ENGL 635 "Contemporary British Literature"

Spring 2023 ~ T, 7:05 p.m.

Schedule of Classes | Web Resources | Online Discussion

Discussion Questions 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)
Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) (Vintage)
Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine (1978) (TCG)
Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry (1989) (Vintage)
Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000) (Knopf)
Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now (2004) (Penguin/Random House)
Mark Bartlett, King Charles III (2014)(TCG)
Tom Stoppard, Arcadia (1993) (Faber)
Alex Wheatle, Crongton Knights (2017) (Atom)
Film/TV/streaming: The Prisoner (ITV, 1967-8); Bend It Like Beckham (2002); Sherlock (2010); Paddington (2015); Heartstopper (2022)
Class Pack for ENGL 635 (Available online via Canvas K-State Online)
Additional critical readings, videos (Available online)

Course Description

England, as the seat of power for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has been a center for art and commerce for centuries. It has also been a country 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 nation whose doors were often closed to people of color, its cities and countryside ravaged by the bombs and rationing of World War II. What kind of England emerged from the rubble of war? 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 literature and culture of post-WWII Britain through 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, drama, poetry, and film/television offered by their work. We will also trace the themes that these authors raise as they both respond and contribute to the post-WWII, post-Windrush, and post-Brexit experience of British culture. Cultural, historical, and theoretical context will be integrated into discussion through 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

Course Modality: We will meet in a HyFlex modality, with some enrolled in person and some enrolled online --  pending the need to go fully online for COVID or weather. (See Canvas for Zoom link.) On selected weeks (noted below on the schedule of classes with [A]), we will meet for a portion of our scheduled time, and 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 (10%, in large and small groups) and to our discussions on the online message board (10%, further information below). Your goal is to be an active presence in the class: you should complete the reading or viewing assigned for each class session, think carefully about that material, 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: As part of the class participation grade, students will sign up to develop discussion questions 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 should email me their questions by 6:00 p.m. CT the night before; I will confirm receipt and offer any suggestions for the order or focus of the questions.

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) and an abstract of that paper. You will have a choice of two topics for Paper #1, and you will have open choice between our assigned texts 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 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. If you have extenuating circumstances which will prevent you from meeting these deadlines, please let me know, so we can discuss an alternative due date. (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 summary of the reading. Instead, your response should begin to analyze the primary reading or viewing 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 25. 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 27) for detailed grading criteria. The assignment will be distributed the second week of class, but here are brief descriptions:
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/streaming video 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 British culture. 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 assignments 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: At K-State it is important that every student has access to course content and the means to demonstrate course mastery. Students with disabilities may benefit from services including accommodations provided by the Student Access Center. Disabilities can include physical, learning, executive functions, and mental health. You may register at the Student Access Center (k-state.edu/accesscenter) or to learn more contact. If you are a student enrolled in campus/online courses through the Manhattan, Olathe, or Global 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. Students already registered with the Student Access Center: please request your Letters of Accommodation early in the semester to provide adequate time to arrange your approved academic accommodations. Once SAC approves your Letter of Accommodation it will be e-mailed to you,  and your instructor(s) for this course.  Please follow up with your instructor to discuss how best to implement the approved accommodations. 

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.

Mutual Respect and Inclusion in K-State Teaching and Learning Spaces: At K-State, faculty and staff are committed to creating and maintaining an inclusive and supportive learning environment for students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. K-State courses, labs, and other virtual and physical learning spaces promote equitable opportunity to learn, participate, contribute, and succeed, regardless of age, race, color, ethnicity, nationality, genetic information, ancestry, disability, socioeconomic status, military or veteran status, immigration status, Indigenous identity, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, religion, culture, as well as other social identities.

Faculty and staff are committed to promoting equity and believe the success of an inclusive learning environment relies on the participation, support, and understanding of all students. Students are encouraged to share their views and lived experiences as they relate to the course or their course experience, while recognizing they are doing so in a learning environment in which all are expected to engage with respect to honor the rights, safety, and dignity of others in keeping with the K-State Principles of Community at https://www.k-state.edu/about/values/community/.

