English | British Literature Since 1900
L649 | 26018 | Samantrai

L649 26018  SAMANTRAI (#5)
British Literature Since 1900

7:15p 8:30p TR


The second half of the twentieth century has been a tumultuous
period for England, both materially and symbolically. The era began
with the nation emerging from war at once victorious and devastated,
and still ruling an enormous but obviously fragile empire. Then
followed an ambitious experiment with socialism, the development and
eventual fragmentation of the welfare state, decolonization,
increased migration, and attendant seismic changes in the class
structure, gender relations, and racial affiliations of the

The form of the literary survey will allow us to address the
historical shifts, philosophical questions and aesthetic movements
that characterize this period. Moving chronologically, we will work
our way from the new realism of the immediate post-war era to the
postmodernist experimentation associated with the new social
movements, from the Black Arts Movement to the arrival of the
postcolonial British novel, and finally to the resurgence of realist
conventions and the icon of the nation in the now ubiquitous genre
of historical metafiction. The period survey will allow us to raise
certain methodological and theoretical questions, including those
concerning the proper context of the literary text and the status of
literature relative to other kinds of texts. By the end of the
semester students will be familiar with the broad contours and key
debates of the period, and should also be able to articulate their
basic theoretical positions as readers and teachers of literature.

Readings likely will include novels and plays by Sam Selvon, J.B.
Priestly, John Osborne, Graham Green, Doris Lessing, Tom Stoppard,
Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, Pat
Barker, Michael Ondaatje, Timothy Mo, Zadie Smith, Julian Barnes,
and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Students may expect to read secondary
historical and critical material to supplement the primary texts. We
will screen films that range from the Ealing Comedies, to the
documentaries of the Sankofa Collective, to the anti-Thatcherite
retrospectives popular in recent years.

Students may expect to prepare two essays of literary analysis and a
substantial research presentation. We will read at least two long
novels: Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook and Salman Rushdie's
Satanic Verses. Although we will use plays and films to offset the
burden of these reading assignments, students are strongly
encouraged to read both novels over the summer. Both will be
assigned at difficult moments of the semester: the Lessing very
early, when there is little time to read ahead, and the Rushdie
quite late, when students are likely to be juggling the writing
demands of multiple courses.