ENGL 730: Contemporary British Literature

Fall, 2004; MWF 11:30 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.

Schedule of Classes | Web Resources | Bulletin Board

Professor Karin Westman
106 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)
Stoppard, Arcadia (1993)
Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1980)
Selected poetry of Larkin, Hughes, Raine, Harrison, Walcott, Adcock, Cope, Heaney [CP]
Selected fiction and critical readings [CP]; selected films, t.v. shows, and music
Class Pack [available as of 8/11/04 at A&S Copy Center in Eisenhower Hall]

Course Description and Objectives:

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.

Requirements and General Expectations:

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.

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. Discussion leaders will encourage us to explore the connections between the secondary readings and the novel. In some cases discussion topics are provided below; if not, the discussion leaders will select the focus. The group or student leading discussion should contact me at least one day in advance to confirm the focus of their discussion questions and should email me the planned questions by 8 p.m. the night before.

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 10- 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.

You will also write six 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 six 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 by Oct. 11th. 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.

Electronic Bulletin Board: To offer another venue for discussion, we'll start using an electronic bulletin board at the end of the week. Each student should post at least once a week to the bulletin board, responding to an existing thread of the conversation or initiating another. I'll provide some question prompts as I follow these conversations, and I may also participate, but I see the bulletin 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. Posting to the bulletin board will count towards half of your class participation grade; participation in class will count for the remaining half. (Technical details about posting will follow shortly.)

Online, Video, and Audio Resources: Along with some required viewing (two episodes of the t.v. show "The Prisoner," Jordan's The Crying Game, and a Merchant-Ivory film of your choice), I will refer you to resources available online or on video or CD 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. and 6 p.m. on Sun) 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.

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 W 18 Introduction: England, c. 1950

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

F 20 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]

M 23 The Remains of the Day (143-245); Connor, from "Outside In," The English Novel In History, 1950-1990 (83-89, 104-112) [CP]
W 25 Osborne, Look Back in Anger (1956) (1-96)
F 27 Look Back in Anger; critical readings on Osborne [CP]; Discussion #1: [Open Topic]

M 30 Selected poems: Larkin [CP]
September W 1 Selected poems: Larkin [CP]
F 3 Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) (5-176)

M 6 No Class -- Labour Day
W 8 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (177-219)
F 10 Selected Poems: Raine; Harrison; Hughes [CP]

M 13 Selected poems: Hughes [CP]

Outside, Looking In: Nation, Rebellion, Obsession

W 15 Phillips, from A New World Order (2001); Mirza, from Black British Feminism (1997); Selected poems: Soyinka and Walcott [CP]
R 16 Paper #1 due (5 pp.) to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
F 17 Selected poems: Adcock and Cope [CP]

Su 19 Evening viewing of "The Prisoner"
M 20 Two episodes of "The Prisoner"(1967-68); critical readings on The Prisoner [CP II -- forthcoming]
W 22 Lodge, Changing Places (1975) (7-151)
F 24 Changing Places (153-251); Connor, from "Conditions of England" (44-50, 69-74); Davies, "Britain, Europe, and Americanisation" (103-109) [CP]; Discussion #2: Condition of England, Condition of the Novel

M 27 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]
W 29 Hornby, from Fever Pitch [CP]; Phillips, from A New World Order [CP]
October F 1 Fielding, Bridget Jones's Diary (1997) (1-153); Connor, from "The Novel in Contemporary History" (13-27) [CP]

M 4 Bridget Jones's Diary (157-271); readers' comments at Amazon.com; interview with Fielding; critical commentaries [CP]; Discussion #3: Hate It or Love It?: Reader Response to BJD

(Re)Writing the Past . . .

W 6 Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) (9-64)
F 8 Wide Sargasso Sea (64-112)

M 11 No Class -- Fall Break
W 13 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); Discussion #4: Wide Sargasso Sea as Rhys' Jane Eyre?
F 15 Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969) (1-103/Chps1-16)

M 18 The French Lieutenant's Woman (104-195/Chps17-30)
W 20 The French Lieutenant's Woman (196-279/Chps 31-47)
F 22 No class -- Read ahead and work on Essay Review.

M 25 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]
W 27 Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989) (1-77)
R 28 Essay Review due (3-4 pages) to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
F 29 Sexing the Cherry (78-167); reviews of Sexing the Cherry; Winterson, "A Work of My Own" from Art Objects [X]

November M 1 Sexing the Cherry; Winterson, from "Reader, Writer, Words" from Art Objects; Wasserstrom, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been ... Postmodern?"; Hutcheon, The Politics of Postmodernism (1-7, 47-54, 71-78) [CP]; Doan, "Sexing the Postmodern" [X]
W 3 Churchill, Cloud 9 (1978) (1-92); critical reviews of Churchill [CP]
F 5 Cloud 9; Jordan, The Crying Game (1992); Jordan, "Introduction to The Crying Game" [CP]

M 8 Jordan, The Crying Game; critical reading(s) on The Crying Game[CP]; Discussion #5: A Radical Political Statement or an Old-Fashioned Love Story?
W 10 Selected poems: Heaney [CP]; Childs, from The Twentieth-Century in Poetry (182-189) [CP]
F 12 No Class -- Read ahead and work on Prospectus/Abstract for Paper #2

M 15 Selected poems: Heaney [CP]
T 16 Prospectus/Abstract for Paper #2 due (1 page) to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
W 17 Smith, White Teeth
F 19 White Teeth

M 22 Reader comments and critical reviews/reading(s) on Smith [CP]; Discussion #6: [Open Topic]
W 24 No Class --
F 26 Thanksgiving Break

M 29 Higson, "Heritage Cinema and Television" (249-60) [CP]; the "Heritage"/Merchant-Ivory film or t.v. series of your choice.

. . . and Imagining the Future

December W 1 Simpson, from Hey Yeah Right Get a Life (2001) (20-58, 138-159); critical reviews of Simpson and "chick lit" publishing world [CP]
R 2 Paper #2 (and abstract) due to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
F 3 Stoppard, Arcadia (1993) (1-97)

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

F 17 Final Exam, 11:50 a.m. - 1:40 p.m.