What Dr Katy Did Next

WOMEN in comedy, the 1980s miners’ strike, crime fiction and Fifty Shades of Grey have all been explored by Dr Katy Shaw, who leads research into 21st Century writings at Leeds Beckett University.

Her latest publication, out tomorrow, is a monograph called ‘Crunch Lit’ which examines cultural representations of the 2007-8 financial crisis across literature, stage and screen.

Your interests include contemporary literature, especially working class literature, cultural representations of post-industrial regeneration and the languages of comedy. Which authors do you examine most and why?
I don’t tend to write lot and lots about one author, I am more interested in genres, themes and issue-based broader trends, developments and responses in contemporary writing.

I suppose the author I have written about most often to date is Leeds crime novelist David Peace – I published the first academic study of his canon in 2010, then an edited collection in 2011, and this year I have written a few chapters for other people’s new collections on his later work. His writing is so varied and crosses such contentious recent-subjects that it doesn’t seem to dry up as a source of interest for me.

You are touring the country at the moment with ‘Crunch Lit’ – what is it about?
The financial crisis of 2008 quickly gave rise to a growing body of fiction: “crunch lit”. Populated by a host of unsympathetic characters and centred around banking institutions, these ‘recession writings’ take the financial crisis as their central narrative concern to produce a new wave of literary and popular writings that satirise the origins and effects of modern life, consumer culture and the credit boom.

Examining a range of texts from such writers as John Lanchester, Jonathan Franzen, Don DeLillo, Sebastian Faulks and Bret Easton Ellis, this book offers the first wide-ranging guide to this new genre.

Exploring the key themes of the genre and its antecedents in fictional representations of finance by the likes of Dickens, Conrad, Zola and Trollope, Crunch Lit also includes a timeline of key historical events, guides to further and online resources and biographies of key authors.

Supported by online resources, the book is an essential read for students of 21st Century literature and culture.

Crunch Lit Cover

MONOGRAPH: ‘Crunch Lit’ by Dr Katy Shaw is published on October 22 by Bloomsbury Academic

 

Has it altered your attitude to spending and saving?
I thought I had a pretty good grasp of economics before I started researching this book. Turns out – I didn’t! From the bizarre acrobyms used in the financial world (do you know your CDO from your SIV?) to the complicated theories of lending and saving, and technological developments in contemporary global banking, it was a shocking and vast education for me.

I note in the acknowledgements for the book that after years of boring my friends and family to death with horror stories of credit and debt gone bad, neither I nor anyone I know would probably go anywhere near a store card ever again!

How did you become a ‘Doctor’

My doctorate is in English Literature – it followed a BA, MA and PGCE – its the recognised pathway into academia in the UK. Eight years of study.

What do you miss about your home city of Newcastle?
I miss EVERYTHING about Newcastle. Prior to coming to Leeds to take up this role in February 2015, I spent ten years living and working in London then Brighton, so Leeds feels close but still not close enough!

I miss sight of the Tyne, I miss hearing the accent, I miss the culture and the arts and the general can-do attitude to life. Newcastle has a spirit which was tapped into by the Newcastle Gateshead capital of culture bid but actually has much more to offer.

It’s the best night out in the country, has some of the best art and drama, the best stand up comedy, restaurants, heritage and landscape. But don’t tell anyone, or they’ll all want to live there. It’s our secret.

ACADEMIC: Dr Katy Shaw is originally from Newcastle.

ACADEMIC: Dr Katy Shaw is originally from Newcastle.

What are your three ‘must-do’ things when you return home?
Quayside circuit of culture – just so relaxing coming home with a trip to The Stand, best new venue in the city for years. If it’s Christmas…which it nearly is, visit Fenwicks window, because its a Geordie pilgrimage.

In 2012 you wrote “Funny women: gender and comedy in the twenty-first century” – why is there a perception that female comedians aren’t as funny as their male counterparts and what did you conclude?
The perception lies in historical framing of gender roles and expectations. This has been perpetuated by a media keen to populate tv panel shows with men to foreground the combative and competitive nature of those productions.

I concluded that this age-old claim is obviously subjective, and is subject to change as more women populate the stand up circuit, panel shows, arena tours and films. Our own Geordie lass Sarah Millican is a case in point.

It’s not about whether it’s a man or a woman making you laugh, it’s just about the skill to generate a laugh in the first place.

 

You’ve also written about ‘Mining the Meaning: Cultural Representations of the 1984-5 UK Miners’ Strike’ – what do you think the cultural representations will be following the closure of the SSI steel plant in Redcar with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs?
I hope there will be some – because its all too easy to quickly pull down the landmarks of that industry and effectively erase the past.

The struggle to protect the industry that’s been going on for decades now has already appears in some films, fiction and television representations, but hopefully the writers of today will be looking to Redcar and the lessons it can tell us about the reality of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and the continually abusive relationship between the North and Westminster in the Twenty-First Century.

There is a beauty to industrial sites, a pride and a landmark sense of place. But there is also an energy to a place and its people in a post-industrial period.

Writers and creatives as well as the people themselves have an important role in documenting these times and their challenges so future generations can receive multiple representations of these important events. They should not simple stand in history through the records of Government and the media.

Who are your favourite ‘holiday’ authors?
Holiday means a lot of non-fiction for me – so biographies, autobiographies, poetry and, increasingly, friends’ books, which is always an awkward one, but so far so good…no awkward silences yet!

CONTACT:

Crunch Lit by Dr Katy Shaw is available at http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/crunch-lit-9781472506306/#sthash.TUo62h4F.dpuf​

She can be found Tweeting at @DrKatyShaw

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