Matthew Whittle: Literature and the Legacies of Empire in Post-Imperial Britain

Following on from last week’s discussion of the postcolonial context of modern-day Brazil, today’s episode of The Provocateur turns to what is arguably the most paradigmatic case of imperialism: the British Empire. We tend to think of European decolonisation as a singular moment in time, yet the end of the British Empire spanned the best part of half a century, from the 1940s to the late 1990s. Indeed in some ways, Britain is still coming to terms with the loss of its imperial power and the Brexit debate has only underscored the contemporary salience of British post-imperial nostalgia. So perhaps there is no better time to restate the case for metropolitan post-war writers such as Alan Sillitoe, Graham Greene and Anthony Burgess as explicitly working within a post-imperial context.

In this podcast, I talk to Matthew Whittle, who is Teaching Fellow in Contemporary and Postcolonial Literature at the University of Leeds, about the themes of his new book Post-War British Literature and the “End of Empire”. We discuss the historical context of post-war British writing in the era of decolonisation, in particular Anthony Burgess and Graham Greene, the relationship between British imperialism and other forms of imperialism (particularly the American case) and the continuing relevance of metropolitan understandings of imperialism for postcolonial studies.

You can listen to part one of the podcast here: 

Part two is here: