When politicians write novels

Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796)

Before Christmas, Dr Aidan Byrne gave a guest session and master class for our level 4 module Fundamentals: Myth and Drama on re-writing ancient and national myth (read about it here). His forthcoming book, co-authored with Nicola Allen, investigates another set of folk practices: the cultural phenomenon of the politician-novelist. What attracts politicians to prose fiction, pulp fiction in particular? Do the demands of Commons debates and the campaign trail mean that MPs have no time for poetry?  Not quite, according to the two authors, who argue that ‘there is a reciprocal relationship between the cheap thriller and the neoliberal political imagination. Politicians’ novels are the secret fantasies of a class that despises the democratic process for blunting the will to power’. I’m assuming that only members of the House of Lords have the time and inclination to write poetry (Byron springs to mind).

Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel (1979) 

Aidan and Nicola’s recent essay in the Times Higher Education Supplement speculates on the phenomenon, from Matthew ‘Monk’ Lewis’s schlocky Gothic novel The Monk (1796) to Jeffrey Archer’s thrillers and, no doubt, works by Ann Widdecombe and Nadine Dorries. We look forward to reading the book, which promises to be an excellent contribution to literary and cultural studies. Click here to read the article.

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