Ms Nicola Field

Research project: ‘Everything Became Queer and Unsafe': Fiction, Life-Writing and Family in Britain, 1960-79

Abstract

My interdisciplinary, literary-critical and practice-based PhD research project focuses on the institution of the family and queer sexuality in Britain during the transformative cultural, social and political conditions of the 1960s and 70s.     This was a crucial period in the post-war era when the family was in continuous development and upheaval.  Social movements and liberation ideologies contributed to cultural and social resistance, experimentation,  conflict and crisis.  I will explore the dynamic representation of the family and its complex structural role in society through a Marxist, queer materialist critical focus on the fiction of Elizabeth Taylor and David Storey.  Simultaneously, I will develop experimental creative life-writing, including multimedia and visual art forms, attuning to debates about developmental trauma.   I aim to discover the social environment that shaped – and traumatised – my own life, and provoke a new lexicon in mental distress by including Marxist concepts of the family and alienation. 

Recently republished, Taylor, shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1971, is being rediscovered. Critics celebrate her middle-class domestic concerns, but recent feminist research points to political layers.  By contrast, Storey, the Booker Prize-winning author compared to Samuel Beckett, is being forgotten. Part of a Northern working-class generation that erupted onto the literary scene in the 1960s, his representations of class-torn gender crisis set him apart from his misogynist male contemporaries.

Representations of class and gendered textualities in Taylor and Storey have been recognised, but not their treatment of queer figures and social structures which shape family dynamics.  Terry Eagleton asserts: ‘often … what a narrative tells us is at odds with what it shows' . I will ask what these writers reveal about changes relating to the family, class and queer sexuality, bringing greater critical attention to literary representations of the family as the enduring means of social reproduction. 

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: ‘Everything Became Queer and Unsafe': Fiction, Life-Writing and Family in Britain, 1960-79
  • Research supervisor: Dr Martin Dines
  • Other research supervisor: Dr Meg Jensen

Biography

A socialist activist, I have been a regular reviewer for Socialist Review and have written on LGBTQ+ history, culture and politics for Critical and Radical Social Work, International Socialism and other publications including the LGBTQ+ press. My creative writing is published Ambit and Mechanics' Institute Review.

My book Over the Rainbow: Money, Class and Homophobia (Pluto, 1995) is a Marxist analysis of the material roots of LGBTQ+ oppression. Since republication in 2015, I have spoken at universities and non-academic settings on class struggle and LGBTQ+ liberation.  I contributed at ‘PRIDE and its Precursors: Political Mimesis, Nostalgic Dissidence and Popular Film', at Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image. 

I have shown art work at BFI Southbank and the V&A and was a member of the collective which created Framed Youth, winner of the 1983 BFI Grierson Award and now recognised as a pioneer of scratch video and LGBTQ+ cultural intervention.  

Areas of research interest

  • Representations of the family in literature and art
  • The structural social, economic and political function of the family in capitalist society
  • British history and society 1960-79
  • Marxist concepts of the family and alienation
  • Queer materialism
  • Developmental trauma
  • Visual text/art and film & video in forms of life-writing
  • Post-traumatic narratives
  • Decolonisation of English Literature

Qualifications

  • MA in Creative Writing, Birkbeck, University of London
  • MA in Modern Literature, Queen Mary, University of London
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Print Journalism, University of the Arts, London
  • BA (Hons) English, Royal Holloway, University of London

Funding or awards received

  • KSA Studentship