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Title: The contemporary middlebrow novel :(post)feminism, class, and domesticity
Authors: Gallagher, Lucy
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis examines debates about the value of women's writing and the definition, and perception of 'literary', 'popular' and 'middlebrow' literature that have taken place over the past twenty years. I argue that this contemporary preoccupation with literary value (which has its origins I suggest in the development of prize culture) has resulted in a disregard for the type of women's fiction which falls between what Winterson has described as the categories of 'art' and 'entertainment' - the middlebrow. Drawing on discussions of middlebrow fiction in the interwar period (Beauman 1983; Light 1991; Humble 2001), this thesis explores how recent work on women's fiction published in the early twentieth century can be used to find new ways of exploring the notion of 'value' in contemporary women's writing, and to open up discussions of how issues including class, nation, feminism and the home circulate within contemporary novels. Chapter One considers the work of Anita Brookner. It examines the connection between Brookner's novels and genre writing, exploring the representation of literary culture and reflecting on the position of the middlebrow reader. Chapter Two focuses on the novels of Joanna Trollope and the emergence of the Aga-saga in the nineties - a genre which I connect with the middlebrow novel of manners. This chapter challenges Deborah Philips's analysis of Trollope's novels as 'reassuring fictions' and argues instead that they emerge out of the conservative politics and the backlash against feminism that began in the 1980s. In Chapter Three I connect the work of Rachel Cusk to other twentieth century novels that have demonstrated a preoccupation with class, including Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1945) and Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love (1945), and argue that Cusk's novels provide an important account of the changing nature of class over the past decade. Moving away from the perception of Cusk as the author of 'literary' novels, I argue that her writing is steeped in a literary tradition that is characteristically middlebrow.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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