On this edition of Parallax Views, Dulcie Everitt joins us to discuss her new book BrexLit: The Problem of Englishness in Pre- and Post-Brexit Referendum Literature (Zer0 Books; 2022). Dulcie’s book delves into the idea of the sub-nationalist English identity (as opposed to British identity; English identity would be different from Welsh, Scottish, or Irish identity) in literature before and after the Brexit referendum that saw the UK leave the EU. It is important to note in this regard that England had a greater “Leave” vote than either “Scotland” or “Ireland”, both of which voted “Remain”, on the referendum.
In this conversation we delve into the issue of what English identity is and how it is amorphous, slippery, or difficult to easily define. We delve into Englishness as an identity as it relates to both empire and post-Empire Britain. This, of course, brings us to the topic of Brexit, what it was, how it was spearheaded by figures like the Tory Party’s Boris Johnson and UKIP’s Nigel Farage, the formation of English nationalism as a retaliation to insurgent sub-nationalisms, the role of nostalgia in the Leave campaign and Boris Johnson’s famous “Take Back Control!” line, the history of Euroscepticism on both the Right and the Left, why a second referendum is unfeasible now, xenophobia and racism in relation to Brexit, Ian McEwan’s Kafka inspired take on Brexit in the form of the novel The Cockroach, as well as the more hope Autumn by Scottish author Ali Smith, Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters‘ Club and its Brexit-influenced sequel Middle England, the dystopian Perfidious Albion by Sam Byers, the question of cosmopolitanism, and much, much more!