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Title: ‘One of us’ - depictions of Margaret Thatcher in British fiction 1979-2020: a Kristevan reading
Authors: Iliou, Raluca-Eugenia
Advisors: Tew, P
Watkin, W
Keywords: Abjection;Sublimation;Phallic femininity;Gender politics;Monstrous as abject
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: My thesis aims to interrogate Thatcher’s most enduring cultural and literary representations featured in British fiction between 1979 -2020 starting from the premise that they are the result of the heavy gender bias she incurred consistently throughout her time in power and well beyond that. In my analysis, I challenge the belief that Thatcher’s legacy cannot be interpreted via feminist discourses by employing Julia Kristeva’s critique on issues like the abject, phallocentrism and sublimation. Choosing Kristeva for my analysis was motivated by the way she is seen amongst feminists, namely as a conservative feminist for placing motherhood and maternity at the core of her theories and, similar to Thatcher, for viewing identity formation as being directly linked to women’s relation to the maternal. I will analyse the work of some of the most representative authors who focus on exploring Thatcher’s negative (abject) cultural and literary tropes, such as Martin Amis, James Kelman, Doris Lessing, Pat Barker, Michael Dibdin, Jonathan Coe, or Alex Wheatle, amongst others. I will interrogate the ways in which these authors explore the abject effects of Thatcherism on the British society, while authors like Pete Davies, Mark Lawson, Philip Hensher, Alan Hollinghurst and Ian McEwan engage with Thatcher as a character, extending abjectification to her personal attributes. Monsterization connected to Thatcher and her legacy is the main focus of many of the literary works published after her death. I will explore this facet of the abject in novels such as High Dive by Jonathan Lee, Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan, Clark Gable and His Plastic Duck by Philip Tew, The Iron Bird by Robert Woodshaw, or The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel. My analysis aims to demonstrate the degree of mystification that affected the Thatcher cult after her political ousting and more so after her death and the way her personal features and attributes dissipated and merged with her ideology. I also challenge the belief that there is a general feeling of hatred for Thatcher and her legacy amongst the artistic and literary milieu that resulted in no moderate or supportive works of fiction. By analysing Hilary Mantel’s An Experiment in Love, Javier Marias’s A Heart so White or Hardiman Scott’s Operation 10 I demonstrate the complexity and diversity of the literary and cultural response to her. I also interrogate a body of work that has received little critical attention in connection to Thatcher and her legacy, namely a selection of novels by Frederick Forsyth. Forsyth offers a different take on Thatcher’s phallic attributes motivated by the author’s longstanding admiration for her abilities and ideology, the author mainly exploring the mythological status she acquired after her Falklands success and beyond that. My project, thus, sets to challenge the perception according to which Thatcher was a woman who denied her womanhood. Rather, I aim to demonstrate that it was the general misconception regarding her role and position as a woman in politics that produced a response of unrivalled intensity.
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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