Contemporary British Literary Culture, Higher Education, and the Diversity Scandal

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Coleman, John




Sociologists have demonstrated that neoliberal British education policies reproduce cultural and racial homogeneity in creative industries workforces. These policies have made fine art and design programs key pathways to work in the creative economy. Yet escalating tuition and the reliance on unpaid internships to gain course credit have meant that students are increasingly drawn from the more affluent socio-economic communities - often predominantly white. The impact on contemporary British literature, particularly writing by minoritized authors, has been remarkable. Despite efforts to increase diversity in the literary book trades, the vast majority of publishing professionals are white, independently wealthy graduates of elite universities. Scholars have said little about how the literary field responds to, manifests, and perpetuates this escalating - and racialized - inequality, whose ramifications are evident in everything from Brexit to the emboldening of the anti-immigrant alt-right movement. My research takes up this task. I discuss how neoliberal education policy has privileged a relatively homogenous creative class, whose hegemony resonates across literary production and literature itself. I analyze responses to this class' control over the literary sphere in chapters studying the reading charity BookTrust, the decibel program's prizing of Hari Kunzru's 2005 novel Transmission, and Spread the Word's Complete Works Scheme for poets of colour.


English literature -- Minority authors
Neoliberalism -- Great Britain
Education, higher -- Great Britain




Carleton University

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