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The Contemporary British Novel

Edited by James Acheson, Sarah Ross

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Written by some of the world's finest contemporary literature specialists, the newly commissioned essays in this volume examine the work of more than twenty major British novelists: Peter Ackroyd, Martin Amis, Iain (M.) Banks, Pat Barker, Julian Barnes, A.S. Byatt, Angela Carter, Janice Galloway, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Kazuo Ishiguro, James Kelman, A.L. Kennedy, Hanif Kureishi, Ian McEwan, Caryl Philips, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Graham Swift, Rose Tremain, Marina Warner, Irvine Welsh and Jeanette Winterson.

The book will be of interest not only to students, teachers and lecturers, but to the general reader seeking help in approaching the often baffling novels of the recent past.

Key Features
  • Literary critical 'isms' are described in clear, jargon-free language.
  • Focuses on British fiction since 1980 giving coverage of established authors such as Angela Carter and Ian McEwan as well as little addressed novelists such as James Kelman and Zadie Smith.
  • Essays are by leading scholars in contemporary fiction.


Introduction: James Acheson and Sarah Ross
A. Realism and Other '-isms':
Chapter 1: 'Realism, Dreams, and the Unconscious in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro' -- Frederick M. Holmes
Chapter 2: 'Ian McEwan: Contemporary Realism and the Novel of Ideas' --Judith Seaboyer
Chapter 3: 'The Unnatural Scene: The Fiction of Irvine Welsh' --Alan Riach
Chapter 4: 'Angela Carter's Magic Realism' --David Punter
Chapter 5: 'Facticity, or Something Like That: The Novels of James Kelman’ --Laurence Nicoll
Chapter 6: ‘One Nation, Oneself: Politics, Place and Identity in Martin Amis’ Fiction’ --Daniel Lea
B. Postcolonialism and Other '-isms':
Chapter 7: 'Abdulrazak Gurnah and Hanif Kureishi: Failed Revolutions' --Bruce King
Chapter 8: 'Salman Rushdie's Fathers' --Hermione Lee
Chapter 9: 'Postcolonialism and 'the Figure of the Jew': Caryl Phillips and Zadie Smith' --Bart Moore-Gilbert
Chapter 10: 'Mixing and Metamorphing: Articulations of Feminism and Postcoloniality in Marina Warner's Fiction' --Chantal Zabus
C. Feminism and Other '-isms':
Chapter 11: 'Regeneration, Redemption, Resurrection: Pat Barker and the Problem of Evil’ – Sarah Ross
Chapter 12: 'Partial to Intensity: The Novels of A.L. Kennedy’ --Glenda Norquay
Chapter 13: ‘Gender and Creativity in the Fictions of Janice Galloway' --Dorothy McMillan
Chapter 14: 'Appetite, Desire and Belonging in the Novels of Rose Tremain' --Sarah Sceats
Chapter 15: 'Desire for Syzygy in the Novels of A.S. Byatt' --Katherine Tarbox
Chapter 16: 'Jeanette Winterson and the Lesbian Postmodern: Storytelling, Performativity and the Gay Aesthetic'--Paulina Palmer
D. Postmodernism and Other '-isms':
Chapter 17: '(Re)constituted Pasts: Postmodern Historicism in the Novels of Graham Swift and Julian Barnes' --Daniel Bedggood
Chapter 18: 'Colonising the Past: The Novels of Peter Ackroyd' --David Leon Higdon
Chapter 19: 'Player of Games: Iain (M.) Banks

About the Author

James Acheson is former Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is author of Samuel Beckett's Artistic Theory and Practice: Criticism, Drama, Early Fiction, and John Fowles, and is coeditor (with Sarah C.E. Ross) of The Contemporary British Novel Since 1980.

Sarah Ross is a Lecturer in English at Massey University, New Zealand, where she teaches Medieval and Renaissance literature and contemporary fiction. She has published in the fields of early modern women’s writing and manuscript culture, and has contributed to the publications of the Perdita Project and the John Nichols Project (University of Warwick). Her interests in feminism and historicism run through her work in the early modern and contemporary periods.


I applaud the content and organisation of this ambitious collection. The editors have solicited essays from a wide range of world-class scholars, all of whom have provided orginal critiques of a wide variety of contemporary novels.
- Professor Suzette Henke, Department of English, University of Louisville
This challenging collection of original essays by a distinguished group of international scholars breaks new ground in situating major contemporary British novelists in their respective postcolonial, postmodern, feminist and realist contexts.
- Professor John Fletcher, Emeritus Professor of French and Comparative Literature, University of East Anglia