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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    Shelagh Delaney: The Start of the Possible

    Jeanette Winterson describes how Shelagh Delaney's imagination, humour and self-belief helped her to make a place for herself in the male-dominated world of 1950s and 1960s British theatre and become the country's first working-class female playwright.

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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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    ‘Your Godot was our Godot’: Beckett’s global journeys

    Waiting for Godot has been performed in many languages and in many contexts: in prisons, in apartheid South Africa, in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and during the Siege of Sarajevo. Andrew Dickson examines the ways in which Samuel Beckett's play has resonated in different communities and political climates.

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    Oh What a Lovely War: an interview with Murray Melvin

    Oh What a Lovely War changed the landscape of British theatre and had a major impact on perceptions of the First World War. Here actor Murray Melvin discusses his memories of performing in the original Theatre Workshop production and describes Joan Littlewood’s radically experimental working methods.

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    An introduction to The Homecoming

    Michael Billington considers The Homecoming in the context of Harold Pinter's life and work, and explores how attitudes towards the play's portrayal of gender relations have changed.

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    An introduction to Look Back in Anger

    Dan Rebellato explains how John Osborne's Look Back in Anger changed the course of British theatre.

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    An introduction to A Taste of Honey

    Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey when she was only 19. Selina Todd explains how it came to be performed by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, and what was so original about its portrayal of a working-class mother and daughter.

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    An introduction to My Beautiful Laundrette

    An introduction to My Beautiful Laundrette

    Hanif Kureishi's 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette portrays a young British Asian man who runs a laundrette with his white schoolfriend, and the romantic relationship between the two. Sukhdev Sandhu explains how the film marked a radical departure from previous representations of British Asians in mainstream culture.

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Themes

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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People

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 ...