1st Edition

Rewriting the North Contemporary British Fiction and the Cultural Politics of Devolution

By Chloe Ashbridge Copyright 2023

    This book shows how twenty-first-century writing about Northern England imagines alternative democratic futures for the region and the English nation, signalling the growing awareness of England as a distinct and variegated political formation. In 2016, the Brexit vote intensified ongoing constitutional tensions throughout the UK, which have been developing since the devolution of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 1997. At the same time, British devolution developed a distinctively cultural registration as a surrogate for parliamentary representation and an attempt to disrupt the status of London as Britain’s cultural epicentre. Rewriting the North shifts this debate in a new direction, examining Northern literary preoccupation with devolution’s constitutional implications. Through close readings of six contemporary authors – Sunjeev Sahota, Sarah Hall, Anthony Cartwright, Adam Thorpe, Fiona Mozley, and Sarah Moss – this book argues that literary engagement with the North emphasises regional devolution's limited constitutional charge, calling instead for an urgent abandonment of the British centralised state form.



    Introduction: Placing the Cultural Politics of Devolution

    Part 1: Stress Fractures

    Chapter 1: Multicultural Britishness and the Urban North

    Chapter 2: Post-British England and the Rural North

    Part 2: Revolt

    Chapter 3: Brexit England and the Deindustrial North

    Chapter 4: Global Britishness and the Neo-Primitive North

    Conclusion: Regional Development and the ‘Cultural Turn’

    Works Cited



    Chloe Ashbridge is Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University, where her research concerns the interplay between British literature and politics. She is the author of several publications on working-class writing and neoliberalism, regional uneven development in Brexit literature, and the relationship between the literary North and Black Britishness. Chloe is currently researching the function of regional literary awards in the context of Britain’s devolving cultural and creative economy. Rewriting the North is her first book.

    "Rewriting the North breaks new ground. This critically-informed and prescient study of the contemporary literary North moves deftly between cultural politics and literary aesthetics in order to propose an alternative future for the field."

    James Procter, Newcastle University, UK


    "Rewriting the North registers the erratic pulse of contemporary British politics, especially in the post-Brexit moment. Ashbridge considers a range of understudied but significant texts, highlighting literature’s ability to help clarify regional politics and the reverberations of devolution."

    – Simon Lee, Texas State University, USA


    "Devolution is about the political meaning of Not Being England. But as Ashbridge brilliantly shows, adjusting the UK constitutional order places new pressures on England’s own nationhood and voice, sparking new questions of place, belonging and citizenship. (It turns out that a lot of England is also Not Being ‘England’.) If Brexit underscores the ailments of British Literature as a critical paradigm, this path-breaking study shrewdly examines what — other than alternative literary nationalisms — might come next."

    – Scott Hames, University of Stirling, UK