ENGL 635 "London in Contemporary British Literature"

Spring 2021 ~ T, 7:05 p.m.

Schedule of Classes | Web Resources | Online Discussion

Class Discussion Schedule | Continuities Schedule

Professor Karin 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)
Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere (1996) (William Morrow)
Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine (1978) (TCG)
Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989) (Vintage)
Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000) (Knopf)
Monica Ali, Brick Lane (2003) (Scribner)
Alex Wheatle, Crongton Knights (2017) (Atom)
Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography (2000) (Anchor)
Film/online: Bend It Like Beckham (2002); The Prisoner (ITV, 1967-8); Sherlock (2010); Paddington (2015); Small Axe (2020)
Class Pack for ENGL 635 (Available online via Canvas K-State Online)
Additional critical readings, videos (Available online)

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? How has Brexit changed London life? 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

Course Modality: We will meet 100% online. On Tuesdays, we will meet synchronously from 7:05-8:45pm via Zoom. By each Friday, you will complete an asynchronous activity (shared on Wednesday, due by 11:59pm on Friday) which will represent the balance of your weekly time in class.

Readings and Class Participation: Given the course objectives stated above, this class will foreground discussion. Class participation is therefore expected and will count for 20% of your final grade. This portion of your grade includes your contributions to our discussions in class (in large and small groups) and to our discussions on the online message board (further information below). Your goal is to be an active presence in the class: you should complete the reading assigned for each class session, think carefully about what you have read, and be ready to share your ideas -- in class and online, synchronously and asynchronously.

Attendance: The University requires that students attend all classes in which they are enrolled, and so your attendance is required. Further, your attendance is important to the success of our discussions. However, I recognize that the unexpected will happen, especially during this pandemic year. If you miss more than one weekly class session, or several portions of weekly class sessions, please contact me, so we can discuss your progress and identify the best path forward..

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

Students will sign up 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. Critical commentaries or historical context assigned for that class session can be included, too, to help us explore the primary reading. After drafting the questions, students leading discussion should email me their questions by 6 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: The Biography; this reading selection should be incorporated into our discussions for the designated class period through a brief (5 minute) presentation highlighting 3-4 key observations from that slice of London’s life by way of 3-4 images on a single powerpoint slide. In selecting the key observations and images, you should reflect on connections between the historical and cultural information about London that Ackroyd provides and our assigned reading for that week.

Online Message Board: As part of your class participation and to practice informal analytical writing, each week, each student is required to post at least one paragraph-length comment (200-300 words) about the materials we’re reading and discussing in class. These posts are intended to help you do the following:
  • Prepare for or develop topics and ideas discussed in class
  • Prepare to engage in the public humanities by communicating your ideas and responding to those of your peers in a non-scholarly format

I will read these discussions and assess a grade (at the end of the semester) based on the thoughtfulness of your comments, their ability to foster discussion among your classmates, their responsiveness to our readings, and their ability to "translate" scholarly discussions for a general audience. I'll provide weekly question prompts as I follow these conversations, and I may also participate, but I see the online discussion 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. The work contributed to the message board can become source material for more formal writing assignments.

The weekly message board will run from Saturday to Friday, to encourage you to post right after as well as before our weekly class discussions, but I encourage you to contribute your ideas throughout the week and to check the board for others' postings. Postings will count for half (10%) of your class participation grade (20%). If you would like to know your message board grade to date at any point in the semester, please ask. I will offer models of successful comments early in the semester.

Papers and Response Papers: During the semester, you will be doing different kinds of critical writing: not only informal postings to the message board, but also more formal papers. All students will write one shorter paper (4 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 about one of our authors on the syllabus. 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 11- 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 four 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 a longer paper. 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 primary and secondary 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.

Multi-Media Project: You will choose one of four possible multi-media projects to complete during the semester. Your multi-media project can be submitted on any class day but must be turned in no later than Tuesday April 27. Each project should demonstrate insight and understanding of the text with which it connects, should be thoughtfully constructed, and should be presented professionally with attention to detail.  Refer to the grading rubrics (posted in Canvas as of January 29) for detailed grading criteria. The assignment will be distributed the second week of class, but here are brief descriptions:

Professional Development: During the semester, you will complete three tasks (e.g., participate in a career development workshop/activity, conduct an information interview, and complete a task selected in consultation with me) to help you translate your work in English to professional contexts and explore professional options.

Final Examination/Assessment: We will not have a final examination. However, I will ask to you complete a short assignment that asks you to reflect on your success in the course.

Online and video resources: Along with some required viewing (see the films/TV listed under "Required Texts") and required online reading, I will refer you to resources available online or on video to complement our readings and discussions. Links within the online "Schedule of Classes" will take you to related online resources, and a "Web Resources" link from our course homepage will take you to a page of links devoted to our selected authors, their work, and the city of London. 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 links.

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 set up an appointment 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.


Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities who need classroom accommodations, access to technology, or information about emergency building/campus evacuation processes should contact the Student Access Center and/or their instructor.  Services are available to students with a wide range of disabilities including, but not limited to, physical disabilities, medical conditions, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, depression, and anxiety. If you are a student enrolled in campus/online courses through the Manhattan or Olathe campuses, contact the Student Access Center at accesscenter@k-state.edu, 785-532-6441; for K-State Polytechnic campus, contact Academic and Student Services at polytechnicadvising@ksu.edu or call 785-826-2974. 

