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End of Empire and the English Novel

A panel discussion, jointly organised by Queen Mary, University of London and the British Academy, held on 2 November 2011 (venue: The Royal Society).

The purpose of this discussion was to open up the connections between the end of the British Empire and the English novel. The main focus was with English fiction more narrowly defined – Josephine Tey, John Masters, William Boyd, A S Byatt, Penelope Lively, Alan Hollinghurst, Ian McEwan and popular feminine romance. These authors are not conventionally read as postcolonial, but they have much of interest to say about the fate of England after the Empire. There has been no sustained discussion of these writers and their relationship to the end of the Empire. The discussion illuminated both questions to do with the properties of the English novel, and with English history since 1945.

First session: THE ISSUES

End of Empire and the English Novel, Bill Schwarz, Queen Mary, University of London (Chair)

Cold War and the End of Empire in the late 1940s, Patrick Parrinder, University of Reading

William Golding, Rachel Gilmour, Queen Mary, University of London

Tim Parks, Suzanne Hobson, Queen Mary, University of London

Second session: RESPONSES

Elleke Boehmer, University of Oxford (Chair)

Catherine Hall, University College London

Susheila Nasta, Open University

Marina Warner FBA, novelist/University of Essex