The fiction of Anita Brookner, persona, reception, and literary value

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2020
Thesis identifier
  • T15824
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201670977
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • This thesis considers Anita Brookner’s career in fiction from the perspective of three interdependent characteristics of the public author (persona, reception, and canon) in order to determine the author’s place within contemporary literary history, as well as determine how and why this placement was so uncertain in her lifetime. To do so, theories of intertextuality – Gérard Genette’s theory of transtextuality in particular – are applied to a number of Brookner’s narratives, as well as a variety of paratexts, including her book covers, titles, and dedications. Focussing first on her earliest novels, this thesis demonstrates the extent to which Brookner developed an ironic, self-reflexive persona with a sustained interest in explicit intertextualities. This is followed by a detailed reading of her most well-known novel Hotel du Lac that positions Brookner as writing self-pastiche, a complex mode of satire Genette describes in Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree. Then, a comprehensive analysis of the 1984 Booker Prize ceremony proceedings – and the heightened publicity she received as a result of winning it – is conducted to show how a decontextualized reading of the novel was able to emerge. However, when the novel is read in context, it is suggested that Brookner, like Angela Carter, can be understood as writing in a tradition of ‘postmodernism and feminism,’ outside and between both categories. The thesis further considers the relationships between the author and canonicity, with an emphasis on how she was portrayed in educational materials that placed personality to the forefront, and in a film adaptation that deadened her irony. The first extended study of Brookner’s career in its entirety, this thesis also seeks to convey how fiction is produced and consumed in our contemporary era, with recurring reference to the publishing and bookselling industries, critical theory, and how our culture’s ambivalent responses to death can figure in the life of the author.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Edwards, Sarah, 1973-
  • Hammill, Faye
  • Niland, Richard, 1978-
  • Mahn, Churnjeet
Resource Type
  • Previously held under moratorium from 6th April 2021 until 6th April 2023
Date Created
  • 2020
Former identifier
  • 9912970893502996