Read PDF The representation of youth and youth culture in the novel Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes

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Not any authentic teenagers at all. The protagonist is proud to be a teenager. When he realizes that he belongs to the first generation of teenagers ever, he starts to live his life to the maximum and tries to lead a different life then the generations before him. He desperately wants to be different and he wants to be respected by his family and most of all by the society, even tough he despises both.


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Deep down he knows that one day he will be an adult and will belong to the society, which he hates so much. Maybe he hopes his behaviour as a teenager could influence or even change the society. He is proud to be respected by the other teenagers and even serves a role model for some of them, although he does not say so. When the novel starts in June he is once again aware of the fact that he is almost an adult and decides to enjoy his last teenage year, to make it the best ever.

Yes, man, come whatever, this last year of the teenage dream I was out for kicks and fantasy. The new status of the teenagers in post-war Britain gives him the chance to experiment with life. The teenagers and the industry created an own market and lifestyle for this new generation, new styles and consumer goods are developed, influenced and constantly changed by the young generation.

The protagonist of the novel gives detailed information about his life and especially his life besides from his work, which is hardly mentioned at all. He is fascinated by music especially jazz music. He belongs to the new-formed teenage high society, which is probably only a high society in their eyes and is deeply involved with going to jazz clubs, buying jazz records and talking to others about music.

For him jazz music is as important as his claim to be part of a classless teenage society. P W Phyllis Wiechert Author. Add to cart. Table of contents 1. Introduction 2. Theories on youth and youth cultures 4. Is Absolute Beginners main character a typical teenager of the fifties?

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Conclusion 6. Bibliography 1. Introduction The purpose of this paper is to analyse the question to what extent a piece of art, in this case a novel, can serve as a basis for cultural studies. Sign in to write a comment. Read the ebook. Literature: The Represent American Studies - Literature Cultural cross-dressing and the quest This collective narrative is produced specifically through the deployment of alternative linguistic styles.

1. Introduction

In the texts analyzed here, MacInnes deploys two 'foreign' appropriations of the 'national' language that function as centripetal forces undermining 'Standard' English. These two 'foreign' interruptions of English intersect with contemporary anxieties around national identity, namely in terms of Americanization and the immigration of black and Asian groups from Britain's former colonies.

When it was first published, several contemporary critics and reviewers compared Absolute Beginners to J. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye , mainly because of the similarity in subject matter and the narrative address of the two texts Gould xiii.

Colin MacInnes - Wikipedia

Although MacInnes maintains that English youth culture retains its own specific national identity, 7 the deployment of an appropriation of American forms, accents and modes of expression becomes a narrative strategy in Absolute Beginners in the formation of a distinct youth identity that challenges the traditional and dominant constructions of Englishness: "I swore by Elvis and all the saints that this last teenage year of mine was going to be a real rave.

Yes, man, come whatever, this last year of the teenage dream I was out for kicks and fantasy" This passage includes many words, or distinct uses of words, that are imported from s America "teenage," "rave," "man," "kicks". However, MacInnes holds that American culture, as consumed by the English youth, is not portrayed as an experiential connection between the two cultures. This process is articulated through the narrative voice in Absolute Beginners. The teenager's narrative voice represents the distancing of youth from mainstream culture through an engagement with contemporary anxieties about the Americanization of English culture.

This fear was acknowledged not only in mainstream cultural discourse, but also in the New Left writing of the period, especially in Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy. In Absolute Beginners , MacInnes creates a linguistic style that corresponds to his reading of the popular English rock'n'roll and skiffle forms of Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan. In Absolute Beginners , MacInnes attempts to translate this hybridized singing style into the narrative voice of the teenager, a form that is addressed to an English audience and is specifically concerned with English culture, but is presented through the appropriation of American forms.

MacInnes's attempt to create this subcultural, hybrid language style is, therefore, part of his project to challenge dominant constructions of Englishness in terms of both language and culture.

Introduction

In City of Spades , Johnny Fortune's narration represents a similar hybridized language form. Fortune's style is presented as an appropriation, disruption and dislocation of Standard English that operates thematically and ideologically to represent an emergent national identity that includes rather than excludes members from Britain's commonwealth.


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  7. The representation of Fortune's language functions in a similar way to the 'Creolization' of English in many Caribbean texts. Although Fortune is from Nigeria, and not the Caribbean, his discourse functions in a similar way by transforming Standard English. In summary, the experimentation with linguistic forms in the intersection of Standard English, Americanization and Creolization in MacInnes's novels foreground his central concern in the contemporary construction of English national identity.

    In Absolute Beginners , the contradictory attitude towards the nature of English national identity is registered through the central consciousness of the teenager, who is unclear about which aspects of national identity he can support as reflecting his individual identity, and which he wants to reject in favour of new forms. This description of national identity as fluid and unstable is informed by the contemporary 'crisis' of Britain's loss of colonial and international power, and foregrounds a moment of transition in English national identity by observing and commenting on both residual and emergent forms of Englishness.

