Transgressive Fiction

My second book, Necropolis, is a humorous work of dark fiction about a psychopath, who works for the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council.  Necropolis could be described as Transgressive fiction, and it is for this reason that I am dedicating two blog posts to the subject.

Transgressive literature is a genre that focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual and/or illicit ways.

Protagonists in Transgressive literature are in one form or other rebelling against society.  Due to this they may appear to be anti-social, nihilistic or even sociopathic.  Transgressive literature deals with potentially controversial subjects such as sex, drugs, crime, violence and paraphilia.

Though fiction of this kind has only relatively recently been labelled as Transgressive, its origins lie in the literature of the past.  The writing of the Marquis de Sade, Émile Zola and even Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s seminal work, Crime and Punishment, have been described as Transgressive, due to what at the time was perceived as their controversial subject matter.

The following 20th Century authors all wrote books that could be labelled as Transgressive.  They are presented in chronological order:

James Joyce

James Joyce February 2nd 1882 – January 13th 1941

 Notable Transgressive Work: Ulysses

James Joyce was a central figure in the modernist avant-garde.  His seminal work, Ulysses, embraced a revolutionary stream of consciousness style that influenced many later writers.  At the time of its publication, the masturbation scene in the book’s Nausicäa episode was viewed as so scandalous that it was the subject of an obscenity trial in the United States.  Ulysses came out victorious and the case is today remembered as a landmark in literary free speech.

Click here to read my blog post about James Joyce

D.H. Lawrence

D.H.Lawrence September 11th 1885 – March 2nd 1930

Notable Transgressive Works: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Rainbow

D.H. Lawrence’s novel The Rainbow faced an obscenity trial and was banned, all copies being seized and burnt by the authorities.  Perhaps his most famous novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, though published was heavily censored, due to what was regarded at the time as its pornographic content.  Thirty years after Lawrence’s death in 1960 Penguin attempted to publish the original version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but were forced to go to trial because of the ‘Obscene Publications Act’ of the previous year.

Click here to read my blog post about D.H. Lawrence

Vladimir Nabokov

NabokovApril 22nd 1899 – July 2nd 1977

Notable Transgressive Work: Lolita

Lolita, Nabokov’s most famous work, is widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century.  The book is also amongst the most controversial books of all time due to its sensitive subject matter.  To this day Lolita continues to court controversy.  In 2013 the producer of a long-running one-man show in Saint Petersburg, in which Leonid Mozgovoy reads out passages from Lolita on-stage, was assaulted after being accused of being a paedophile.

Click here to read my review of Lolita

William S. Burroughs

WilliamBurroughsFebruary 5th 1914 – August 2nd 1997

 Notable Transgressive Works: Junkie, Queer, The Soft Machine, Naked Lunch

The writers of The Beat Generation wrote about disillusionment and rebellion.  One of its most famous exponents, William S. Burroughs, was a controversial character with a penchant for rent boys and heroin, who rebelled against the social norms of his era by writing about disillusionment, drugs and homosexuality.  Arguably his most famous book, the non-linear Naked Lunch was viewed as so scandalous at the time of its publication that it underwent a court case under U.S. obscenity laws.  In 2012 a Turkish publisher faced obscenity charges after releasing a Turkish translation of The Soft Machine.

Click here to read my review of Queer

Click here to read Transgressive Fiction Part 2


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