Miguel Mota

Associate Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Station to station: Comtemporary British literature and urban apace after Thatcher (2013)

“Station to Station: Contemporary British Literature and Urban Space After Thatcher,” examines specific literary representations of public and private urban spaces in late 20th and early 21st-century Great Britain in the context of the shifting tensions that arose from the Thatcherite shift away from state-supported industry toward private ownership, from the welfare state to an American-style free market economy. This project examines literary representations of public and private urban spaces through the following research question: how did the textual mapping of geographical and cultural spaces under Margaret Thatcher uncover the transforming connections of specific British subjects to public/private urban space, national identity, and emergent forms of historical identities and citizenship? And how were the effects of such radical changes represented in post-Thatcher British literary texts that looked back to the British city under Thatcherism? Through an analysis of Thatcher’s progression towards policies of privatization and social reform, this dissertation addresses the Thatcherite “cityspace” (Soja) and what Stuart Hall calls the “deregulation of the city” (23) as these open my research to issues of spatially affected identities in literary representations of the British city at the turn of the century. My four case studies move from a broad discussion of the effects of the heritage industry on the city and the individual (Iain Sinclair’s Lights Out for the Territory [1997]); to the relationship between space, identity, and the rolling back of the welfare state as it plays out in the stigmatization and neglect of council estate housing (Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting [1993]); to representations of race and entrepreneurialism in the Thatcherite city (Monica Ali’s Brick Lane [2003]); and, finally, to representations of space, gay identities, and class during a period of institutionalized homophobia (Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty [2004]). The project takes as its aim the tracing of various tentacles of Thatcherism as they creep across the spaces of the British city in a way that draws attention to how the processes and flows of Thatcherite neoliberal policies circulate across the spaces of the city, forever altering the ways in which individuals move and form identities within those spaces.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Choose silence: how Thatcherism drove Scotland's underclass under-the-influence (2020)

The drug addicted characters in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting novels and Danny Boyle's film adaptations desperately seek to escape their Edinburgh environment through their use of heroin. Some may view their drug-taking as a display of inherent deviance or an attempt at self-destruction; instead, I view their consumption of opioids as a method for self-preservation in response to their societal alienation. In my thesis, I argue that this alienation stems from the predicaments plaguing Scotland’s population during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher’s administration prioritized the material desires of neoliberalism over the frequently suppressed principles of the welfare state. In this way, Thatcherism further oppressed Trainspotting’s underclass by pushing policies that often inspired adverse emotions in those who could not adapt, which I propose encouraged subsequent substance abuse as a method of self-preservation. Specifically, these policies contributed to deindustrialization, mass unemployment, uninhabitable housing conditions and an overall sense of deprivation and disenfranchisement among the Trainspotters. Largely devoid of the immediate option to improve their circumstances due to a lack of economic means and limitations related to their social statuses, the Trainspotters instead search for a superficial way out of these constricting circumstances. Already alienated from society, the characters in Welsh’s novels and Boyle’s films see in heroin an opportunity to reinforce their withdrawal as they live like ghosts in a state of ‘junkie limbo,’ a space that exists between full participation in Thatcherite society and total disengagement via death. Initially meant as a temporary anesthetic, opioids become a lifelong companion of the Trainspotters due to the painful nature of physical withdrawal and poor drug policies. Methadone, for instance, sustains the Trainspotters’ drug dependency while increasing the prevalence of an overdose, and continues to claim the lives of Scottish addicts left over from the ‘Trainspotting Generation.’ Utilizing the complete Trainspotting series as a key case study, with an added focus on the most recent text, Dead Men’s Trousers, and film, T2 Trainspotting, my thesis will contribute to the prior research done on the ‘Trainspotting Generation.’

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"[I]f it makes no sense then you understand it perfectly:" Exploring ideas of fundamental freedoms in the theatrical legacy of Sarah Kane (2013)

This Thesis uses Sarah Kane’s first and last plays, Blasted and 4.48 Psychosis, as case studies to show Kane’s development in appealing to contemporary history through performance, both as an act of warning against lethargy and as an opportunity to consider the extent to which issues can be represented as unmediated, outside of social structures, outside of the logic given by law or religion, and outside of the lobbying of various interest groups. Both plays are assessed not only as referencing their own period—Blasted as urgently calling attention to the globally long-ignored genocide in Bosnia, and 4.48 Psychosis as a critique of mental institutions in the context of the further formalization of human rights in the UK—but also as having a significant potential for future performances highly relevant in more current political and social contexts, such as, for example, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur (Sudan), only one of 17 United Nations peace operations on four continents, or the case of Tony Nicklinson and his fight to legally end his life. In her exploration of the relationships between oppressor and oppressed, Kane recreates in her theatrical form a similar relationship of abuse between stage and audience. By recreating a sense of community within the space of the theatre and reinforcing awareness of a shared responsibility, Kane enters the public arena of global politics and confronts her audience with the question: ‘Are you/will you remain only an audience member, or do you decide to act?’

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