‘A Disunited Kingdom: The London 2012 Olympics and the EU Referendum in Jonathan Coe’s Middle England’

Shaw, Kristian (2022) ‘A Disunited Kingdom: The London 2012 Olympics and the EU Referendum in Jonathan Coe’s Middle England’. In: From Blair to Brexit: Community in Contemporary British Fiction. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781350244030

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‘A Disunited Kingdom: The London 2012 Olympics and the EU Referendum in Jonathan Coe’s Middle England’
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Abstract

In the years leading up the EU referendum, British society witnessed a sudden and violent shift towards right-wing populism, hostility towards supranational forms of cosmopolitical democracy and global interdependence, extensive opposition to open border policies, and a xenophobic resistance to both immigrants and transnational mobility more widely. Such developments call for a re-evaluation of the state-of-the-nation and the potential impact of ‘national’ literature on the cultural imaginary. Beginning with a brief analysis of Brexit and its immediate consequences for British society, the chapter will then provide a timely close reading of twenty-first century post-Brexit fictions – forming a literary genre which I have termed ‘BrexLit’ (Shaw 2016) – including The Cut (2017) by Anthony Cartwright, The Lie of the Land (2017) by Amanda Craig, Middle England (2019) by Jonathan Coe and Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet (2016-2020).

Drawing on the work of political commentators and sociologists such as David Goodhart, Ulrich Beck and Pippa Norris, the chapter will indicate how post-Brexit fictions respond to Britain’s recent act of political isolationism and force a reconsideration of our national ‘community’. While Cartwright, Craig and Coe diagnose pre-existing ailments affecting the body politic, Smith’s transglossic quartet gestures towards more inclusive and diverse forms of public culture, espousing an outward-looking cosmopolitan resistance to an increasingly inward-looking British landscape. In exposing the fractured nature of contemporary British sociey, and identifying the roots causes of these cultural divides, the selected fictions demonstrate literature’s potential to engage with emergent geopolitical realities and reimagine the fate of the nation

Keywords:Brexit, European Union, London Olympics
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:49173
Deposited On:06 May 2022 09:27

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