Explore the ways in which key 20th-century authors experimented with new forms and themes to capture the fast-changing world around them.

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    An introduction to An Inspector Calls

    Chris Power introduces An Inspector Calls as a morality play that denounces the hypocrisy and callousness of capitalism and argues that a just society can only be achieved if all individuals feel a sense of social responsibility.

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    An introduction to The Bell Jar

    Sarah Churchwell examines how The Bell Jar critiques the expectations and limitations placed on young women in the 1950s – and how these expectations and limitations have shaped the novel’s reception.

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    Exploring consciousness and the modern: an introduction to Mrs Dalloway

    Mrs Dalloway: exploring consciousness and the modern world

    Elaine Showalter describes how, in Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf uses stream of consciousness to enter the minds of her characters and portray cultural and individual change in the period following the First World War.

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    Crop of book cover from Andrea Levy's novel Small Island, a black woman and a white woman outside photoshopped St Paul's Cathedral

    An introduction to Andrea Levy's Small Island

    Andrea Levy's Small Island is a story of post-war Caribbean migration, narrated from four different perspectives. Hannah Lowe explores how the novel is intrinsically linked with Levy's own Caribbean ancestry, as well as how it has become more widely associated with the Windrush experience.

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  • Bloody Chamber

    Angela Carter, Gothic literature and The Bloody Chamber

    The Bloody Chamber is a collection of modern fairy tales, many of which incorporate elements of Gothic literature. Greg Buzwell traces the Gothic influence on Carter's stories, from the Marquis de Sade to Edgar Allan Poe.

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    An introduction to Animal Farm

    George Orwell’s Animal Farm combines animal fable with political satire targeting Stalinist Russia. John Sutherland describes the novel’s genesis, its struggle to find a publisher, and its eventual success.

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    Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith on The Buddha of Suburbia

    When Zadie Smith encountered The Buddha of Suburbia as a teenager, she found in its description of multiracial South London suburbs an image of her own experience. Here she remembers her first reading of the novel and describes how, on rereading it as an adult, she continues to appreciate Hanif Kureishi's sense of mischief and his depictions of race and class.

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    Simon Armitage article

    'The man from over the top of the hill': Simon Armitage on Ted Hughes

    Ted Hughes believed that poetry had the power to heal and transform, to change perceptions and to alter states. Like many of us, Simon Armitage first encountered Hughes’s poetry at school and was captivated by his ability to distill the complexity of human experience. Here he explores some of Hughes’s themes and interests and the impact he had on his own life and work.

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Explore key themes in 20th-century literature

Art, music and popular culture

From riots at the ballet to punk rock fanzines, discover the music, art and popular culture that shook the world in the 20th century.

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Creating the modern

Capturing and creating the modern

Modernist writers broke new ground by experimenting with new forms and themes. From everyday life, perception and time to the kaleidoscopic and fractured nature of modern life, discover the ways in which these writers created and captured the modern.

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Gender and sexuality

Gender and sexuality

From Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, E M Forster’s Maurice and Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey to Sylvia Plath’s journals and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, discover how literature explored, questioned and exploded traditional ideas of gender roles and sexuality.

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fantasy and fairy tale

Fantasy and fairy tale

From subversive fairy tales to gothic nightmares, explore how 20th-century writers used fantasy to analyse and question the real world around them.

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Explore iconic authors of the 20th century

Explore key 20th century literary works

Explore key 20th century literary works

Birthday Letters

Created by: Ted Hughes

Birthday Letters, a collection of 88 poems by the British poet Ted Hughes, was published to public and critical ...

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

Created by: Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is a 1979 collection of short fiction by the British writer Angela Carter. Each ...

The Buddha of Suburbia

Created by: Hanif Kureishi

The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) is a bestselling novel by the British writer Hanif Kureishi. Its main protagonist is a ...