Foreigners and Images of National Identity in Postwar Literature

AutorIn: Menno Spiering
Faced with the demise of their country on the world stage, with the Americanization of their society and with the prospect of integration into Europe, many people in postwar-Britain, and in particular in England, began to look more closely at their national identity. Using literature as a source material, this study investigates postwar images of Englishness as they are defined in relation not only to ‘Americans’ and ‘Europeans’, but also to other foreigners: the ‘Arabs’ and the ‘Russians.’ In the context of the Anglo-American novel particular regard is given to Englishness in Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One and David Lodge’s Changing Places. Subsequently the book focuses on that peculiarly English genre ‘the invasion story’, tales in which Englishness comes under direct attack from evil plotters from abroad. While the history of the genre is discussed at some length, detailed attention is paid to images of Englishness in Angus Wilson’s The Old Men at the Zoo (united European forces invade a Euro-recalcitrant Britain), Anthony Burgess’ 1985 (Arab infiltrators prepare to Islamize the English) and Kingsley Amis’ Russian Hide and Seek (after a period of occupation the Russians attempt to give the English back their Englishness).

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