The Handsworth Times: part one of a novel in progress with synopsis and critical introduction

Duggal, Sharon (2013) The Handsworth Times: part one of a novel in progress with synopsis and critical introduction. Masters thesis (MPhil), University of Sussex.

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My submission for Master of Philosophy in Creative Writing comprises an original piece of creative writing together with an in-depth critical introduction to my creative work.

The creative element offers the first part of a novel in progress, entitled The Handsworth Times, about a working class British Asian family in inner city Birmingham, set around the time of social unrest in the early 1980s. The family are reacting to the death of Billy, the youngest member of the family. The novel plots how individual members of the family come to terms (or not) with this major tragedy, which also mirrors a less personal but nevertheless impactful social tragedy occurring around them as their neighbourhood disintegrates under the pressure of deprivation and disaffection.

In writing about Handsworth and the impact of living in this environment in this particular period of time on a British Asian family, I am writing about a set of particular experiences that, to date, have had very little (if any) literary representation in modern British prose fiction. This gap, together with critical key issues around representation, identity and authenticity (which have emerged as part of the creative process of planning The Handsworth Times) provide the impetus to my research, which is summarised in the Critical Introduction. I explore the impact of these issues on the wider context of British Asian writing and, more personally, on my own journey as a writer.

The Critical Introduction is split in to three main sections: in the first part, I explore the historical emergence of British Asian writing over the last few decades to date; in the second section I consider the ‘burden of representation’, a phrase coined by Ruth Maxey to describe the complex set of issues that appear to have arisen for British Asian contemporary writers in recent times (as part of this discussion I consider the kinds of stories about multicultural Britain that are accepted and/or celebrated by mainstream publishers, booksellers and critics, and whether there is a direct relationship between these choices and the issues emerging around current understandings of British multiculturalism); in Section 3, I explore how this context has impacted on my journey as a writer in terms of technical, aesthetical and political decisions. I indicate the ways in which I have drawn from experience and output of others and set out how my creative writing will offer an alternative and original contribution to the field. This contribution includes:

• Developing a novel which focuses on the working class experience of a British Asian family during the 1980s. Thereby writing about a group of people whose particular set of experiences is underexplored in contemporary literature

• Using the Handsworth Riots as a framework for the narrative

• Offering a reflection on urban social unrest, brought about by economic deprivation and struggle, through the eyes of British Asian characters.

• Using strong female characters to populate the creative work, addressing themes of gender and race.

• Interweaving the popular culture of a particular group of people (in this particular period and setting) throughout the narrative.

• Representing a layered reality where British Asian characters respond to the world around them rather than being looked in upon, and offering a number of viewpoints to achieve this – including an occasional omniscient narrator

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR6100 2001-
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2013 13:25
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37

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