ENGL 730: Contemporary British Literature

Fall, 2009; MWF 10:30 a.m. - 11:20 a.m.

Schedule of Classes | Web Resources | Message Board

Leading Discussion Schedule

Professor Karin Westman
108B English/Counseling Services
Office: 532-2171; Office Hours: M, W 9-10 a.m. and by app't.
Email: westmank@ksu.edu

Required Texts
Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day(1988)
Osborne, Look Back in Anger (1956)
Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning(1958; UK Edition)
Lodge, Changing Places (1975)
Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary (1997)
Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) (Norton Critical Edition)
Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969)
Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989)
Churchill, Cloud 9 (1978)
Smith, White Teeth (2000)
Rosoff, How I Live Now (2004)
Stoppard, Arcadia (1993)
Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1980)
Selected poetry, fiction, and critical readings [CP]
Selected films, t.v. shows, and music
Class Pack [available as of 8/19/09 at A&S Copy Center in Eisenhower Hall]

Course Description

This course will be an introductory, but intensive, survey of representative contemporary British writers from about 1950 to the present. We will focus on writers' responses to earlier traditions of realism and modernism, exploring the techniques of narrative fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry offered by their work; we will also trace the themes that these authors raise as they both respond and contribute to the increasingly postmodern and postcolonial experience of British culture. Cultural, historical, and theoretical context will be integrated into discussion by means of lecture and secondary readings and resources, allowing us to situate our close readings of the texts within the historical moment of their production and reception.

Course Objectives


Class Participation and Attendance: Class participation is, of course, required. To participate, you must complete the reading assigned for each class session, think carefully about what you have read, and come to class ready to share your ideas. Your attendance is therefore important. You will not be penalized for your first three absences; thereafter, your final course grade will drop one grade (i.e., B+ to B) for each day missed. Excessive absences (six or more) may result in failure of the course. While I appreciate your offering explanations for absences, the only way to excuse an absence is to provide me with an official letter from your dean or an official notice of illness from the Health Center or your doctor.

Your participation grade includes your contributions to our discussions in class (in large and small groups) and to our discussions on the online message board. I will expect at least one posting a week from each student to the online message board; the guidelines and instructions for using the message board appear below.

Leading Class Discussion: Depending on the number enrolled, students will sign up in groups of two or three to initiate discussion for one of our class sessions. Questions for class discussion (4-5 in number) should highlight issues or themes or queries you think we should address in our class discussion of the reading assigned for that day. After conferring about and drafting the questions, groups leading discussion should email me their questions by 7 p.m. the night before; I will confirm receipt and offer any suggestions for the order or focus of the questions.

Papers and Response Papers: All students will write one shorter paper (5 pages in length); undergraduates will also write a longer paper (7-8 pages in length), while graduate students will also write a longer paper with secondary sources (10 pages in length), an essay review of four articles or a book-length study about one of our authors, and a one-page abstract for the longer paper. All papers will be on topics of your choosing in connection with our assigned readings. Papers should follow the general rules of composition and be typed or word-processed with standard double-spacing, 1-inch margins, and either 11- or 12-point typeface. Title pages and cover sheets are unnecessary. Pages should be numbered, stapled together, proof-read, and spell-checked. Papers are due by the date and time on the syllabus; late papers will be penalized one grade (i.e.: A to B) for each day late. (Note: The University’s Honor Code obliges you to cite the source of any idea that is not your own. Otherwise, you have plagiarized. If you do plagiarize, you will fail this course.)

You will also write five weekly response papers (2 pp in length) in response to our readings. Response papers are designed to ready you for class discussion and to explore ideas you could develop further in your longer papers. They are due the day we discuss the material. In your response paper, you should not repeat previous class discussions or provide a mere summary of the reading. Instead, your response should begin to analyze the reading assigned for that class session, selecting a issue or theme or question you feel to be significant. (Please refer to the sample response paper distributed the first day of class.) You can choose when to complete your five responses, with the following guidelines in mind: 1) you can only write a response for a day when we have reading due, 2) one (and only one) response must be for a critical essay or critical reading, 3) two responses must respond to novels, and 4) three responses should be completed before October 16th, with the first being due for everyone on Friday, August 28th. Responses will be graded on a 1-5 scale: 5=A, 4=B, 3=C, 2=D, 1=F. I do not accept late response papers.

Examination: You will have a cumulative final exam.
Computing: Technology increasingly plays an important role in our academic and professional careers. Consequently, you will be asked to use some different kinds of technology, including an online message board discussion and electronic resources. Our work with technology is designed not only as another forum for exploring our reading, but also as a way for you to sharpen your communication skills, media skills, and web skills for our digital age.

