Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Teasers and 'Figures of Catastrophe: the Condition of Culture Novel' by Francis Mulhern

Today I'm sharing a book with you that I'm quite excited about even though it's proving to be an intellectually complex read. Mulhern is a great writer and as such Figures of Catastrophe is actually quite an enjoyable read.
A bold new vision of the modern English novel
The leading critic Francis Mulhern uncovers a hidden history in the English novel and demonstrates its intimate, formative association with the course of the British labor movement, from its rise in the early twentieth century to the years of decline from the 1980s onwards. In this striking reconstruction, culture emerges as a stake in social conflict, above all that of classes; the narrative evaluations of culture's ends—the aspirations and destinies of those whose lives are the matter of its fictions—grow steadily darker as time passes. Readings of classic and contemporary novelists from Hardy and Forster to Amis, Kureishi and Smith, among others, illuminate the forms and narrative logics of the genre that Mulhern terms the “condition of culture novel,” and places it in international context.
Tuesday Intros and Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and MizB over at A Daily Rhythm, respectively. These quotes are from an uncorrected proof so may be different in the finalized copy.

(from the first chapter, rather than the introduction)
'1. Imagining Other Lives 
By the end of the nineteenth century, the question of working-class education in Britain was hardly a novelty, however controversial it remained. The principle of universal, publicly supported elementary schooling for children had been established in law for the greater part of a generation. Adults had been served by the Mechanics' Institutes since the 1820s, while the Woking Men's Colleges sponsored a liberal arts curriculum from the mid-century onwards. Yet it was now that the topic caught fire in the imaginative fields of the English novel, in two stories of working-class educational aspiration that furnished the occasions for general assessments of the current state and prospects of culture. In doing so, Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure and E.M. Forster's Howards End pioneered a new genre, the condition of culture novel.' p.15
The 'condition of culture'-novel is not one I'm very familiar with but, strangely enough, I've read a lot of books which could be considered to fall in this category. I like that education is such a big part of describing and assessing culture.

'Two large questions govern the narrative of Brideshead Revisited. The first is the generic question of the Bildungsroman as such: what will become of young Charles Ryder? The second, which begins from quite distinct assumptions and has far wider significance but nevertheless becomes for a time a version of the first, is: what will become of Brideshead, the house and the line?' p.54
I still haven't read Brideshead Revisited, which has been on one of my 'English Classics I should read' lists for quite some time. I think that reading about it might be the trigger I need to get myself to finally read it.

So, does Figures of Catastrophe sound like a book you'd be interested in? Do you enjoy reading non-fiction?


  1. This sounds very much like a book I need to read! The sociological ramifications of novels (and the influence of cultures/society on literature) is my JAM. Thank you for sharing!

  2. What a cool cover but, I'd have to have a "smart day" to absorb this one I think LOL

  3. This sounds like it could be fascinating but it isn't something I would ever choose to read. I like my reading more fluffy! My teaser today comes from Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. Happy reading!

  4. Don’t forget to stop by BOTH my blogs to check out My TT and they both have different teasers!! Echoing Books (Blog I co-own) and First Dream of Books (My Personal blog) Happy Reading!

  5. I really like the cover, and the idea of the book, but I don't think I'd enjoy the book itself and for that I wouldn't continue. I hope you enjoy!

    Reading With Jade

  6. Hmmm...well, I don't think this would be for me - at least not at this time of my life. However, it sounds like it's the perfect book for you. Enjoy!

  7. This book reminds me of my university years, and how we loved to deconstruct all kinds of things. Thanks for sharing...and here's mine: “A MAN CALLED OVE”

  8. Interesting, though I don't think it is something I would read. Girl Who Reads