ENGL 635 "London in Contemporary British Literature"

Fall 2008 ~ U, 7:05 p.m.

Schedule of Classes | Web Resources | Bulletin Board

Class Discussion Schedule | Continuities Schedule

Professor Westman
108B English/ Counseling Services; 532-2171
Office Hours: M, W 9:00-10:00 a.m. and by app't


Required Texts
Andrea Levy, Small Island (2003) (Picador)
Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners (1958) from The London Novels (Alison and Busby)
A.S. Byatt, Babel Tower (1996) (Vintage)
Caryl Churchill, Cloud 9 (1978) (TCG)
Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989) (Vintage)
Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000) (Knopf)
Monica Ali, Brick Lane (2003) (Scribner)
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2003) (Vintage)
J. K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999) (Scholastic)
Peter Ackroyd, London: A Biography (2000) (Anchor)
Streetwise London Map (2007)
Class Pack (available at A&S Copy Center in Eisenhower Hall)

Course Description
The city of London has been a center for art and commerce for centuries. It has also been a city of immigrants, especially with the arrival in 1948 of the Empire Windrush. Traveling from the far reaches of a fading Empire, this ship's passengers hoped for a better life in the mother country but arrived in a city whose doors were often closed to people of color, a city ravaged by the bombs of World War II. What kind of London emerged from the rubble of war? What kinds of lives did these new immigrants build? How did existing Londoners respond? What is the legacy of this immigration in contemporary British culture? During the next few months, we will explore answers to these questions as we study the culture of post-WWII Britain through its literature.

Course Objectives

Class Participation and Attendance: Class participation is, of course, required. Our class will be based on discussion, so class participation is not only expected but it also will count for 20% of your final grade. 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 absence; thereafter, further absences will jeopardize your final course grade. Excessive absences (three or more -- that is, nine classroom hours) 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 Electronic Message Board. I will expect at least one posting a week from each student to the Message Board; the guidelines and instructions for using the Message Board appear below.

Leading Class Discussion / "Continuities": As part of the class participation grade, students will complete two scheduled contributions.

Students will sign up in groups 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.

The first evening of class, students will draw a reading selection from Peter Ackroyd's London: A Biography; this reading selection should be incorporated into our discussions for the designated class period through two venues: an additional posting to the online bulletin board discussion and a brief (5 minute) contribution to discussion in class. For both contributions, you should reflect on connections between the historical and cultural information about London that Ackroyd provides and our assigned reading for that week.

Papers and Response Papers: All students will write one shorter paper (4-5 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 (8-10 pages in length), an abstract of that paper, and an essay review of four articles or a book-length study about one of our authors or about London. You will have a choice of two topics for Paper #1, and you will have a choice of text for Paper #2. Both 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, 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 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 indicated on the syllabus. 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 an issue or theme or question you feel to be significant. I recommend that you select a word, phrase, or short quotation from the reading to initiate your response. (See sample response distributed in class.) 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 Electronic Bulletin 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 increasingly digital age.

Electronic Message Board: To offer an additional venue for discussion, we'll start using an electronic bulletin board. Each student should post at least one a week to the bulletin 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 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. Though extra postings to the bulletin board will not automatically replace participation in our class discussions, regular 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.

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 exams or 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.

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 (Subject to change.)

Note: All assigned reading should be completed by the date listed.
[CP] = Class Pack. Continuities = Ackroyd's London: A Biography

London: An Introduction
August 28 McLeod, from Postcolonial London (1-9); Bennett, "Colonisation in Reverse" (1966); Soyinka, "Telephone Conversation" (1960) [readings distributed as xerox in class]

1948 and All That

September 4 Levy, Small Island (2003) (1-278)
Historical background: Morley and Robbins, "Chronology" (504-510); Phillips, from A New World Order (241-46, 264-282); Phillips and Phillips, from Windrush (26-103) [CP]
Response Paper #1 Due (2 pages) on Levy
Continuities: "Blitz," "Refashioning the City" (720-750)
11 • Levy, Small Island (281-438)
Selected reviews for Levy's Small Island [CP]
Leading Discussion: Levy, Small Island
Selvon, from Ways of Sunlight (1957) (125-138; 161-166; 175-188); McLeod, from Postcolonial London (1-40) [CP]
  18 MacInnes, Absolute Beginners (1958)
McLeod, from Postcolonial London (40-58); Phillips and Phillips, from Windrush (158-180) [CP]
Continuities: "London as Crowd" (383-402), "London's Radicals," "Violent London" (455-490)

