Alan Sillitoe and the Topsy-Turvy Universe of Trash Literature

  • Gabriella Assante di Panzillo Università of Rome "La Sapienza"
Keywords: Carnivalesque, Trash, Sillitoe, Bakhtin, Highbrow


Working-class fiction emerged in Britain as a discourse of subcultural diversity targeting the bourgeois dominant culture and its expressive forms. Even in the post-war years, when working-class cultural production fed a short-term curiosity for slum life, proletarian novelists were never bestowed the literary dignity that was granted instead to mainstream writers. They continued to speak from the cultural margins of British society until their voice merged with those of other ill-treated and unempowered social minorities, becoming part of a broader indistinct subcultural otherness. The loss of cultural identity and the popularity enjoyed by more daring and subversive literary forms pushed the working-class writer further away from the ivory tower of English Literature.

This essay discusses the case of Alan Sillitoe to show how he lampooned highbrow literature in the novel Life Goes On (1985). Drawing upon Mikail Bakhtin’s notion of the carnivalesque, the essay hopes to demonstrate how Sillitoe turned the literary hierarchy upside-down, giving legitimation to a motley-crew of grotesque storytellers living in a nether world of consummate liars and squalid drug-traffickers. Sillitoe’s profanation of literature has serious overtones that ultimately challenge those criteria of the literary establishment that mark the divide between high and low art.


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Author Biography

Gabriella Assante di Panzillo, Università of Rome "La Sapienza"

Gabriella Assante di Panzillo is a teacher of English as a Foreign Language with a tenure status at Liceo Statale Cornelio Tacito in Rome. In 2015 she was granted a leave of absence and is currently a second year doctoral student of English Literatures at La Sapienza in the Department of European and American Studies. Her research interests revolve around the fiction of Alan Sillitoe and post-war British literature.


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How to Cite
Assante di Panzillo, G. (2016). Alan Sillitoe and the Topsy-Turvy Universe of Trash Literature. Between, 6(12).
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