A Funny Thing/Gordon Burn and 'New British Journalism'

McGregor, Roy (2018) A Funny Thing/Gordon Burn and 'New British Journalism'. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis proposes that a body of British writing has emerged since the early 1980s which could be called ‘British New Journalism’. In defining a new category of literature, the creative and critical elements of this thesis offer an original contribution to knowledge.
In Part I, this discrete genre is exemplified in a fictional biography, A Funny Thing. Underpinning the novel is a set of emerging ‘rules’ which are influenced by, but distinct from, those of American New Journalism. The narrative is set between the 1960s and the present day and follows the impact of Motor Neurone Disease on Norman and Freddy, a C list double act. It culminates in the mercy killing by Freddy (the narrator) of his partner. It is suggested that the integration of real, historical detail with fiction, unconventional use of footnotes and scripted material and implied critique of post-war British society locate this work within British New Journalism.
In Part II, a critical work defines the genre and examines how novels and non-fiction books within it appraise society through the lens of real lives. Gordon Burn is located as the most significant writer in this field. His role is initially traced through a study of the influence of American New Journalism on his storytelling and reference to ‘rules’ articulated by Tom Wolfe and exemplified by Norman Mailer and Truman Capote. Through detailed analysis of Burn’s novels, biographies, and ‘true crime’ works which best illustrate emerging genre conventions, it is shown that British New Journalism differs from the US genre in its extension of real, fictional, famous, and ordinary lives as cyphers for dysfunction in communities and wider society. Finally, the ongoing impact of Burn and his hybrid version of New Journalism on subsequent British writers is exemplified by close reference to the works of David Peace and Andrew O’Hagan.
The thesis concludes that, while more extensive study of a wider range of writers will be useful, the research offers sufficient evidence that British New Journalism is a distinctive genre that continuous to develop and adapt to current societal strands.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: New Journalism, Gordon Burn, David Peace, Andrew O'Hagan, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Biography, Crime Writing, Language, Dialect, British Novel, Non Fiction Novel, Marilyn Monroe, Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, Fred West, Fame, Celebrity.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Coyle, Dr. John and Stoddart, Dr. Helen
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Roy McGregor
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30617
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2018 07:27
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2018 07:30
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/30617

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