If you feel uncomfortable because of comments or behavior encountered in this class, you may bring it to the attention of your instructor, advisors, and/or mentors. If you have questions about how to proceed with a confidential process to resolve concerns, please contact the Student Ombudsperson Office. Violations of the student code of conduct can be reported here https://www.k-state.edu/sga/judicial/student-code-of-conduct.html. If you experience bias or discrimination, it can be reported here https://www.k-state.edu/report/discrimination/.

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: Kansas State University strongly encourages, but does not require, that everyone wear masks while indoors on university property, including while attending in-person classes. For additional information and the latest on K-State’s face covering policy, see https://www.k-state.edu/covid-19/guidance/health/face-covering.html.

Statement of Copyright: Copyright 2023 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: Undergraduate Students: The two papers will count for 30% of your final grade (10% and 20% respectively); the response papers will count for 20% of your final grade; the multi-media project will count for 15% of your final grade.  Class participation (20%) and a final reflection (15%) complete the requirements.

Graduate Students: The shorter paper will count for 10% and the longer paper (20%) and its abstract (5%) will count for 25% of your final grade.  The response papers will count for 20% of your final grade, and the multi-media project will count for 15% of your final grade.  Class participation (20%) and a final reflection (10%) complete the requirements.

Schedule of Classes (Subject to change.)

Note: All assigned reading/viewing should be completed by the date listed.
[CP] = Online Class Pack. [W] = Web.

January 17 McLeod, from Postcolonial London (1-9); Bennett, "Colonisation in Reverse" (1966); Soyinka, "Telephone Conversation" (1960); Larkin, "Church Going" (1955); Adcock, "Instead of an Interview" (1979) [readings distributed by email in advance of class]

“How come England did not know me?”: Isolation, Rebellion, Integration

  26 Levy, Small Island (2003) (1-278)
Historical background: 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 due to Canvas by start of class
  31 • Levy, Small Island (281-438)
Selected reviews for Levy's Small Island [CP]; "Recording Andrea Levy for Authors’ Lives" [W]
Discussion Questions: 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); Phillips and Phillips, from Windrush (158-180) [CP]
February 7 [A] Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958)
• Selected poems: Larkin, Harrison [CP]
14 Selected poems: Raine, Heaney, Hughes, Adcock, and Cope [CP]
Response Paper #2 due (2 pages) on your choice of an assigned poem due to Canvas by start of class
  21 The Prisoner (1967-8, selected episodes); critical reading on The Prisoner [CP]
  F 24

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

  28 • A Riot of One's Own: Punk and Protest, with guest speakers Phil Nel and Tim Dayton; Marcus, "Anarchy in U.K." (1980); selected songs [CP]; optional: We are Lady Parts (2021, Season 1)
Churchill, Cloud 9 (1978)
Selected reviews for Churchill's Cloud 9 [CP]

(Re)Writing the Past, Imagining the Future

March 7 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 due to Canvas by start of class
Class Discussion Questions: Winterson, Sexing the Cherry
14 Spring Break
21 [A] Smith, White Teeth (2000) (1-256)
  28 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
April 4 Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
Heartstopper (2022)
Discussion Questions: Heartstopper
F 7 Prospectus (1 p.) for Paper #2 due by 11:59 p.m.
11 Sherlock (Season 1: 2010)
Discussion Questions: Sherlock
Bartlett, King Charles III (2014)
18 • Stoppard, Arcadia (1993) (1-97)
• Bring to class your draft thesis claim for Paper #2
  25 • Rosoff, How I Live Now (2004); reviews, interviews, critical readings on Rosoff [CP]
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.
F 28

Paper #2 (and abstract) due to Canvas by 11:59 p.m. M.L.A. documentation format

May 2 Paddington (2015)
Selected reviews and critical readings [CP]
• Selected poems: John Agard, "Windrush Welcome" (1998), "Uncle Mo Steps Out" (1998), "Remember the Ship" (1998); Benjamin Zephaniah, "What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us" (1998); 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); Childs, from The Twentieth Century in Poetry (180-204) [CP]
• Coda: McLeod, from Postcolonial London (189-194); Phillips, from A New World Order (303-309) [CP]
  9 Final Reflection due by 9:00 p.m.


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Last updated 16 January 2023