E304 2084 WELLS
Literatures in English 1900-Present

11:15a-12:30p TR (30) 3 cr.

The twentieth century began with Great Britain fighting to maintain its extensive colonial dominions and with the United States having just recently joined the overseas imperial contest. It ended with the British Empire having largely imploded and with the U.S. celebrating its status as lone world superpower. The torch of empire had been passed; so, too, in some ways, had the mantle of “Englishness.” The growth of the internet, the international impact of Hollywood, Wall Street’s dominance over global capital markets, even the 1996 debates in this country about “English-only” schooling and government operations--these things show that, even though the sun does now set on the British Empire, “English” remains powerful language as well as an important cultural marker .

We will read a variety of texts in this course that address, in one way or another, what has happened to Englishness since the end of the nineteenth century. We will pay particular attention to how the breakup of the British Empire and the consolidation of the American one have inspired literary response throughout the world. We will also explore such concepts as modernism, postmodernism, postcoloniality, and transnationalism and how they help us to understand literature from this period.

Our readings are likely to include eight or nine of the following: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, Mark Twain’s King Leopold’s Soliloquy, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat, Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, Joan Didion’s Salvador, Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia, and Alex Garland’s The Beach. We may supplement these with an occasional film (Apocalypse Now and Raiders of the Lost Ark are strong possibilities) as well poetry, short stories, and essays. Required work will likely include two papers (5-7 pages each), weekly reading responses/quizzes, and active participation in class discussion.