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Telling Time: History, Time, and the Novel Since 1945 (2023-)

Kevin Brazil, Research Area 3: "Future Perfect"
Associated Research Project

The project offers a new theory of the ways in which contemporary fiction in English mediates the experience of historical time. Moving beyond approaches that see history as a context which fiction reflects or indexes, it argues that fiction's capacity for telling time – modelling temporal structures in narrative and shaping phenomenologies of reading – enables the novel to express the transformations in imagining historical time that have taken place since the end of the Second World War up to the present day. Far from this period witnessing a waning of historicity, writers from Muriel Spark and Christine Brooke-Rose to Georg Lamming and Philip Roth have produced fictional forms mediating an extended present of historical stasis, generational conflict and continuity, the lateness of old age, and the anticipated ruptures of decolonial independence. Engaging throughout with theories of political economy, empire, and sexuality, this project moves beyond the limiting periodizations of postmodernity and 'the contemporary' to demonstrate how the analysis of literary form can contribute to transdisciplinary theorisations of temporality more broadly.