Representations of Britain 1
Week 1: The background. Culture, literature and society. Postmodernism. The British novel today
Thatcherite and Post-Thatcherite Britain. Definitions of culture. Impact of contemporary texts on contemporary society. Response / influence and feedback. Culture as mass product. Culture vs. sub-culture. Characteristics, networks, postmodernist landmarks. What has happened to the novel today? The novel between realism (‘a modest affirmation of faith’), fabulation and non-fictional narrative (documentary). The integrative element: metafiction, as alternative. The state of the British novel at present: tendencies, representatives, public reception.
Bibliography: Tew and Mengham, British Fiction Today, 29-31, 94-5; Lodge, ‘The Novelist at the Crossroads’, 3-34; Bradbury, The Novel Today, 406-15, 449-62; Tew, The Contemporary British Novel, 222-30.
Weeks 2 and 3: Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
Representations of England and Englishness. Images of loyalty, responsibility and duty, love and relationship. The characters: Lord Darlington, Mr Stevens, Miss Kenton. Mr Stevens and the institution of the English butler. Text discussion.
Bibliography: Childs, Contemporary Novelists, 124-5, 128-37; Tew, The Contemporary British Novel, 71-2; Bradford, The Novel Now, 214-5; Acheson and Ross (eds.), The Contemporary British Novel, 11-4; Lane, Mengham and Tew (eds.), 226-36; Head, Modern British Fiction, 156‑8.
Weeks 4 and 5: Julian Barnes, England, England
Baudrillard’s theories of the simulations of simulacra and of hyperreality. England, England as third order simulation and materialization of the assumption that the model replaces reality. Pitman’s final project of the thematic island. Subverted, satirical and grotesque representation of England and Englishness. Symbolism underlying the novel’s division into three sections. The characters of Pitman and Martha Cochrane. Text Discussion.
Bibliography: Head, Modern British Fiction, 120-1; Acheson and Ross (eds.), 213-4; Bradford, The Novel Now, 180-3; Childs, Contemporary Novelists, 84-6.
Week 6: Mid-term test
Weeks 7 and 8: Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor
Writing the city: London. Narrating the postmodern city. rationalist – non-rationalist way of perceiving things. History as pivotal topic in the novel, History revisited – history distorted. The detective plot – Hawksmoor as an anti-detective novel. Re(-)presentations of London as city of the 18th and the 20th centuries? Hawksmoor as postmodern novel. Text discussion.
Bibliography: Tew, The Contemporary British Novel, 131-2; Acheson and Ross, The Contemporary British Novel, 2201; Tew and Mengham (eds.), 55-66; Lee, Realism and Power, 66-73, 83-7.
Weeks 9 and 10: Penelope Lively, City of the Mind
London as postmodern re(-)presentation of time and space. The city and the city of the mind: the real and the imagined city. The city as modern Babylon or Tower of Babel. Personal implications: reconstruction of the city and of Halland’s life. Lively’ way of depicting London. Text discussion.
Weeks 11 and 12: Robert McLiam Wilson, Ripley Bogle
Ireland, Belfast and the concept of Irishness. Tradition, Ireland and literature. Culture in Northern Ireland. Violence of life – violence of writing. Ripley Bogle as a fictional autobiography. Convention vs. subversion. Representations of the Troubles. The profile of the narrator and the narrative techniques. Text discussion.
Week 13: End-of-term test
Representations of Britain 2
Week 1: Popular culture / fiction. The British novel today
Popular culture as concept of the 80s. High and popular culture. The situation of popular fiction today. Concepts of the age: postcolonialism. The novel between realism (‘a modest affirmation of faith’), fabulation and non-fictional narrative (documentary). The integrative element: metafiction, as alternative. The state of the British novel at present: tendencies, representatives, public reception.
Bibliography: Easthope, Literary into Cultural Studies 65-89; Fiske, Reading the Popular 1-13; Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture 2-12; Chambers, Popular Culture: The Metropolitan Experience 152; Lodge, ‘The Novelist at the Crossroads’, 3-34; Bradbury, The Novel Today, 406-15, 449-62; Tew, The Contemporary British Novel, 222-30.
Week 2 and 3: Ian McEwan: The Child in Time
Family and human relations, passage and stress of time. Parents vs. children, biology, education and responsibility. Ian McEwan: The Child in Time – the family and the absent or unwanted / problematic child, the child as atonement, growing-up, development and the course of time.
Bibliography: Abercombie 269-308; Acheson, The British and Irish Novel since 1960, 32-47, 135-140, 143-148; Massie, 19-22, 29-31, 49-51, 60-62; Childs, Contemporary Novelists 173-76.
Week 4 and 5: Hanif Kureishi: The Buddha of Suburbia
Postcolonialism. Race and racism in contemporary Britain. New centres and new margins. New (hyphenated) identities and new ethnicities. Hanif Kureishi: The Buddha of Suburbia – the hero in search of identity and voice, integration and the condition of the emigrant, Bildungsroman and portrait of the artist as immigrant.
Bibliography: Bhabha, 1-5; Ashcroft and Griffith, 1-8: Tew, The Contemporary British Novel 32-3, 180‑1, Lane et al., Contemporary British Fiction 95-103, Head, The Cambridge Introduction 31-3, 220-3; Vianu (ed.), The AfterMode, 210-28.
Week 6: Mid-term test
Weeks 7 and 8: David Lodge: Nice Work
Education and the academic world. Intra- / extra-academic relations. Academic vs. human conduct. Academia and the industrial world. The campus novel and the condition of England fiction. David Lodge: Nice Work– comedy of manners, the character as allegory, (subverted) metafiction.
Bibliography: Acheson, The British and Irish Novel 89-91; Massie, 68-69; Tew, The Contemporary British Novel 76-80.
Weeks 9 and 10: Graham Swift: Waterland
The concept of New Historicism. Historiographic metafiction: framing history in fiction. History and story. History and storytelling, the presence of the past.The novel as a gothic family saga, a detective story and as a philosophic meditation on the nature and uses of history.
Bibliography: Hutcheon, The Politics of Postmodernism (51-4); Bradford: The Novel Now, 177-8; Acheson and Ross, The Contemporary British Novel, 206-9, Childs, Contemporary Novelists, 230-3; Tew, The Contemporary British Novel, 149-51; Lane, Mengham and Tew, Contemporary British Fiction, 41-2, 48-53; Head, Modern British Fiction, 204-7.
Week 11 and 12: A. S. Byatt: Possession
Repossession of romance and the failed romantic love. Restoration of Victorianism and rediscovery of past and history. Byatt’s Baroque style: literary detail and allusions, descriptive language and imagery, broad scope and mixture of genres, multiple meanings. Academic fight for possession of the text.
Bibliography: Vianu (ed.), The AfterMode, 72-91; Childs, Contemporary Novelists, 278-9; Acheson and Ross, The Contemporary British Novel, 177-87.Bradford, The Novel Now, 90.
Week 13: End-of-term test