The Thatcher Factor: The 1980s in Literature

Module code: EN3144

Module co-ordinator: Dr Emma Parker

This module examines literary representations of the 1980s, a decade defined by Thatcherism. We will explore how writers have responded to the cultural changes that occurred during this period and their assessments of the impact and legacy of Thatcher's policies. The texts we will study portray major events and features of the period (consumerism, private enterprise, the Falklands War, the Miners' Strike, Section 28, the AIDS crisis) and raise important questions related to gender, class, race, sexuality, and national identity. We will consider competing views of the decade. Was Margaret Thatcher the Iron Lady who made Britain great again or the woman who eroded the welfare state ('Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher')? Was she a pseudo-man or the original representative of Girl Power? Did the Tory Party save or destroy Britain?

Texts are likely to include:

  • Caryl Churchill's Top Girls (1982)
  • Martin Amis's Money (1984)
  • Hanif Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
  • Rose Tremain's Restoration (1989)
  • Jonathan Coe's What a Carve Up! (1994)
  • Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty (2004)


This module is taught in weekly seminars. By discussing and debating the ideas presented in the set texts, you will develop your analytical and evaluative skills. Questions that will help guide your reading will be distributed before each seminar and additional resources will be made available on Blackboard. Productions of plays and films will be screened outside of seminars.

By the end of the module, you will have acquired...

  • A familiarity with major texts, figures, and events of the period
  • A knowledge of key debates about the 1980s
  • The ability to identify central themes in the literature of the period
  • A critical appreciation of the relationship between theme and form
  • An awareness of the relationship between text and context


  • One 5,000-word essay