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Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

Gill Plain

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2013 | ISBN: 9780748627448
Published online May 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780748695164 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748627448.001.0001
Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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This study undoes the customary division of the 1940s into the Second World War and after, focusing instead on the thematic preoccupations that emerged from writers’ immersion in and resistance to the conflict. Through seven chapters – Documenting, Desiring, Killing, Escaping, Grieving, Adjusting and Atomizing – the book sets middlebrow and popular writers alongside residual modernists and new voices to reconstruct the literary landscape of the period. This is a decade that does not fit into the canonical story of twentieth-century literature, and this book restores to prominence the innovative work undertaken in areas such as documentary prose, the short story, mainstream theatre and realist fiction. The book also examines the relationship between cinema and literature, exploring the extent to which transitions in narrative form cross the boundaries of media. Detailed case studies of novels, stories, drama and poetry provide fresh critical perspectives on a range of writers including Margery Allingham, Alexander Baron, Elizabeth Bowen, Keith Douglas, T. S. Eliot, Graham Greene, Henry Green, Georgette Heyer, Alun Lewis, Nancy Mitford, George Orwell, Mervyn Peake, J. B. Priestley, Terence Rattigan, Mary Renault, Stevie Smith, Dylan Thomas and Evelyn Waugh. Arguing that the postwar is a concept that emerges almost simultaneously with the war itself, and that ‘peace’ is significant only by its absence in an emergent post-atomic cold war era, this book reclaims the complexity of a decade all too often lost in the fault-lines between pre-war modernism and the emergence of the postmodern.

Keywords: British Literature; Second World War; Postwar; Cold war; Modernism; Fiction; Theatre; Poetry; Documentary

Book.  311 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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Documenting in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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Desiring in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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Killing in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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Escaping in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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Grieving in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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Adjusting in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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Atomising in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

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