Explores Doris Lessing’s innovative engagement with historical change in her own lifetime and beyond
The death of Nobel Prize-winning Doris Lessing sparked a range of commemorations that cemented her place as one of the major figures of twentieth- and twenty-first-century world literature. This volume views Lessing’s writing as a whole and in retrospect, focusing on her innovative attempts to rework literary form to engage with the challenges thrown up by the sweeping historical changes through which she lived. The 12 original chapters provide new readings of Lessing’s work via contexts ranging from post-war youth politics and radical women’s writing to European cinema, analyse her experiments with genres from realism to autobiography and science-fiction, and draw on previously unstudied archive material. The volume also explores how Lessing’s writing can provide insight into some of the issues now shaping twenty-first century scholarship – including trauma, ecocriticism, the post-human, and world literature – as they emerge as defining challenges to our own present moment in history.
1. Early Lessing, Commitment, the World, Adam Guy
2. ‘I’m an adolescent. And that’s how I’m going to stay’: Lessing and Youth Culture 1956-1962, Nick Bentley
3. Sequence, Series, and Character in Children of Violence, Kevin Brazil
4. The Politics of Form: The Golden Notebook and Women’s Radical Literary Tradition, Rowena Kennedy-Epstein
5. Readers of Fiction and Readers in Fiction: Readership and The Golden Notebook, Sophia Barnes
6. From The Grass is Singing to The Golden Notebook: Film, Literature, and Psychoanalysis, Laura Marcus
7. ‘A funny thing laughter, what’s it for?’: Humour and Form in Lessing’s Fiction, Cornelius Collins
8. Lessing and the Scale of Environmental Crisis, David Sergeant
9. Lessing and Time Travel, David Punter
10. Lessing’s Interruptions, Tom Sperlinger
11. Lessing’s Witness Literature, Elizabeth Maslen
12. A Catastrophic Universe: Lessing, Posthumanism, and Deep History, Clare Hanson
About the Author
David Sergeant is Lecturer in English post-1850 at Plymouth University.
Tom Sperlinger is Reader in English Literature and Community Engagement at the University of Bristol.
The breadth and freshness of these essays, introduced by the co-editors' fine overview of Doris Lessing’s expressions of historical change through literary forms, reinforces the author’s undiminished appeal to contemporary scholars and readers. Exploring formal elements of Lessing's work—characterization, humour, readership, and film and dream analogues—along with politics and history, human evolution, climate change, and time travel, these essays are timely, ambitious, and intellectually engaging.