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Title: Officially autonomous : anglophone literary cultures and the state since 1945
Author: Rogers, Asha
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the role of the modern democratic state as a sponsor of literature in the English-speaking world between 1945 and 2000. Working with, and modifying, Bourdieu's conception of the literary field, it considers the often paradoxical consequences of the state's shift from censor to guarantor in this period. Granting 'official autonomy' in this way had numerous unexpected and often fraught effects on the writers, readers and institutions that shaped the literary field. To keep this large subject firmly based on available historical evidence, this thesis considers a series of distinct 'moments' of state intervention through detailed case studies of three specific institutions: the international Congress for Cultural Freedom (1960-1968), the Arts Council of Great Britain (1960-1990), and the private examination boards that implemented the National Curriculum in the UK (1989-2000). In each case, it shows how these different but related moments, and the larger diachronic narrative of which they form a part, take place against a backdrop of interlinking historical and socio-political transformations, including the Cold War, decolonisation and multiculturalism. Drawing on evidence in literary and other public archives, the thesis not only brings into view questions about the public status of literature in recent history, it shows how an understanding of the state's role enables us to think differently about the cultural consequences of modern democratic liberalism. The methodological emphasis it places on institutions challenges critical and popular orthodoxies, associated chiefly with the liberal tradition, which conventionally set the overbearingly powerful and monolithic state against the inescapably vulnerable but also courageous individual. The alternative picture that emerges reveals a world in which the actions of various individuals can be understood partly via the institutional roles they perform, and institutions operate as sites that negotiate competing ideas of literature and literariness, and implement state power in variegated, diffuse and contested ways. Each of the case studies provides a different, though comparable, perspective on this larger picture. As such, the thesis opens up a nuanced way of analysing the interventions of writers, critics and reading communities, while also offering a differentiated approach to understanding the state and its evolution.
Supervisor: McDonald, Peter D. Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English literature ; multiculturalism ; The state ; British state ; Arts Council