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Literature of the 1950s: Good, Brave Causes

Volume 6

Alice Ferrebe

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Challenges the myths about apathy and smugness surrounding British literature of the period.

Alice Ferrebe's lively study rereads the decade and its literature as crucial in twentieth-century British history for its emergent and increasingly complicated politics of difference, as ideas about identity, authority and belonging were tested and contested. By placing a diverse selection of texts alongside those of the established canon of Movement and 'Angry' writing, a literary culture of true diversity and depth is brought into view. The volume characterises the 1950s as a time of confrontation with a range of concerns still avidly debated today, including immigration, education, the challenging behaviour of youth, nuclear threat, the post-industrial and post-imperial legacy, a consumerist economy and a feminist movement hampered by the perceivedly comprehensive nature of its recent success. Contrary to Jimmy Porter's defeatist judgement on his era in John Osborne's 1956 play Look Back in Anger, the volume upholds such concerns as 'good, brave causes' indeed.

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Chapter 1. Introduction: 'All this, and Everest too!'
I. The Voice of the Young
Chapter 2. The Metaphorical Utility of Youth
Chapter 3. Angering Aunt Edna: 1950s Theatre
Chapter 4. First Writing: 1950s Fiction
III. The Less Deceived
Chapter 5. Women, Children and Home
Chapter 6. The Sensation of Movement: Poetry in the 50s
Chapter 7. Evil Men: Literature and Homosexuality
II. Postwar Settlements
Chapter 8. Coming Home: The Literature of Immigration
Chapter 9. Organic Communities: Regional Literature
Chapter 10. The Scholarship Class: Literature and Social Mobility
IV. Other Uses of Literacy
Chapter 11. Criticism Under Scrutiny
Chapter 12. The Dedicated Man: Publishing, Media and Reviewing
Chapter 13. Where East Meets West: Literature, the New Left and the Cold War
Chapter 14. Conclusions
Works Cited.

About the Author

Alice Ferrebe is a Senior Lecturer in English at Liverpool John Moores University, and is the author of Masculinity in Male-Authored Fiction 1950-2000 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).


Shrewd, lucid and perceptive, Alice Ferrebe’s splendid book shows how the supposedly greyest of post-war decades was, in fact, an age of tremendous imagination, diversity and confrontation. From Amis and Larkin to Osborne and Fleming, Ferrebe brings new life to the literary world of the 1950s.

- Dominic Sandbrook, author of Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles

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