English Literature in the 1960s soon threw off its post-war weariness and the tepid influences of the previous decade. New voices, new visions, and new commitments profoundly reshaped writing during the sixties, and throughout the rest of the century. Drama thrived on its rapidly rebuilt foundations. New freedoms of style and form revitalised fiction. Poetry, too, gradually recovered the variety and inventiveness of earlier years. As well as comprehensively charting these changes in the literary field, Randall Stevenson persuasively pinpoints their origins in the historical, social, and intellectual pressures of the times. Literary developments are revealingly related to the wider evolution and profound changes in English experience in the late twentieth century - to shadows of war and loss of empire; declining influences of class; shifting relations between the genders; emergent minority and counter-cultures; and the broadening democratization of contemporary life in general.
Analyses of the rise of literary theory, of publishing and the book trade, and of the pervasive influences of modernism and postmodernism contribute further to an impressively thorough, insightful description of writing in the later twentieth century - a literary period Stevenson shows to be far more imaginative and exciting than has yet been recognized. Lucid, accessible, and engaging, this volume of the Oxford English Literary History presents a unique illumination of its age - one we have lived through, but are only just beginning to understand. The first full account of its period, it will set the agenda for discussion of late twentieth-century literature for many years to come.
Randall Stevenson is Reader in English Literature and Deputy Head of Department at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Modernist Fiction (1992; revd. edn, 1998); A Reader's Guide to the Twentieth-Century Novel in Britain (1993); The British Novel Since the Thirties (1986), and many articles on modernist and postmodernist fiction.