‘What has defeated historical enquiry’: the representation of the past in the novels of Beryl Bainbridge
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis examines the novels of Beryl Bainbridge from her earliest published work, A Weekend with Claud (1967), to her most recent, According to Queeney (2001). It argues that issues of historical representation are central to all of Bainbridge’s fiction; that throughout her work there is a concurrent attraction to the past and scepticism about the possibility of portraying it. The development of these ideas is traced using a broadly chronological structure, which considers Bainbridge’s work in new theoretical and literary contexts. This study is also the first to make use of the British Library’s collection of Bainbridge papers. Chapters 1 to 4 discuss Bainbridge’s early novels in terms of the ‘sexual revolution,’ the Second World War and its abiding impact, and Bainbridge’s avowed anti-feminism. It is argued that these novels show certain continuities with her later, more overtly historical work, not least in their revisionist approach to representing the recent past. Chapters 5 and 6 discuss novels that intervene between her earlier work, set within her own lifetime, and her later historical fiction. Young Adolf (1978) and Watson’s Apology (1984), the subject of Chapter 5, are discussed in light of Linda Hutcheon’s category of ‘historiographic metafiction’ and are demonstrated as developing Bainbridge’s earlier ideas about the past, memory and representation. Chapter 6 continues to trace these links through its discussion of the intertextual references in An Awfully Big Adventure (1989). The final three chapters analyse Bainbridge’s recent tetralogy of historical fictions. Finally, and drawing on the arguments of earlier chapters, it is argued that these novels represent a broadening of Bainbridge’s ambition as a novelist as well as a more concerted deployment of developing ideas about the past, historical change and memory.
AuthorsMarsh, Huw David John
- Theses