Authorship, form and narrative in the television plays of Alan Clarke, 1967-89
This thesis places the themes and approaches of the British director Alan Clarke within various contexts: the institutional contexts in which he worked, critical and theoretical debates on television form, and the methodological problems which are inherent in attributing authorship to a director working within the highly collaborative medium of television. This thesis constitutes the first full-length critical study of a director working within British television drama. Chapter 1 covers Clarke's background, his early theatre work, and several early television plays from his first, Shelter (1967) through to case studies of the drama-documentary To Encourage the Others (1972) and the fantasy Penda's Fen (1974). I demonstrate that his work in this period is more distinctive than its institutional and technological restrictions might suggest. My methodology features a fluid interplay between Television and Film Studies approaches, combining studies of his filmed work with analysis of his television plays in multi-camera studios and on Outside Broadcast, thereby considering vital issues of aesthetics. Chapter 2 explores various plays from the 1970s, sparse studies of institutionalisation like Sovereign's Company (1970) and Scum (1977, 1979). The banning of Scum was a turning point in his career; Chapter 2 contextualises this within academic writing on ideologically progressive form. Chapter 3 covers his work in his auteur period, the 1980s, by discussing the stylistic and narrative strategies of crucial productions like Made in Britain (1983) and his politically and aesthetically radical pieces on Northern Ireland and terrorism, Psy-Warriors (1981), Contact (1985) and Elephant (1989). Throughout this thesis, my interest in histories and aesthetics is predicated upon an ideological analysis, as I explore Clarke's work in terms of the politics of form, demonstrating his experimentation with narrative, his concern with discourse, and his questioning of the interaction between form and content.