Malcolm Bradbury's modernism: the writer, the critic, and the university

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Malcolm Bradbury (1932-2000) is perhaps best remembered for establishing in 1970 the University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, with fellow novelist Angus Wilson. This paper outlines the centrality of modernism to Bradbury’s teaching and criticism, as well as his own fiction. Speaking as Chair of the 1981 Booker Prize, Bradbury described ‘serious’ fiction as writing which is ‘pressing at the edge of the genre, taking it as a form of enquiry’. The parallel to Pound’s ‘make it new’ is clear enough, but this paper poses two further questions: how did Bradbury theorise the relationship between creative and critical practice? and in what ways did Bradbury consider the university a place for ‘serious’ fiction, and therefore an important literary taste-maker? This paper draws particular attention to the canonical modernist writers Bradbury returned to throughout his long teaching career, as well as the kinds of non-mimetic and experimental writing he encouraged among his students. Those canonical figures of the ‘first wave’ of modernism avoided the university in favour of the café, the salon, or the little magazine, whereas Bradbury embraced the university as an institution which could provide patronage to writers working beyond the fetters of the marketplace. In Britain, the relationship between the university creative writing programme, the avant-garde, and the marketplace has shifted significantly since Bradbury’s retirement from teaching in 1995. By looking back to how Bradbury theorised these relations, we can better question our own relation to a ‘second wave’ of modernism in 2022.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2023
EventModernism Remodelled: A Transdisciplinary Conference - Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Feb 202326 Feb 2023


ConferenceModernism Remodelled
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
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