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“Representations of the Intellectual” in Post-War British Novels: Hemlock and After and The History Man

  • Journal of Humanities, Seoul National University
  • 2018, 75(1), pp.459-488
  • DOI : 10.17326/jhsnu.75.1.201802.459
  • Publisher : Institute of Humanities, Seoul National University
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : January 15, 2018
  • Accepted : January 31, 2018
  • Published : February 28, 2018

Jung-A Hwang 1

1한림대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

According to Edward Said’s characterization of the intellectual as “a representative figure,” intellectuals are the ones who could represent their own causes and ideas and also whose self-representations could represent the principal aspects of their times. This paper attempts to understand post-war British society, focusing on “representations of the intellectual” in two post-war British novels, Hemlock and After and The History Man. Set in the 1950s when the welfare state was established based on the post-war social consensus, Hemlock and After portrays Bernard Sands, a “Grand Old Man of Letters”, and his self-representation. Bernard senses and admits a profound failure in his life as an intellectual. He, however, could not recognize an even more serious failure in his self-representation, which ultimately implies the inherent predicament and limit of liberal humanism itself. The History Man, on the other hand, is basically a pungent satire of a radical intellectual who aspires to synchronize with History, and thus provides a critical assessment of the social changes and “cultural revolutions” of the Long Sixties. Comparing these two novels would effectively demonstrate the transformations of British society between the two periods, and also make it clear that the frame of “liberalism (as anti-radicalism) vs. radicalism (as anti-liberalism)” only leads to an intellectual impasse.

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This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.