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‘Hamlet’, the ‘Two Cultures’ and the Public Author

Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell’

Anne Enderwitz


Pages 441 - 456



The essay discusses Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell’ as a contemporary adaptation of ‘Hamlet’. It argues that the work performs a secular and natural-scientific reframing of ‘Hamlet’ as a key text of cultural reflection that has shaped ideas of the emergence of modern consciousness, as well as of remembrance, ethical responsibility and afterlife, and of what it means to be an intellectual. The essay explores ‘Nutshell’ ’s take on ‘Hamlet’ in the light of the ‘two-culture’ debate and its aftermath. It also addresses McEwan’s role as a public intellectual and discusses the unreliable narrator in ‘Nutshell’ as self-conscious response to the common practice of ‘reading for the author’ that attempts to track McEwan’s own voice and worldview in the fictional text.

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