Opinions on Bryan Stanley Johnson have been largely controversial: On the one hand, he has been widely appreciated as one of the key figures of progressive literature of his time. On the other hand, he has been expansively ostracised in the literary world due to his rather confrontational style and the practical difficulties of publishing some of his texts. The question this study is asking is whether the marginalisation of his work to date is justified, or, in more positive terms: What is the value of his work for the advancement of literature?
The present study is the first of its kind taking into account the entirety of Bryan Stanley Johnson’s wide-ranging œuvre, including his novels, short-stories, poems, theatre plays and films. From a comparative point of view, it defines Johnson’s distinct poetics of rebellion against allegedly reactionary, British social and artistic conventions in the 1960s and 1970s. Not only does it present an in-depth analysis of Johnson’s work on a contents level; it furthermore explores the functionality of Johnson’s narratives from a narratological perspective, with a special focus on refuting or confirming accusations of Johnson’s text as being experimental for the sake of the experiment and, therefore, as being not functional as literary and artistic works.
As the analysis shows, Johnson’s poetics of rebellion can be considered as both tying in with a world-wide tendency towards redefining the arts in these decades, and as highly progressive in its anticipation of developments in hyperfiction in the 21st century.