London's Burning: Structuralist Readings of the Urban Inferno in the 1950's British Literature of Multi-culturalism




Windrush generation, post-colonial literature, Sam Selvon, Ian MacInnes, Jean Rhys, Structuralism, Black history, gender, multi-culturalism, British Literature, Dante, capitalism, Caribbean literature, cultural studies, Stuart Hall


This article examines a literary triangle treating a modern re-imagining of the Dantean Inferno in Caribbean migrant experience. Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners advanced a stylistic and intellectual revolution in post-World War II British literature, inspiring Colin MacInnes' Absolute Beginners in the founding literary texts of contemporary British multi-cultural society. It followed the template of Jean Rhys Voyage in the Dark. We must read these complex texts to understand the conflicted multi-cultural society that Britain has become today: they deal with identity and solidarity, atomisation and commodification, Empire and capitalism, while throwing light on the most recent advances in historical and theoretical scholarship by pioneers such as Olivette Otele and Reni Eddo-Lodge. Moreover, these texts throw new light on unanswered Structuralist and Post-Structuralist debates from Emile Durkheim to Martin Heidegger. This article examines the intersectionality of class, gender and race within both the national British framework of post-war capitalism and the wider colonial heritage of slavery and forced labour, highlighting voices who articulated an ideal of multi-cultural humanism that remains crucial today.

Author Biography

Tad Graham Fernée, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria

Tadd Graham Fernée is part of the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures of New Bulgarian University. He is a researcher for New York University, and the author of The Enlightenment and Violence: Modernity and Nation-Making (2014).


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How to Cite

Fernée, T. G. (2020). London’s Burning: Structuralist Readings of the Urban Inferno in the 1950’s British Literature of Multi-culturalism. English Studies at NBU, 6(2), 265–294.