History Repeating?: Rebellion, Isolation, Integration

25 Byatt, Babel Tower (1996) (3-369)
Response Paper #2 Due (2 pages) on Byatt
Continuities: "From Prehistory to 1066," "The Early Middle Ages" (5-64)
Continuities: "London Contrasts," "The Late Medieval City," "Onward and Upward," "Trading Streets and Trading Parishes," "A London Neighborhood" (65-134)
October 2 Byatt, Babel Tower (370-622)
Selected reviews for Byatt's Babel Tower; Alfer, "Realism and Its Discontents: The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life" (47-59) [CP]
Leading Discussion: Byatt, Babel Tower
Continuities: "Crime and Punishment" (237-295)
Continuities: "Voracious London" (297-382)
T 7 Paper #1 Due (4-5 pages) to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
9 Churchill, Cloud 9 (1978)
Selected reviews for Churchill's Cloud 9 [CP]
Continuities: "London as Theatre"(134-189)
  Su 12 Viewing of The Prisoner
  16 London on TV: The Prisoner, EastEnders, Little Britain
Critical reading on The Prisoner [CP]
23 Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989)
Selected reviews for Winterson's Sexing the Cherry; Winterson, from Art Objects (26-44); "Interview with Jeanette Winterson" (11-29); Wasserstrom, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been ... Postmodern?"; Hutcheon, from The Politics of Postmodernism (1-7, 47-54, 71-78) [CP]
Response Paper #3 Due (2 pages) on Winterson
Leading Discussion: Winterson, Sexing the Cherry
Continuities: "Pestilence and Flame," "After the Fire" (191-236), "Black Magic, White Magic" (491-507)
Continuities: "A Fever of Building," "London's Rivers," "Under the Ground" (510-560)

Escaping the Past, Imagining the Future

  30 Smith, White Teeth (2000) (1-256)
Continuities: "The Centre of Empire," "After the Great War" (685-720)
November 6 Smith, White Teeth (257-448)
Selected reviews for Smith's White Teeth; Head, "Zadie Smith's White Teeth: Multiculturalism for the Millennium" (106-119) [CP]
Response Paper #4 Due (2 pages) on Smith
Leading Discussion: Smith, White Teeth
F 7 Essay Review Due (4-5 pages) to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
13 No Class -- View Bend it Like Beckham and post message board response. Read ahead and work on plan/prospectus for Paper #2
M 17 Prospectus (1 p.) for Paper #2 due to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m.
  20 Ali, Brick Lane
Selected reviews for Ali's Brick Lane; Phillipson et. al., from Women in Transition (2003) (1-30); Kabeer, from The Power to Choose: Bangladeshi Women and Labour Market Decisions in London and Dhaka (2000) (193-229, 421-431) [CP]
Response Paper #5 Due (2 pages) on Ali
Leading Discussion: Ali, Brick Lane
Continuities: "Victorian Megalopolis" (561-585), "Continuities," "East and South" (647-684)
Continuities: "London's Outcasts," "Women and Children" (587-645)
27 No Class -- Thanksgiving Break
December 4 Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (2000)
Selected reviews for Haddon's The Curious Incident..., Haddon, "B is for Best Seller," and Donnelly, "Paperback Writer" [online]
Leading Discussion: Haddon, The Curious Incident...
• Selected poems: John Agard, "Windrush Welcome" (1998), "Uncle Mo Steps Out" (1998), "Remember the Ship" (1998); and Benjamin Zephaniah, "What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us" (1998); Childs, from The Twentieth Century in Poetry (180-204) [CP]
Continuities: "The Natural History of London," "Night and Day" (403-453), "Cockney Visionaries" (751-760)
M 8 Paper #2 (and abstract) Due to my mailbox in ECS 119 by 5 p.m. M.L.A. documentation format.
  11 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Recommended reading: Westman, "Spectres of Thatcherism: Contemporary British Culture in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series" (305-328) [CP]
• Selected poems: Fleur Adcock, "Immigrant" (1979) and "Instead of an Interview" (1979); Jackie Kay, "In My Country" (1993); Moniza Alvi, "Arrival 1946"(1993); Merle Collins, "Visiting Yorkshire -- Again" (1992) and "When Britain Had Its GREAT" (1992) [CP]
• Coda: McLeod, from Postcolonial London (189-194); Phillips, from A New World Order (303-309) [CP]
  18 Final Exam (IDs & essay): 7-8:50 p.m.


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Email: westmank@ksu.edu
Last updated 16 October 2008