The post-consensus novel: Minority culture, multiculturalism, and transnational comparison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


A Conservative Party election victory in 1979 inaugurated a post-consensus era in British politics and culture. Decisively opposed to a lingering sense of national collectivity, prime minister Margaret Thatcher's new government promised to liberate all of its constituents from unwanted, outdated social solidarities. But the Thatcher ascendancy redefined liberty by identifying it with divisiveness, and paradoxically by stimulating new constraints. The new government encouraged a resurgence of English nativism, xenophobia, and nostalgia for the British Empire's centrality in international affairs. And it tried to contain the impact of immigrant communities on the languages, literatures, and traditions of Britain. While political and economic conservatism flourished, however, the project of cultural containment was largely unsuccessful. In the age of Thatcher, immigrant novelists such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Timothy Mo, Salman Rushdie, and V. S. Naipaul were transforming the Anglophone literary landscape. Their fiction brought international attention to contemporary British writing, consolidated the Windrush generation's contribution to the English novel, and ensured that geographies, vernaculars, and political histories of India, China, Japan, and the West Indies would have a lasting prominence in English letters. In 1981 Rushdie's Midnight's Children won the Booker Prize, a major international award for English fiction. Since then, the prize (renamed the Man Booker Prize in 2002) has gone to Anglophone novelists who hail from Australia, Ireland, Canada, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, and Scotland more than it has to writers born in England.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-Century English Novel
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781139002516
ISBN (Print)9780521884167
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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