THATCHER'S LEGACY? INDIVIDUALISM AND THE NEUROLOGICAL CONDITION IN IAN MCEWAN’S SATURDAY

Antony Mullen

Abstract


According to Susan Green (2010), Ian McEwan's 2005 novel Saturday represents a new kind of science fiction. It is, on the one hand, a reflection on the political undercurrents of Britain in the age of New Labour the War on Terror. On the other, it also represents McEwan's interest in neuroscience and an exploration of how degenerative mental conditions, such as dementia and Huntingdon's disease, impact upon memory and, consequently, a loss of identity.

This essay explores the interaction between the political and the neuroscientific in Saturday, viewing the relationship between the two through the prism of the concept of 'aspirational individualism'. In doing so, it argues that Saturday detects - at a time when the nature of 'New Labour' was up for debate - the continuity of a Thatcherite conceptualisation of the individual.

The novel, I suggest, offers a critique of this way of thinking about individualism by drawing attention to how dengenerative conditions, especially those which are inherited, undermine a person's liberty and their ability to forge their own identity. The deployment of neuroscience in the novel is, in that sense, used to engage with (and ultimately express criticism of) a Thatcherite notion of the free individual. 


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