Online Message Board: To offer an additional venue for discussion, we'll start using an online message board. Each student should post at least one a week to the message board, responding to an existing thread of the conversation or initiating another; weekly postings will count for 10% of your class participation grade. The weekly bulletin board will run from Friday to Thursday, to encourage you to post right after as well as right before our weekly class discussions.

I'll monitor these conversations, and may also participate, but I see the message board primarily as a way for you to raise issues we haven't addressed -- or addressed fully or to your satisfaction -- during our regular class meetings. Though extra postings to the message board will not automatically replace participation in our class discussions, successful contributions above and beyond your weekly posting can certainly improve your class participation grade.

An average posting should run about one or two paragraphs in length. In other words, your postings do not need to be long; however, they need to be substantive: they must be long enough to convey clearly the problem you are taking up and your point of view, connecting your comment to others' comments whenever possible. I will offer models of successful comments early in the semester.

To post to the bulletin board, follow these directions:
  1. Go to my homepage at http://www.ksu.edu/english/westmank/ and click on our course (ENGL 635), and then “Message Board” to login to K-State Online and go directly to the “Message Board.” (You may also login to the K-State Online course page for ENGL 635, click on “Collaboration” and then select “Message Board.”)
  2. You should see all the messages posted to date and the newest threads ones first.
  3. To post, choose to “reply,” so you can engage directly in the conversation and your message can “thread” beneath the one you’re responding to. I also encourage you to change the subject line so it reflects the content of your message.
Email: I highly recommend email as a way of touching base with me about your work for the class -- a kind of virtual office hours. You can send me queries about reading or writing assignments, your thesis statement for an essay, or anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I check my email throughout the day, but please remember that I am not perpetually online.

Online, Video, and Audio Resources: Along with some required viewing (two episodes of the t.v. show "The Prisoner," Jordan's The Crying Game), I will refer you to resources available online or on video to complement our readings and discussions. A "Web Resources" link from our course homepage will take you to a page of links devoted to contemporary British culture and literature. From there, you can, for instance, peruse current and back issues of the Guardian's Book pages (an excellent way to keep up with the most recent literary news), learn about postcolonial literature or the partition of India, or find biographies and web resources on our authors. I will add and update these resources as the semester progresses; if you locate a site or page which you find valuable, please let me know, and I'll consider adding it to the existing resource links. On television, the daily broadcast of the "BBC World News" (M-Sat, 10p.m.) on PBS, and "Prime Minister's Questions" (Sun, 8 p.m. & 11p.m.) on C-SPAN can provide some further insight into contemporary British culture.

Conferences: I want you to succeed in this course, and I am happy to meet with you about your work and your progress. I encourage you to see me before papers are due, or if you have questions about material we discuss in class. Please feel free to stop by during office hours (M, W 9:00-10:00 a.m.), or contact me by phone or email to arrange a more convenient time to meet.

Note: If you have any condition such as a physical or learning disability that will make it difficult for you to carry out the work as I have outlined it or which will require academic accommodations, please notify me in the first two days of the course.

Grading: Undergraduate Students: The two papers will count for 40% of your final grade (15% and 25% respectively); the response papers will count for 20% of your final grade. Class participation (20%) and a final exam (20%) complete the requirements.

Graduate Students: The shorter paper will count for 10%, the essay review will count for 10%, and the longer paper and its abstract will count for 25% of your final grade. The response papers will count for 20% of your final grade. Class participation (20%) and a final exam (15%) complete the requirements.

Schedule of Classes

[CP] = Class Pack; [X]=items distributed as xeroxes

August M 24 Introduction: England, c. 1950

"I know this is paradise" - Larkin, "High Windows" (1967)

W 26 Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (1988) (1-141); Background reading: Davies, "From Imperial to Post-Imperial Britain" (1-8) and Morley and Robins, "Chronology" (504-10) [CP]
F 28 The Remains of the Day (143-245); Connor, from "Outside In," The English Novel In History, 1950-1990 (83-89, 104-112), Shafer, "Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day" (1157-174) [CP]; Response Paper #1 due (2 pp.)
M 30 Osborne, Look Back in Anger (1956) (1-96)
September W 2 Look Back in Anger; critical readings on Osborne [CP]; Leading Discussion #1
W 4 Selected poems: Larkin [CP]
  M 7 No Class -- Labour Day
W 9 Selected poems: Larkin [CP]
F 11 Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) (5-176)
M 14 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (177-219)
W 16 Selected Poems: Raine; Harrison; Hughes [CP]
F 18 Selected poems: Hughes [CP]

