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A dangerous age: adolescent agencies in inter-war British literature

Johnson, Kathryn (2010) A dangerous age: adolescent agencies in inter-war British literature. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.

Abstract

This thesis explores the creative synergy between an era of cultural flux and seismic social upheaval, and a life stage conceived of as fraught, transitional and poised between progress and regress. It contends that adolescence functioned as an organising trope and a dominant paradigm of modern subjectivity in diverse British novels of the period 1918-1939. I develop a wide-ranging thematic analysis which draws established luminaries of the inter-war literary canon into dialogue with neglected mavericks and ‘middlebrow’ authors including Rosamond Lehmann, Patrick Hamilton, E.H. Young, Stevie Smith and Walter Greenwood. The theorisation of adolescence by anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists and cultural critics including G.Stanley Hall, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Wyndham Lewis is canvassed in detail in Chapter I and provides a vital and enriching context for the close textual analyses which follow. Chapters III and V draw on original archival material to trace the evolution of distinctive adolescent agencies and visions of maturity in the striking inter-war novels of Elizabeth Bowen and Graham Greene. Julia Kristeva’s reflections on the ‘adolescent novel’ and the mechanics of abjection offer salient points of illumination and debate in each chapter. These case-studies are elaborated and contextualised by close scrutiny of the gender differentials shaping literary constructions of adolescence in this era. Chapter IV takes inspiration from the parallel drawn by social psychologist Kurt Lewin between the adolescent and the socially disempowered or oppressed ‘marginal man’. In the light of theories of masochism, it calibrates the interrogative force of novels which accentuate the failures and sufferings of male adolescent protagonists. Chapter II gauges the radical aspirations towards female self-fulfilment and definition embedded in narratives of generational conflict and alliance between women and positions the post-war ‘modern girl’ as an enabling yet also peculiarly problematic avatar of female emancipation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: Adolescence, gender, age, developmental, inter-war, British literature
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Radford, Dr. Andrew and Pascoe, Dr. David
Date of Award: 2010
Embargo Date: 12 July 2013
Depositing User: Dr Kathryn Johnson
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2000
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:49
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2000

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