    As the teenager comments: "'You bet I'm a patriot! This passage reveals the text's critique of the residual forms of colonial power, which are also identified by the teenager in Britain's recent failures in international power broking:. In addition, the text argues that England has failed to take responsibility for its colonial heritage, or to recognize that it is implicated in its colonial history precisely because the exploitation of subject peoples has taken place elsewhere , away from the colonial centre:.

    The representation of youth and youth culture in the novel Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes

    This eruption of violence is represented as a spontaneous and collective psychological reaction to contemporary anxieties about national identity amongst the dominant white population, and leads the teenager to reject the entrenched forms of Englishness:. However, parallel to this critique, the text simultaneously offers a celebration of other traditional forms of national identity, which appear to be under threat from the new social and cultural forces.

    Gilbert and Sullivan function in the text as a cultural signifier of a traditional construction of 'liberal' England as an honest, ordered and gentle society. In the section where the teenager goes on a boat trip with his father who represents a gentle, quietly spoken, but solid English character , he celebrates older narratives of Englishness by appropriating royalist and pastoral images:.

    This nostalgic celebration of a residual English pastoral seems at odds with the teenager's encounters with the new forms of teenage and black subcultures that pervade most of the text. However, this aspect represents an attempt to reconstruct a positive, emergent national identity that is acceptable not only to the new subcultural identities the novel records, but also to the mainstream culture.

    The novel, therefore, attempts to appropriate these new cultures by representing them to an audience that has come to perceive them as wholly threatening to traditional national values. If MacInnes's teenager can respond to the implicit worth of certain aspects of an older English identity, then it is more palatable for dominant English culture to include these new subcultural forces into an emergent reconstruction of Englishness. It is for this reason that the text ends with the poignant image of a new group of immigrants landing in England, full of hope and a reliance on the very English myths that the teenager has reproduced:.

    The text enters a cultural debate concerned with defining a national identity that has been loosened from its traditional certainties, one that is no longer the property of the dominant cultural institutions, but is in the process of being reconstructed from below. He writes:. A similar model of the nation is also assumed in Absolute Beginners. MacInnes's novel attempts to generate the "other sites" identified by Bhabha both in terms of meaning and through the construction of identities that engage in the ideological construction of an emergent Englishness.

    However, the text is also concerned to retain certain aspects of a residual Englishness. The position of the narrative voice as simultaneously inside and outside in relation to youth subcultures corresponds to this negotiated construction of the nation.

    MacInnes's contradictory representations of English national identity and youth are also reproduced in his representation of black subcultures. In City of Spades , MacInnes attempts to record faithfully the culture, concerns and experiences of emergent black communities in fifties London. The fictional article places the responsibility for the incidents of racial violence in the Nottingham and Notting Hill riots in on the immigrants, implying that the racist reaction of the 'Teds' is understandable though "entirely alien to our way of life" City of Spades opens up a range of issues that engage with this dominant mis construction and stereotyping of black identity.

    For example, the text foregrounds the misreading of 'black' immigrants as a unified homogenous group by identifying the distinctions between separate black cultural identities resident in Britain in the s, especially in the cultural differences between Caribbean, African and African American identities, and also in distinctions within those categories such as Gambian, Nigerian, and so on.

    The novel is also concerned with redressing the dominant white cultural belief that black individuals are culturally, morally, and intellectually inferior.

    source link Therefore, anxieties about the declining status of the nation are presented through discourses of racial prejudice that serve to focus the blame of national decline on 'alien' individuals and cultures. As Gilroy writes: "Alien cultures come to embody a threat which, in turn, invites the conclusion that national decline and weakness have been precipitated by the arrival of blacks" In the fifties, the impact of decolonization and the Suez crisis intensified this racial discourse, and City of Spades foregrounds the contemporary expression of these anxieties about national identity.

    Gilroy also posits that this connection of race and nation was specifically articulated in the s through a discourse of criminality in which "issues of sexuality and miscegenation were often uppermost" City of Spades attempts to emphasize, contextualize and contest these discourses of criminality and sexuality. The dominant cultural charge of excessive criminality among black immigrant cultures is foregrounded through the representation of the underworld activities of Billy Whispers and his followers. The emphasis throughout the text is on the sociological causes of the reliance on criminal activity among black subcultures, representing a survival strategy in response to an institutionally racist culture that limits the economic opportunities for black individuals.

    This position challenges the view that criminality is an intrinsic racial characteristic of immigrant lifestyle, as suggested in the Ambrose Drove article in Absolute Beginners. This is evidenced in the trajectory of Fortune's progress in the novel. He arrives in London as an optimistic and ambitious student but through his encounters with the racist attitudes of the 'landladies,' employers, and the police, he ultimately quits college and resorts to illicit gambling and selling 'weed' to make a living.