Capital (1975): Maureen Duffy
Maureen Duffy (1933 ) is a notable contemporary British poet, playwright and novelist. She has also published a literary biography of Aphra Behn (=prolific dramatist of the English Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers to earn her living through writing), and The Erotic World of Faery, a book-length study of eroticism in faery fantasy literature. After a tough childhood, Duffy took her degree in English from King’s College London. She went on to be a schoolteacher from 1956 to 1961, and edited three editions of a poetry magazine called the sixties. She then turned to writing full-time as a poet and playwright after being commissioned to produce a screenplay by Granada Television. Her first novel, written at the suggestion of a publisher, That’s How It Was (1962), was published to great acclaim. Her first openly lesbian novel was The Microcosm (1966), set in the famous lesbian Gateways club in London. Duffy is not a literary realist. All through her fictional world, Duffy has used an incredibly number of literary techniques to undermine the impression of the mimetic and to explore the possibilities of postmodern narrative. This goes with an acute awareness of the text as a text and as a representation of a voice. She has a strong interest in the past and in the (im)possibility of recreating it fictionally in and through language. Art is not a diversion to her but a potent form of social critique and catalyst for change.
His porter’s uniform gave Meepers a passport to any part of the building at Queen's College, London, and he needed this freedom to reconnoiter [rekəˈnoitə] (=to make a reconnaissance of) and gather proofs for his research. At night he might creep out to a demolition site and rescue a shard of pottery before the huge teeth of earthmovers could destroy that delicate memory-bank. This shabby, homeless eccentric was committed to discovering the truth about civilisation — perhaps he would even be able to save the capital. He wanted to prove that Romano-British civilisation had held firm since its beginnings. The Dark Ages were emotively named: if there had never been a break in the continuity of civilised life, then, there is hope that civilisation will pass through this present age unharmed. His quest leads him from the gardening hut where he sleeps, to Kensington Gardens, to the university, where he sits in on the lectures of a professor with whom he develops a curious relationship, which gradually draws in other members of the class.
Historical context of the story’s writing
Capital was written in 1975. It is no accident that the contemporary moment of this novel is on the cusp of what came to be known as Thatcherism. In many respects, Margaret Thatcher ‘s denial of contemporary society, and desire to return to largely mythical Victorian certainties captures this urban sensibility. A consumerist urban present is no match for the imagined monolith [ˈmɒnəlɪθ] of the past. Indeed, it would be Margaret Thatcher’s government that would undo the successor to the belated unity granted the city in the form of the London County Council. The demise of the Greater London Council (GLC) removed any unitary authority of London as a whole , unique in Europe for a major city. (missing page 137…)
The title’s explanation:
1) ‘Capital’ designates here the capital of England, London. Indeed, the whole plot of the story takes place through different places of the well-known world capital. Emerly and Meepers, the two main characters, invite the readers to wander through contemporary London with his multiple parks, the Kensington gardens, the Thames…These different places are also viewed and portrayed by mythical heroes living in past History. Indeed, Duffy introduces many introjections of the past in the contemporary narrative and this works as the causes of effects that we now see. Anyway, without an understanding and...
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