McClung, James Edwin
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This study aims to examine the nature and quality of the novel in Britain in the middle decade of the twentieth century. Apart from a comprehensive view, the study adopts an initiative approach to reconsidering the work of West Indian novelists Samuel Selvon and George Lamming as well as the work of Colin MacInnes as important texts from the period due to their particular ability to communicate and describe the condition of Britain in the post-war period. Historicizing and contextualizing the period from the 1948 docking of the Empire Windrush to Enoch Powell’s infamous 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech, I propose to lay the proper groundwork for a clear recognition of the role played by each of these authors within and without the major social and historical conversations of the day: the perceived role of a “new” postwar imperial Britain in global affairs and culture, the significant influx of colonial (particularly West Indian) emigrants, and the remarkable change in the class organization of England, within and throughout London especially. For some time, the generally-held impression among critics of twentieth century British literature suggested that very little significant work was produced in the period following the Second World War and the deaths of Yeats, Joyce and Woolf. The feeling in many of the periodical and literary outlets of the late 1940s was one of finality. The British novel was publicly pronounced dead in the Observer, in newspapers, on radio and elsewhere. This study argues in particular that the movement of the novel in the 1950s often combines the experimentalism of the modernists with the realism of previous generations and a recognition that the novel had both an ability and a responsibility to document important social and cultural changes during a period of reevaluation of what it meant to be British and the relation of that nation with former colonial holdings and the rest of the world.