Seminar Presentations – Representations 2

Seminar Presentation and Essay Topics

Ian McEwan, Atonement

  1. 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.
  2. The moral debate: innocence, guilt, misrepresentation, atonement.
  3. 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.
  4. The writer’s autonomy and the ethics of representation: omniscience and manipulation, ‘author’ vs. God.
  5. Significance and functions of the characters of Cecilia, Robbie, Mr and Mrs Tallis, Lola, the twins, Peter Marshall.
  6. Symbolism of the vase, water, windows, the human anatomy and senses, setting and nature.

Pat Barker, Regeneration

  1. The State as agent of power and domination. Systems of governance: education, religion and army. The state of war.
  2. Army and war, glory and trauma (PTSD). Men in time of war: masculinity and emasculation. The hospital as institution of healing, authority and control.
  3. Representations of war and trauma: mutism, dyslexia, panic attacks, phobias.
  4. The literary response, the British war poets (Sassoon and Owen), war fiction.
  5. Regeneration as anti-war manifesto.
  6. 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

  1. Education and the academic world. Intra- / extra-academic relations. Academic vs. human conduct. Academia and the industrial world.
  2. The campus novel and the condition of England fiction.
  3. Nice Work: Victorian vs. Thatcherite Britain.
  4. David Lodge: Nice Work – comedy of manners, the character as allegory.
  5. The novel as subverted metafiction / as subverted literary theory: structuralism, deconstructivism, feminism / gender.
  6. Nice Work as a novel of attitudes. Match and mismatch: compatibility and incompatibility of the two character-types, Vic and Robyn.

Graham Swift, Waterland

  1. The concept of New Historicism. Historiographic metafiction: framing history in fiction.
  2. Postmodern end of History? – History and story. History and storytelling, the presence / burden of the past.
  3. Bipolarity: Crick and Price, the ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ vs. the ‘There’ and ‘Then’ and the novel’s spatial and temporal connotations.
  4. Waterland as self-reflexive novel / narrative and self-reflective rewriting of history.
  5. Waterland as a gothic family saga, a detective story and as a philosophic meditation on the nature and uses of history.
  6. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Possession as a debate at the human and textual level over the topics of freedom, autonomy, control, ownership, responsibility.
  4. Intertextuality: meaning, connotations and symbolism of ‘Swammerdam’, ‘Ragnarök’, ‘Proserpine’ and the story of Melusine.
  5. 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.
  6. The novel as (post?)postmodern mix and redesign of literary genres – Romantic quest, campus satire, detective story, myth, fairy tale.