Seminar Presentation and Essay Topics
Ian McEwan, Atonement
- Representation of political establishment and social class in England in the 1930s, during war times and in 1999. The use of war as a metaphor to the internal struggles of the characters and the future condition of Europe.
- The moral debate: innocence, guilt, misrepresentation, atonement.
- Briony Tallis: personal characteristics or qualities – change, permanence, disappearance and reappearance. Briony Tallis as narrator at three different stages of her life (i) as an ambitious, imaginative child; (ii) as a repenting, guilt-stricken nurse; (iii) as an aged, and dying successful author.
- The writer’s autonomy and the ethics of representation: omniscience and manipulation, ‘author’ vs. God.
- Significance and functions of the characters of Cecilia, Robbie, Mr and Mrs Tallis, Lola, the twins, Peter Marshall.
- Symbolism of the vase, water, windows, the human anatomy and senses, setting and nature.
Pat Barker, Regeneration
- The State as agent of power and domination. Systems of governance: education, religion and army. The state of war.
- Army and war, glory and trauma (PTSD). Men in time of war: masculinity and emasculation. The hospital as institution of healing, authority and control.
- Representations of war and trauma: mutism, dyslexia, panic attacks, phobias.
- The literary response, the British war poets (Sassoon and Owen), war fiction.
- Regeneration as anti-war manifesto.
- Characters and attitudes: Dr W.H.R. Rivers, Dr Lewis Yealland; Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves; Billy Prior, David Burns, Anderson, Callan and Willard.
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.
- Nice Work: Victorian vs. Thatcherite Britain.
- David Lodge: Nice Work – comedy of manners, the character as allegory.
- The novel as subverted metafiction / as subverted literary theory: structuralism, deconstructivism, feminism / gender.
- Nice Work as a novel of attitudes. Match and mismatch: compatibility and incompatibility of the two character-types, Vic and Robyn.
Graham Swift, Waterland
- The concept of New Historicism. Historiographic metafiction: framing history in fiction.
- Postmodern end of History? – History and story. History and storytelling, the presence / burden of the past.
- Bipolarity: Crick and Price, the ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ vs. the ‘There’ and ‘Then’ and the novel’s spatial and temporal connotations.
- Waterland as self-reflexive novel / narrative and self-reflective rewriting of history.
- Waterland as a gothic family saga, a detective story and as a philosophic meditation on the nature and uses of history.
- Swift’s Fenlands vs. Faulkner’s South? Significances and roles of topics such as incest, retardation, and dominant, powerful families play such a large role in these narratives of the outskirts?
A.S. Byatt, Possession
- The novel as recovery and reawakening: repossession of romance and the failed romantic love, the motif of the quest, restoration of Victorianism and rediscovery of past and history.
- Character presence, significances and treatment: Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte vs. Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey – individuals and / or couples; Mortimer Cropper; Professor Blackadder.
- Possession as a debate at the human and textual level over the topics of freedom, autonomy, control, ownership, responsibility.
- Intertextuality: meaning, connotations and symbolism of ‘Swammerdam’, ‘Ragnarök’, ‘Proserpine’ and the story of Melusine.
- Byatt’s narrative style and technique: literary detail and allusions, descriptive language and imagery, broad scope and mixture of genres, multiple meanings. Significances of the Postscript in the narrative texture of the novel.
- The novel as (post?)postmodern mix and redesign of literary genres – Romantic quest, campus satire, detective story, myth, fairy tale.