Post-imperial Phantom Pains : Negotiating Reception and Text in A. S. Byatt’s Possession, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Ian McEwan’s Saturday

This thesis is an analysis of the negotiation of reception and text within contemporary English literature via three contemporary English novels, Possession, On Beauty, and Saturday. Within the three novels, the use of a powerful aesthetic enables access to beauty and truth, heretofore realities beyond the grasp of postmodern and post-structuralist discourses. All three novels critique said discourses with respect to cultural production, selfhood, and safety and, in so doing, create identity narratives that lean heavily on Romantic codes of creativity, power, and place. This, so I argue, makes them romantic realist texts. Additionally, Possession, On Beauty, and Saturday reveal an intriguing post-colonial dynamic within the English cultural space they establish, a dynamic where imperial discourses echo strongly, echoes I define as post-imperial phantom pains.


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