English | Twentieth-Century British Fiction
L346 | 25929 | Ed Comentale

Twentieth-Century British Fiction

9:30a-10:45a TR (30 students) 3 CR. - Satisfies A&H Distribution

TOPIC:  “Style and Subculture”

Oscar Wilde once wrote that "In matters of grave importance, style,
not sincerity, is the vital thing." While we could easily dismiss
this statement as just another one of the dandy's quips, it is not
hard to see, particularly in the case of Wilde's downfall, how style
has become a grave political matter. In fact, outcasts and
dissidents throughout the past century have turned to "style" not as
a frivolous pastime, but as a way to negotiate their inferior social
status, as an urgent mode of resistance and revolt. This class will
explore twentieth-century British novels in terms of their own
deviant styles and their attention to cultural stylization. We will
consider novels that create or depict stylized subcultures and
examine their efforts to speak for alternative subjects and
communities. We will encounter groups such as Uranians, Vorticists,
Punks, and Ravers, and we will consider the ways in which they have
negotiated the norms of class, race, and sexuality. We will also
address the following: the shift from modernist to postmodernist
definitions of style; the differences between upper and lower class
group formations; the ways in which certain technologies (radio,
television, internet) affect cultural identity; the social geography
of urban spaces; the commodification of style and the politics of
cultural consumption; slang as it rejects and reflects dominant
discourses; the emergence of British Cultural Studies and other
academic efforts to theorize popular culture.

Discussions and papers will likely focus on Oscar Wilde, The Picture
of Dorian Gray; Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway; Evelyn Waugh,
Brideshead Revisited; George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying;
Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia; Kate Atkinson, Behind the
Scenes at the Museum; Zadie Smith, White Teeth. Critical writings
will include selections from Dick Hebdige, Subcultures: The Meaning
of Style; Paul Gilroy, There Ain't no Black in the Union Jack; Greil
Marcus, Lipstick Traces; essays by Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall,
Sarah Thornton, Pierre Bourdieu, and Fredric Jameson. We might also
watch a few films (A Clockwork Orange; Trainspotting; Naked) and
listen to a couple of rock operas (The Who's Quadrophenia; The
Kinks' Arthur).

This is a discussion-based course, so both attendance and
participation are mandatory. Students will be assigned response
papers, three exams, and two formal papers.