England Calling: A Narratological Exploration of Martin Amis’s 'London Fields'

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This paper will explore connections between fictional narrative methodology and contemporary conceptions of Englishness by applying aspects of Gerald Prince’s (2005) conceptions of a ‘postcolonial narratology’ to Martin Amis’s London Fields (1989). Amis has commented that ‘it’s almost an act of will on my part trying not to be an English writer’. However, this paper will suggest that the novel under consideration here exhibits methodological tendencies which have their roots in a protracted engagement with problematic notions of English identity (principally, instability and disengagement) and that postcolonial approaches to narrative technique can lead to very interesting results, even when applied to the work of writers not typically identified with such constituencies. The central point of investigation will be the novel’s exhibition of metafictional tendencies. In 'London Fields', Amis narrates via an authorial surrogate, Samson Young, who purports to be the author of the text, yet becomes implicated in the events of the novel to the point where his actions, rather than his imagination, determine its outcome. It is interesting also in this connection that the novel is voiced by an ‘outsider’ to England, an American.

Prince is intrigued by the possibility that a postcolonial narrative discourse might emerge ‘free of any narratorial introduction, mediation, or patronage.’ He also points to the significance of narratological features such as hybridity, migrancy, otherness, fragmentation, diversity and power relations. Amis’s novel exhibits all of these features, and takes the ambition of authorial invisibility to a paradoxical extreme. Voices, characters, reliability and even actantial events are brusquely ‘disowned’ by the author, resulting in a textual instability and uncertainty which, it will be demonstrated through close textual analysis, is intimately linked to England’s postcolonial condition.

Keywords: Nationalism, Postcolonialism, Identity, Narratology, Martin Amis, Narrative technique, Contemporary fiction
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: England Calling

Dr. Jeremy David Scott

Lecturer in English, School of European Culture and Language Studies, University of Kent
Canterbury, Kent, UK

I was awarded my PhD in 2005 and teach at the University of Kent in the areas of contemporary fiction, narratology, stylistics, discourse analysis, critical theory and general English literature. I also teach creative writing, and am a published fiction writer. My current research interests include fictional technique, literary representations of dialect, the relationship between narratives and identity, and fictional versions of Englishness. I have published on contemporary British and Irish fiction, on James Joyce. A new collection of short stories and a book on demotic narrative voices in contemporary fiction are both forthcoming in 2008.

Ref: H08P0303