Academic Honesty: Kansas State University has an Honor System based on personal integrity, which is presumed to be sufficient assurance that, in academic matters, one’s work is performed honestly and without unauthorized assistance. Undergraduate and graduate students, by registration, acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Honor System. The policies and procedures of the Honor System apply to all full and part-time students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate courses on-campus, off-campus, and via distance learning. The honor system website can be reached <http://www.k-state.edu/honor/>. A component vital to the Honor System is the inclusion of the Honor Pledge which applies to all assignments, examinations, or other course work undertaken by students. The Honor Pledge is implied, whether or not it is stated: "On my honor, as a student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work." If you have any questions about your work in relation to the Honor System, please ask.

Expectations for Student Conduct: All student activities in the University, including this course, are governed by the Student Judicial Conduct Code as outlined in the Student Governing Association By Laws, Article VI, Section 3, number 2. Students who engage in behavior that disrupts the learning environment may be asked to leave the class.

Conceal Carry Statement: In this class, students will be asked on a regular basis to participate in activities (i.e., engaging in group work) that may require students to either be separated from their bags or be prepared to keep their bags with them at all times during such activities. Students are encouraged to take the online weapons policy education module <http://www.k-state.edu/police/weapons/index.html> to ensure they understand the requirements related to concealed carry.

Wearing of Face Coverings: To protect the health and safety of the K-State community, students, faculty, staff and visitors must wear face coverings over their mouths and noses while on K-State campuses in all hallways, public spaces, classrooms and other common areas of campus buildings, and when in offices or other work spaces or outdoor settings when 6-feet social distancing cannot be maintained. In addition, all students, faculty, and staff are required to take the COVID-19 and Face Mask Safety training. For more information, visit <https://www.k-state.edu/provost/resources/teaching/course.html>.

Statement of Copyright: Copyright 2021 as to this syllabus and all course materials and lectures. During this course students are prohibited from selling notes to or being paid for taking notes by any person or commercial firm without the express written permission of the professor teaching this course. In addition, students in this class are not authorized to provide class notes or other class-related materials to any other person or entity, other than sharing them directly with another student taking the class for purposes of studying, without prior written permission from the professor teaching this course.

Undergraduate Students: The two papers will count for 30% of your final grade (10% and 20% respectively); the response papers will count for 15% of your final grade; the multi-media project will count for 10% of your final grade. Class participation (20%), professional development (15%), and a final reflection (10%) 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 20% of your final grade. The response papers will count for 15% of your final grade, and the multi-media project will count for 10% of your final grade. Class participation (20%), professional development (10%), and a final reflection (5%) complete the requirements.

Schedule of Classes (Subject to change.)

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

London: An Introduction
January 26 McLeod, from Postcolonial London (1-9); Bennett, "Colonisation in Reverse" (1966); Soyinka, "Telephone Conversation" (1960) [readings distributed as xerox in class]

Inside/Outside: 1948 and All That

February 2 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)
  9 • 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); Ball, “Immigration and Postwar London Literature” (222-40); McLeod, from Postcolonial London (1-40) [CP]
  16 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

23 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)
March 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
Mangrove (2020), from the Small Axe film series
Continuities: "Crime and Punishment" (237-295)
Continuities: "Voracious London" (297-382)

  F 5 Paper #1 due (4 pages) by 11:59 p.m. M.L.A. documentation format.

London on TV: The Prisoner; critical reading on The Prisoner [CP]
Gaiman, Neverwhere (1996)


Churchill, Cloud 9 (1978)
Selected reviews for Churchill's Cloud 9 [CP]
Continuities: "London as Theatre"(134-189)

  F 19 No additional Friday activity -- well-being day
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
Class Discussion Questions: 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)
April 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
Class Discussion Questions: Smith, White Teeth
F 9 Essay Review due (4-5 pages) by 11:59 p.m. M.L.A. documentation format.
M 12 Prospectus (1 p.) for Paper #2 due by 11:59 p.m.
13 Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
  F 16 No additional Friday activity -- well-being day.

Ali, Brick Lane (2003)
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]
Class Discussion Questions: Ali, Brick Lane
• O'Hagan, selections ("The Fire," "The Facts") from "The Tower" [W]

Sherlock (2010)
• Draft thesis claim for Paper #2
Continuities: "Victorian Megalopolis" (561-585), "Continuities," "East and South" (647-684)
Continuities: "London's Outcasts," "Women and Children" (587-645)

  27 Wheatle, Crongton Knights (2017); optional: Alex Wheatle (2020), from the Small Axe film series
Selected interviews with Wheatle by Claire Armitstead (17 Nov 2016) and with Homa Khaleeli (18 Nov 2016); Wheatle on Tolkien's influence (15 March 2016) and creating the world of Crongton (25 Oct 2016) [W]
Class Discussion Questions: Wheatle, Crongton Knights.
• 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 3 Paper #2 (and abstract) due by 11:59 p.m. M.L.A. documentation format.
  7 Paddington (2015)
Selected reviews and critical readings [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]
  14 Final Reflection and professional development tasks due by 9:00 p.m.


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Last updated 16 March 2021