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Title: Europe after the rain: Alan Burns and the post-war avant-garde
Authors: Devaney, Kieran John Michael
Advisors: Tew, P
Hubble, N
Keywords: Experimental fiction;Trauma theory;Radical politics;Activism;20th century British literature
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: Alan Burns was one of the key figures in the group of experimental writers working in Britain in the nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies, which included writers such as B.S. Johnson, Christine Brooke-Rose, Ann Quin and Giles Gordon. All of them sought ways to update and radicalize the techniques of modernism to make them relevant for their contemporary situation. Alan Burns took the novel to more radical extremes than his counterparts, eschewing traditional narrative in favour of a dense accumulation of detail. This is the first full length study of Burns’ work, which has largely been neglected by scholars and, for the most part, remains out of print. I provide a thorough account of Burns’ life and work and theorise the reasons for his obscurity. I examine the role of trauma in his work. For Burns the experience of the traumatic moment is one in which the violence that underpins everyday society is momentarily unveiled, the sheer and explicit violence of the event produces a rupture that displays the deeper and more insidious violence that exists beneath it and gives it structure. I draw on theories of visual art, music and cinema, both of the ‘classical’ avant-garde and more recent, as much as of literature and philosophy, to attempt to account for the strategies, techniques and approaches that Alan Burns engaged with in his writing. Avowedly left-wing, in interviews Burns is frequently optimistic about the possibility for political change in the world, and is even confident about the role that literature can play in fostering that change. However, I argue that his novels present a rather different, and much more pessimistic picture: each of them shows the way in which any activism can ultimately be constrained and co-opted.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:English and Creative Writing
Dept of Arts and Humanities Theses

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