Page tree

Get started by adding some pages to this space. Create page.

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Name: Chloe Ashbridge

PhD: English

Thesis Title: State of the Nation: The Literary North and the Politics of Devolution


Thesis Description:

The thesis offers the first dedicated examination of how contemporary Northern writers negotiate the politics of British multiculturalism and nationhood. My project pursues two interlinked research questions. First, how does fiction from Northern England and Scotland since the mid-1990s register multiculturalism as a state practice which prioritises metropolitan London, marginalising localities and cultural production elsewhere? Second, how do writers from the urban ‘North’ represent localised modes of experience that undermine the tenability of 'Britishness' in a period characterised by constitutional uncertainty, culminating in referendums on Scottish independence and membership of the European Union? My project considers these questions in the context of three overlapping socio-political frames: deindustrialisation, declining unitary national identity, and the disintegration of Empire.

Following a post-war culturalism based on bio-racism during the Powellite and Thatcher years, the 1990s saw 'multiculturalism' harnessed by New Labour towards of a practice of essentialising cultural, rather than biological, others, and more recently, de-industrialisation, unemployment and strain on the welfare state gave rise to right-wing anti-European rhetoric aiming to ‘take back control’ of the nation. As many social commentators have suggested, the effects of such socio-political upheaval have emphatically effected the post-industrial economy of the North, and we cannot ignore literary responses which engage and respond to these concerns. Tom Nairn, Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall for example argue that postwar unemployment, immigration and global recession marked a crisis in national identity as the British Empire broke apart, and the nation state entered a period of decline. While British fiction has, since the mid-1990s, been concerned with this cultural turn in state politics, literary criticism remains problematically centred on metropolitan London as a signifier of British multiculture.  As such, we cannot fully understand the causes or significance of these events without a critical examination of the Literary North, a body of work which has hitherto been overlooked. Ranging from Yorkshire (Jonathan Coe), Sheffield (Sunjeev Sahota), Manchester (Zahid Hussain), Glasgow (Leila Aboulela), and Aberdeen (Karen Campbell) to an ‘Iron Town’ (Anthony Cartwright), the thesis investigates how literary geographies marginalised within Britain critique multiculturalism as a state-supported practice and offer specifically localised, devolved engagements with these socio-political concepts.

Through a combined methodology of political theory and cultural geography, this project considers how literature articulates these tensions in the industrial North, examining aesthetics, form and the contribution of literary economy and discourse to broader cultural politics. In this way, the project’s devolutionary imperative addresses two aims: to disrupt the dominance of London as a privileged site within multicultural debates, and 'Britishness' as a unitary national identity, by working towards a devolved literary culture.  


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr Joe Jackson (UoN)

Professor Dominic Head (UoN)

Dr Corinne Fowler (UoL)


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


Conference Presentations:

  • Zadie Smith's Urbanisms of Injustice and Spatial Freedom in the Post-Crash Era. Fast Forward: Women's Writing in the Twenty-First Century. Postgraduate Contemporary Women's Writing Network. Sheffield Hallam University.

Professional Activities:

  • Panel Chair at the conference: Uplandish: New Perspectives on Northern England's Wild Places. York St John University.
  • Assistant Editor of Postgraduate Journal of Language, Text and Society. University of Nottingham.
  • Member of the British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies (BACLS)



Conference Presentations:

    • Negotiating the Socio-Spatial Dialectic: Becoming Anti-Subject in Colson Whitehead's Zone One. Making America Great Again: Negotiating the Borders and Boundaries of Americanism. British Association of American Studies. University of Leeds.

    • 'Life on the Dub Side': Temporary Zones of Autonomy in Jeff Noon's Vurt. Borders and Borderlands: Liminal Textualities in Contemporary Literature. York St John University.

    • Cartographies of Power and the Spatialization of Class in Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon. Cityscapes: Media Textualities. York St John University.

    • 'Write Yourself. Your Body Must be Heard': Reconfiguring the Narrative of Female Identity in Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior and Sandra Cisneros' Woman Hollering Creek. Reflections on the Contemporary. York St John University.


Professional Activities:

  • Conference Organiser of the postgraduate symposium: Borders and Borderlands: Liminal Textualities in Contemporary Literature. York St John University.

Other Research Interests:

  • Contemporary British Fiction (particularly post-2008).
  • Literature with a political focus.
  • The relationship between literary production, prize culture, and 'Britishness'.
  • The English Question and devolution.
  • Literary responses to Brexit and the Northern Powerhouse. 

Teaching Experience:

  • Teacher of Secondary English. Manor Church of England Academy (September 2016 - June 2017)
  • English Literature Examiner. AQA (June 2017 - August 2017)






University email address:

Twitter: @ChloeAshbridge





  • No labels