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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

'Give a hand to your neighbour': Margaret Thatcher and Pornography

14th February 2017, 17:30 to 19:00, Senate Suite, Durham Castle , Antony Mullen

A free public lecture; all welcome.

This paper considers why 1980s British fiction turned to pornography in order to explore Thatcherism’s contradictions. First I will discuss why pornography is a significant, but overlooked, context to return to in rethinking Thatcher’s Britain. Not only did a more market-orientated economy drive changes in the way porn was produced and consumed, but it was also a period in which new debates about porn were opening up in feminist and queer theory. This happened despite Thatcher’s call for a return to Victorian values, such as self-restraint. Then, focusing on Martin Amis’ Money: A Suicide Note (1984) and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming-Pool Library (1988), I will map out fiction’s response to this cultural change. Ultimately what we see in these novels, and in fiction more widely, is an attempt to use pornography as a means of exposing an ostensible contradiction in Thatcherism: namely, between the idea of the free individual on the one hand and Thatcher’s rejection of “the permissive society” on the other.

Contact antony.mullen@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.

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