The Novels of Nicola Barker

A Symposium at Manchester Metropolitan University, in partnership with the International Anthony Burgess Foundation


5th September 2018
Engine House, 3 Cambridge Street, Manchester, M1 5BY

Nicola Barker is the author of 12 novels and two collections of short stories. She has won the Impac Award for Wide Open (1998), and Darkmans (2007) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her latest novel is H(a)ppy (2017). Reviewers for the Guardian, the London Review of Books and the New York Times have described her alternatively as an ‘unshuttupable’ ‘cult writer’, whose esoteric interests range from golf to Indian mysticism, and an ‘unclassifiable genius’ whose influence is beginning to shift the direction of narrative fiction in English. Fellow author Ali Smith has hailed Barker as ‘an energiser for the more moribund forms of Englishness and English fiction’ and ‘an extraordinary writer; we’re lucky to be alive at the same time as her’. In spite of such accolades, her work – populating a selection of wondrous places like Luton, Ashford, the islands of Sheppey and Canvey, as well as Burley/Yorkshire and Toot Rock/East Sussex – has so far attracted only a diminutive volume of literary criticism.

This symposium, which will be attended by the author herself, intends to explore the ‘Barkeresque’ mode, which assimilates influences from Dickens, Wodehouse, Kafka and Beckett all rolled into one. Topics for exploration encompass Englishness and place; community and utopia; the Gothic and the sacred; comedy and trauma; and experimental narration, including the exhaustion and exuberant revival of the novel genre.

The symposium will lead to the publication of a volume in Gylphi Contemporary Writers: Critical Essays series. The titles in this series are devoted to contemporary writers whose work is popularly and critically valued, but on whom a significant body of academic criticism has yet to be established. Each of the titles in the series develops out of the best contributions to an international conference; represents the most intelligent and provocative material in current thinking about the writer’s work; and suggests future avenues of thought, comparison and analysis. So far six books have been published in the series (on David Mitchell, Maggie Gee, China Miéville, Adam Roberts, Tom McCarthy and Rupert Thomson), with another two (on M. John Harrison and Michel Faber) in preparation.

View the symposium abstracts: Abstracts

View the symposium speakers: Speakers

View the symposium's programme: Programme

For further details on the symposium, please contact Professor Berthold Schoene

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