. It inaugurates a period of reflection in Britain on the relationship between the past and the future that centres on tropes of childhood, adolescence, adulthood and personal growth. Drawing on Erik Erikson’s theory of ‘identity crisis’, I bundle these manifold tropes together under the heading ‘coming of age’ in order to focus on these identities as transitional states of becoming rather than being. My thesis is split into four chapters, each focusing on a specific aspect of coming of age. In Chapter 1, I define the nineties’ shift, arguing that Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy (1991-5) and Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong (1993) explore coming of age and the war in relation to a growing concern over the stability of adulthood and the past. In Chapter 2, I demonstrate that young adult fiction takes up the themes discussed in the previous chapter, but presents it more explicitly in terms of the transition from adolescent to adult. Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful (2002) and Linda Newbery’s The Shell House (2003) in different ways engage with the teenage reader negotiating the present through reading about the First World War. Chapter 3 sustains this focus on young adult fiction, moving onto a discussion of coming of age in national contexts. Drawing on the work of Bryan Turner and others, I argue that Linda Newbery’s Some Other War (1990), Theresa Breslin’s Remembrance (2002) and Marcus Sedgwick’s The Foreshadowing (2005) use the First World War to explore new ideas of citizenship in the context of gender and participation. Chapter 4 looks at adult novels which reflect on the First World War in relation to contemporary protagonists. Drawing on Svetlana Boym’s theory of nostalgia, I argue that Pat Barker’s Another World (1998) and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child (2011) question whether it is desirable to reconstruct past models of masculinity and family. This thesis offers a new framework for thinking about the place of the First World War in contemporary British culture, in relation to shifting cultural constructions of adulthood, adolescence and British identity in the nineties and beyond.
Description: PhD Thesis
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10443/4130
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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