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CPolidori - October Notes
[author: Chiara Polidori - postdate: 2007-11-02]

From 1945 to the Present

The post second war context


In the context this period is organized into a lo t of chapters à underline the most important elements.

The post-war period was characterized by the influence of US in Great Britain à a process of Americanization:

Cinema and television became very important

Food, clothes, books and music came from the US.


Immigration was a very important social context in Great Britainà the current of immigration came from India and Pakistan.

The 1960s was characterized by a lot of changes therefore it is considered the period of cultural changes:

  • there were a lot of political protests
  • pop music became popular through Beatles' messages (it was generally connected to young generation)
  •  the new culture celebrated freedom through music, cinema, television, painting and fashion.


The centre of culture was London. New groups appeared like "the Teddy Boys"  with their rock'n  roll music, "the Mods", "the Skinheads" and the "Hippies" who exalted peace and love.

A generation Gap was born. It is important to remember that Eastern countries were persecuted especially in France (for example Giulia Kristeva).



The influence of the cinema shows new points of viewà sarcastic films were produced in this period. They consists of  some works' revision. Free Cinema was born. It was called in this manner because it was very realistic.


The 1970s  saw new social and political movements like Thatcherism . Thatcherism was a very important movement, founded by a woman called Margaret Thatcher. Under Thatcherism the society changed:

  • the rigid frontiers between working class and middle-upper class were broken
  • criminality rose in towns and cities
  • a phenomenon of organised violence, called Hooliganism, spread in the run-down areas of large cities
  •  the traditional model of the nuclear family collapsed and it was substituted by single-parent families
  • work was started on the Channel Tunnel.-->important for the communication between France and England
  • culture was transformed by technology

Language was considered very important in English culture. In 1978  the "Open University" was born because in Great Britain the people worked and studied harder. Language is the new empire of Great Britain, it became a real business for the England.

The 1980s was characterized by the mentality of electronic technologyà spread of Computers and satellite television.

The 1990s  saw the development of technology and the diffusion of English.

This language has been intensified by the distribution of television programmes. English is symbol of globalisation because 750 million people  speaks it!!



Coetzee rewrites Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

The book  is a classical colonial text, based on adventure's theme.

The  main character of his novel is a woman, Susan Barton.

She is torn between 2 positions:

  1. Telling Friday's story because it is important to leave a testimonial of what happen
  2.  She feels unable to write about it.


Susan also knows that it is only Friday he who can tell the real story of his life. The real story is about a mutilate person.

It is important to remember that the figure of Friday is a symbological choice  of the author.+




Postmodernism developed in Europe after the 2nd War World. It comes after Modernism and at the same time it goes beyond it. It keeps Modernist cult for form that is attention to techniques but it includes also artistic expressions that were considered low or mass culture. As Modernism had done in its best results, it  also uses intertestuality , parody and pastiche. It mixes on blend style.

Postmodernism calls the concept of authority into question denying the existence of the definitive concept of reality.

It makes of the process of rewriting that is the more frequent feature in that it often uses traditional or classical text and presents then under a new prospective.

The idea is that what has been presented from a specific point of view is just one way to see reality and doesn't coincide with reality itself. An excellent example of Postmodern literature is Coetzee's Foe. Here the novelist goes back and keeps Defoe's storyline but at the same time restricts it to the space of the single chapter where the reader can understand beginning development and end in the space.

So the attention is not longer on what has been told but rather on how and from whose prospective it is being told.

That is why the real narrative interest is on the process of rewriting. Rewriting allows to see reality from an alternative prospective, new from the different classical time: if Robinson Crusoe celebrated the skills of a self made man who was able to reconstruct a perfect British society on an exotic island, Foe wants to give voice to the position of the marginalize: Susan Barton and Friday.

The result is unstable. Discontinuity underlines the inability of the novel to tell the truth as if the real objective of writing were to express the idea of narrator and the existence of the novel as a way to establish the multiprospective nature of reality. Just to provide some example the truth cannot be told: Susan is unable to write a novel that can tell about an adventure on the island. As a matter of fact she must look for the writer metaphorically  a Foe which recalls the surname of the 18th century novel pair excellence, the father of the novel but, unfortunately, he cannot neither tell reality or truth and this is what disturbs Susan who wants to leave a testimonial of the real life on the island. Therefore the intelligent reader can easy understand how Postmodernism focuses its narrative attention on subjectivity as Modernism had done. Personal perception takes the place of content as Modernism had done but there are also significant deviations like genre shift, the first person narrator has now became a woman who express a different teaching about reality.


Foe. The First Chapter


In Foe's novel the first chapter already contains the complete storyline differently from the classical novel of Defoe. This implies the storyline has been restricting and reduced to the very first chapter. This makes us understand that "Foe" does not limit its interests to telling the adventure of the shipwreck. It rather means to consider further aspects.

The first chapter keeps the first person narrator. What changes is only the gender of the first person narrator in comparison with "Robinson Crusoe", but the results are different from the reader because Susan Barton, being woman, expresses a different emotional level. She uses both the technique of showing and the technique of telling. Already in the first page Susan's language reminds poetical language.

The considerations drawn so far make it explicies that Coetzee adopts a Postmodernist style that is he embodies the classical version of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to make something different suitable to the time and space.

Characters are given by a different grade of importance. Friday acquires a central position just because it cannot speak; Susan is worried because she is not sure she will be able to tell a truth about the adventure.

"Foe" therefore expresses frequent doubts as for fiction been able to tell reality. The same character of Crusoe turns out very different from the one of Defoe's novel: he is not interested in leaving. The protagonist is looking for a novelist, a ghost novelist, symbolically a foe as the writer who, despite his efforts, is unable to return reality as it was lived by Susan.

The reader is not longer involved simply in storyline because most of the book speaks of something else: Susan efforts to create a communication with Friday, to integrate him in a new life and context and last but not least to try and understand for him what really happens.