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Title: Spectres of Thatcher : narratives of national identity in contemporary Britain
Author: Mullen, Antony
ISNI:       0000 0004 7962 6582
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2019
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What do we mean by Thatcherism? In answering this question, this thesis forges a new interdisciplinary framework, drawing upon recent debates in political science and political history, for reading contemporary British writing in relation to Thatcherism. In doing so, it highlights the problems with some literary critics' deployment of the concept in recent years, such as reducing it to a mere synonym for neoliberalism or neglecting to define it at all. Thatcherism is, in this thesis, primarily defined as a mode of nationalism. Using newly-available archival material, I contend that Margaret Thatcher's political project should be understood - above all else - as one focused upon the restoration of 'true' Britishness and British values. This nationalist aspect of Thatcher's politics had the potential to contradict her more neoliberal rhetoric and policies, and thereby render 'Thatcherism' entirely incoherent - but it did not. This, I argue, was because Thatcher's adoption of, and reliance upon, a narrative framework allowed her to present the various ideological strands that constituted her eponymous -ism as a coherent political vision rooted deep in British history. It is through the prism of this framework that the (hitherto overlooked) influence of Thatcherite ideas of Britishness on the literature of, and since, the 1980s is most clearly exposed. The (literary) period covered by this study begins with Martin Amis' Money: A Suicide Note (1984) and ends with Ali Smith's Autumn (2016). Following an initial chapter dedicated to defining 'Thatcherism', my argument develops over three subsequent chapters: these, in turn, deal with questions of nationhood in relation to individualism, society, and history. By examining how British writers like Alan Hollinghurst, Hilary Mantel and Jonathan Coe have recognised (and, more importantly, challenged) the development of a distinctly Thatcherite idea of Britishness, this study offers a unique understanding of how contemporary British fiction has charted the legacy of Thatcherism - and the implications of that legacy - as well as providing a new way of conceptualising 'Thatcherism' (that is, in relation to a narrative about nationhood).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available