Christopher Webb (UCL) - 2014-15 Students

The Economies of Experimental Fiction in 1960s Britain

The literary market place in 1960s Britain often proved to be a hostile environment for those writers who, like B. S. Johnson, wished to publish experimental fiction. Indeed, as fellow experimental writer Eva Figes puts it, ‘the Swinging Sixties were anything but swinging as far as the English Literary scene was concerned’. Though Johnson and Figes, along with other experimental writers such as Alan Burns, Ann Quin and Alexander Trocchi, did in fact manage to publish their fiction— and often with major publishing houses—they did so fully aware of the fact that their novels alone could not provide them with a sustainable living wage.With this in mind, my project will explore the various material conditions in which these artists were working and try to develop a fuller understanding of the various (financial, cultural and, sometimes, legal) economies that shaped British avant-garde writing of this time. In doing so, I hope to provide a clearer picture of the social milieu of the time and provide a significant insight into what made— and sustained— these writers.

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