UBC Theses and Dissertations
Station to station : contemporary British literature and urban space after Thatcher Duff, Kimberly
“Station to Station: Contemporary British Literature and Urban Space After Thatcher,” examines specific literary representations of public and private urban spaces in late 20th and early 21st-century Great Britain in the context of the shifting tensions that arose from the Thatcherite shift away from state-supported industry toward private ownership, from the welfare state to an American-style free market economy. This project examines literary representations of public and private urban spaces through the following research question: how did the textual mapping of geographical and cultural spaces under Margaret Thatcher uncover the transforming connections of specific British subjects to public/private urban space, national identity, and emergent forms of historical identities and citizenship? And how were the effects of such radical changes represented in post-Thatcher British literary texts that looked back to the British city under Thatcherism? Through an analysis of Thatcher’s progression towards policies of privatization and social reform, this dissertation addresses the Thatcherite “cityspace” (Soja) and what Stuart Hall calls the “deregulation of the city” (23) as these open my research to issues of spatially affected identities in literary representations of the British city at the turn of the century. My four case studies move from a broad discussion of the effects of the heritage industry on the city and the individual (Iain Sinclair’s Lights Out for the Territory ); to the relationship between space, identity, and the rolling back of the welfare state as it plays out in the stigmatization and neglect of council estate housing (Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting ); to representations of race and entrepreneurialism in the Thatcherite city (Monica Ali’s Brick Lane ); and, finally, to representations of space, gay identities, and class during a period of institutionalized homophobia (Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty ). The project takes as its aim the tracing of various tentacles of Thatcherism as they creep across the spaces of the British city in a way that draws attention to how the processes and flows of Thatcherite neoliberal policies circulate across the spaces of the city, forever altering the ways in which individuals move and form identities within those spaces.
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