L346 9054 HALLORAN
Twentieth-Century British Fiction

12:20p-1:10p MWF (30) 3 cr.


In December 1999 in London, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, presided over an enormous millennium celebration to mark the end of the twentieth century and usher in a new era of renewed English optimism. The celebration itself was a mixed success and the topic of debate within England and around the world. As with all arbitrary and artificial time markers, the end of the century brought with it a spate of self-reflection and projects dedicated to summing up and analyzing the development and evolution of the British nation in the last 100 years.

Trying to summarize the historical and cultural significance of an era that saw two world wars, the apogee and dissolution of the British empire, universal suffrage, women's lib and the sexual revolution, not to mention the vicissitudes of economic boom and bust and the social dislocations of the 60s and 70s, becomes something of a fool's errand. Zadie Smith's enormously successful novel of 2000, White Teeth, takes this historicizing impulse as one of its main themes, revisiting many of the decisive historical moments of the twentieth century through oral history and personal recollections of her contemporary British characters. With a multicultural cast drawn from Jamaica, Bengal, the east and west ends of London and other regions of the former British Empire, White Teeth illustrates just how dynamic and complicated the last hundred years has been for British culture in general and the nature of English literature in particular. To highlight the changing expectations and assumptions of writers at pivotal moments in the last 100 years, we will begin our course with the snapshot of contemporary Britain that Smith presents. Then we will turn back to a chronological survey of British literature in the twentieth century. Among the texts we will read are: Katherine Mansfield's At a German Pension, D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, E. M. Forster's A Passage to India, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Evelyn Waugh's, Brideshead Revisited, A. S. Byatt's Possession and Julian Barnes' A History of the World in 10 2 Chapters.

Students will be required to write two papers and take two exams.