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Rupert Thomson: Critical Essays

Rupert Thomson’s innovative and unsettling writing ranges from dystopian alternative futures to meditations on crime and cultural memory, and from historical fictions to explorations of contemporary gender violence. The essays in this collection argue that Thomson’s novels and memoir are compelling case-studies in late twentieth and early twenty-first-century literature, which engage with contemporary cultural and political preoccupations through persistently off-beat and often experimental literary forms, and trouble stable definitions of genre in the process. With chapters focusing on borders, panopticism, haunting, child sexual abuse, shame, atmosphere and intertextuality, this collection offers a critical introduction to an author whose work has been overlooked by the academy for too long.


There’s usually more to a ‘cult’ author than meets the eye: this intelligent, timely, well-informed and wide-ranging collection of essays is aware of this and should help Rupert Thomson’s work reach an even wider and more thoughtful audience. -- Robert Eaglestone, Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought, Royal Holloway, University of London

This book represents an important step in building a body of criticism on an important, if until now under-researched, British novelist of the last 30 years. The essays collected here reveal the diverse range of Thomson's writing and locate it thoughtfully within the broader field of contemporary fiction. It provides a series of critical engagements with his writing that broadens and deepens our understanding of his corpus. -- Nick Bentley, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Keele University

Rupert Thomson is one of the most versatile and vital of contemporary novelists, whose work has so far been curiously neglected by critics. This excellent volume goes some way towards redressing the balance, examining the ways in which Thomson’s unsettling body ofwork explores some of the most pressing themes of our turbulent age - borders, power relations, security, secrecy, precarity, etc. Its contributors place Thomson’s writing in the context of a range of up-to-date literary and theoretical approaches, making this essential reading for anyone interested in his work, and important reading for those interested in contemporary fiction more broadly. -- Bran Nicol, Professor English Literature, University of Surrey



List of Abbreviations

Rupert Thomson

‘Risk and Innovation’: Rupert Thomson’s Unsettling Forms
Rebecca Pohl and Christopher Vardy

‘Border Games’ and Security in the Work of Rupert Thomson
Robert Duggan

‘Perhaps That Is What Is Meant by the Word “Haunted”’: Power, Dystopia and the Ghostly Other in Divided Kingdom
Iain Robinson

Happier Days for All of Us? Childhood and Abuse in Death of a Murderer
Christopher Vardy

The Ghostly Presence of Her: Representations of Myra Hindley in Death of a Murderer
Rhona Gordon

‘The Shame of Being a Man’: Shame, Masculinity and Writing in The Book of Revelation
Kaye Mitchell

Something’s Not Quite Right: Atmosphere in The Insult
Rebecca Pohl

‘Candour and Secrecy’: Forms of Fiction in This Party’s Got to Stop and Secrecy
John McAuliffe

Notes on Contributors