Outside, Looking In: Nation, Rebellion, Obsession

Su 20 Evening viewing of "The Prisoner"
M 21 Two episodes of "The Prisoner"(1967-68); critical readings on The Prisoner [CP]
T 22 Paper #1 due (5 pp.) to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
W 23 Selected poems: Adcock and Cope [CP]
F 25 Phillips, from A New World Order (2001); Selected poems: Soyinka, Walcott, Agard, Zephaniah, Kay, Alvi, Collins; Childs, "Anti- and Post-Colonial Writing" [CP]
M 28 Lodge, Changing Places (1975) (7-151)
W 30 Changing Places (153-251); Connor, from "Conditions of England" (44-50, 69-74); Davies, "Britain, Europe, and Americanisation" (103-109) [CP]; Leading Discussion #2
October F 2 A Riot of One's Own: Punk and Protest, with guest speakers Phil Nel and Tim Dayton; Marcus, "Anarchy in U.K." (1980) [CP]; selected lyrics [X]

M 5 No Class -- Fall Break
W 7 Hornby, from Fever Pitch [CP]; Phillips, from A New World Order [CP]
  F 9 Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary (1997) (1-153); Connor, from "The Novel in Contemporary History" (13-27) [CP]

M 12 Bridget Jones's Diary (157-271); readers' comments at Amazon.com; interview with Fielding; critical commentaries [CP]; Leading Discussion #3

(Re)Writing the Past . . .

W 14 Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) (9-64)
F 16 Wide Sargasso Sea (64-112)

M 19 Wide Sargasso Sea; excerpts from Bronte's Jane Eyre (119-132 ); excerpts from Rhys' letters & facsimile of mss. (135-147); and Rody, "Burning Down the House..." (217-225); Leading Discussion #4
W 21 Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969) (1-103/Chps1-16)
F 23 The French Lieutenant's Woman (104-195/Chps17-30)

M 26 The French Lieutenant's Woman (196-279/Chps 31-47)
W 28 The French Lieutenant's Woman (280-366/Chps 48-end); Michael, "'Who is Sarah?': A Critique of The French Lieutenant's Woman's Feminism" [CP]
R 29 Essay Review due (3-4 pages) to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
F 30 Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989) (1-77)
November M 2 Sexing the Cherry (78-167);Winterson, from Art Objects; interview, reviews of Sexing the Cherry [CP]
W 4 Sexing the Cherry; Winterson, from "Reader, Writer, Words" from Art Objects [X]; Wasserstrom, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been ... Postmodern?"; Hutcheon, The Politics of Postmodernism (1-7, 47-54, 71-78); Doan, "Sexing the Postmodern" [CP]
F 6 No class -- work on prospectus for Paper #2 / view The Crying Game

  M 9 Churchill, Cloud 9 (1978) (1-92); critical reviews of Churchill [CP]
W 11 Cloud 9; Jordan, The Crying Game (1992)
R 12 Prospectus/Abstract for Paper #2 due (1 page) to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
F 13 Jordan, The Crying Game; Jordan, "Introduction to The Crying Game"; Giles, from The Crying Game; Chumo, "The Crying Game, Hitchcockian Romance, and the Quest for Identity"; Daly, "Post-Colonial Carnival (?): Neil Jordan's The Crying Game" [CP for ENGL 801 / xerox]; Leading Discussion #5

M 16 Selected poems: Heaney [CP]; Childs, from The Twentieth-Century in Poetry (182-189) [CP]
W 18 Selected poems: Heaney [CP]
F 20 Smith, White Teeth (4-152)

M 23 White Teeth (153-339)
W 25 No Class --
F 27 Thanksgiving Break
M 30 Smith (343-448); reader comments and critical reviews/reading(s) on Smith [CP]; Leading Discussion #6


. . . and Imagining the Future

December W 2 Rosoff, How I Live Now (2004); reviews of Rosoff [X]
R 3 Paper #2 (and abstract) due to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m. (graded paper returned by Friday, Dec 11)
F 4

Stoppard, Arcadia (1993) (1-97); Paper #2 (and abstract) due to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m. (graded paper returned by Monday, Dec 14)

M 6 Arcadia
W 8 Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1980); Leading Discussion #7
F 10 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Review for Final Exam

M 14 Final Exam, 11:50 a.m. - 1:40 p.m.