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EN378 - Disasters and the British Contemporary


Seminar: Mon 15.30-17.00, Michael Gardiner

Office Hours: Tue 16.00-17.00; Wed 11.00-12.00

This module looks at stories of disaster arising from the United Kingdom since the era of high consensus (the mid-1950s), and asks how the catastrophic imagination speaks to the present. It is non-canonical, meaning that we don't assume any set of valuable texts, and will not concentrate much on individual authors. The 'Contemporary' in the title means a consideration of 'present-ness' in different eras, rather than meaning recent as a literary period (as in 'Brick Lane is an example of contemporary writing'). It asks how the British political situation of the time projects such futures, as well as thinking more generally about the reading of disasters and dystopias. It touches on social history, politics, ideas of uptioa and dystopia, and the constitution, but no prior knowledge of these subjects is needed.

There is some room for negotiation about reading lists: occasionally we may offer a choice of texts. As much as possible the set texts should be read alongside some of the texts in the relevant section of Extra Reading, though we appreciate time constraints. Here a 'text' is some kind of cultural output, not necessarily a printed book. Please try to organise your year so that you are ready to discuss the more time-consuming texts in seminars and essays - look ahead and work out where you might need time. It is a condition of taking this module that you know the text and come ready to discuss it - please contact us should there be any library issues that prevent this.

There is one 90-minute seminar a week and no lectures.

Until 2018-19, assessment is by two 4000w essays, whose titles are decided by students themselves; there are sample titles for Term One. Titles have to be finally okayed by 1200 Fri Week Ten of the preceding term.

Term Three Essay (ie second essay) 2018-19: no samples are being suggested for this, but like Term One, you need to get your essay title okayed by 1200 on Friday Week 10 - 15 March.

In 2019-20, assessment is slightly different for second and third (and above) year students: second year is 2 x 4000w, third and above is 2 x 5000w.

Reading List 2018-19

I Consensus

2. John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids (1951)
3. Michael Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy (1957)
4. Naomi Mitchison, Solution Three (1975)

II Collapse

5. wr. and dir. Jonathan Hales et al, The Guardians (1971)
7. wr. Peter Dickinson, The Weathermonger trilogy (1968-70) [this is sometimes retrospectively described as 'The Changes trilogy'], and wr. Peter Dickinson and Anna Home, dir. Anna Home, The Changes (1975)
8. Doris Lessing, Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
9. John Rowe Townsend, Noah’s Castle (1975)
10. wr. and dir. Derek Jarman, Jubilee (1978)

III Totalisation

11. wr. and dir. Peter Watkins, The War Game (1965) and wr. Barry Hines, dir. Mick Jackson, Threads (1984)
12. wr. Troy Martin, dir. Martin Campbell, Edge of Darkness (1985)
13. Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980)

IV Cli-fi

14. John Christopher, The Death of Grass (1956)
15. Jenni Fagan, The Sunlight Pilgrims (2016)

V Liberalism

17. Robert Moss, The Collapse of Democracy (1975)
18. Ivor Southwood, Non-Stop Inertia (2010)
19. Better Together Campaign, 500 Questions (2013)
20. wr. P.D. James, wr. and dir. Anfonso Cuaron, Children of Men (2006)



L.P. Hartley, Facial Justice (1960)
John Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
J.G. Ballard, 'Billennium' (1962)
HMSO, Education Act 1944
Anthony Crosland, The Future of Socialism (1956)
Stuart Hall et al, ‘The Insiders’ series, Universities and Left Review (1957)
Aldous Huxley, Island (1962)
Wr. and dir. Nigel Kneale, Quatermass and the Pit (1958-59)
Vernon Bogdanor and Robert Skidelsky, The Age of Affluence (1970)
Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (1971)
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)
Garrett Hardin, ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ (1968)
Garrett Hardin, Exploring New Ethics for Survival: The Voyage of Spaceship Beagle (1972)
Gordon Rattray Taylor, The Doomsday Book (1970)
David Kynaston, Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 (2007)
Ken Loach, The Spirit of '45 (2013)
dir. Danny Boyle, Olympics Opening Ceremony 2014
Ministry of Information films TBC
E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful (1973)
Ed. John Barr, The Environmental Handbook (1971)
Wr. and dir. Adam Curtis, The Living Dead ep.3, 'The Attic' (1995)
Ecologist magazine, Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (1972)
Bill McKibben, The End of Nature (1989)
Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster (1980)
Frederick Buell, 'Global Warming as Literary Narrative' (2014)
Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy (2013)
Jason Moore, Capitalism in The Web of Life (2015)
Adam Stock, 'The Blind Logic of Plants: Enlightenment and Evolution in John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids' (2015)
David Seed, Future Wars: the Anticipations and the Fears (2012)
Andrew Hammond, 'The Twilight of Utopia: British Dystopian Fiction and the Cold War' (2011)
Adam Piette, Literary Cold War: 1945 to Vietnam (2009)
Paul Virilio, War and Cinema (1989)


Adrian Mitchell, The Bodyguard (1972)
Frank Kitson, Low Intensity Operations (1971)
Wr. and dir. Terry Nation, Survivors series one (1975)
wr. Anthony Schaffer, dir. Robin Hardy, The Wicker Man (1973)
Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming (1991)
Stephen Haseler, The Death of British Democracy (1975)
Tom Nairn, The Break-up of Britain (1977)
Ed. Edward Goldsmith, Can Britain Survive? (1971)
John Seymour, Self-Sufficiency (1976)
BBC Panorama, ‘Millwall’ (1977)
Andy Beckett, When the Lights Went Out (2009)
Francis Wheen, Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia (2010)
Wr. Anthony Burgess, dir. Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Barry Penrose and Roger Courtiour, The Pencourt File (1977)
BBC Panorama, ‘Sandhurst’ (1975)
Stephen Milligan, The New Barons: Union Power in the 1970s (1975)
Tariq Ali, The Coming British Revolution (1972)
Patrick Hutber, The Decline of the Middle Class (1975)
John Medhurst, That Option No Longer Exists: 1974-76 (2015)
BBC, The Plot Against Harold Wilson (2006)
Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, Lobster magazine no. 11 (1986)
Richard Littler, Discovering Scarfolk (2014)
Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception (2005)
Chris Mullin, A Very British Coup (1982)
ed. Robert Moss, We Will Bury You (1970)
John Christopher, Empty World (1980)
wr. Nigel Kneale, dir. Peirs Haggard, Quatermass ('Quatermass: Ringstone Round'/ 'Quatermass IV') (1979)
Doomwatch series 1-3: surviving episodes recently made available on DVD, specific episodes TBC
Martin Amis, London Fields (1989)
Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004)
Rebekah Sheldon, The Child to Come: Life After the Human Catatrophe (2017)


HMSO, Protect and Survive (1980)
E.P. Thompson/ CND. Protest and Survive (1980)
ed. E.P. Thompson etc., Exterminism and Cold War (1982)
Central Office of Information, Sound an Alarm (1971)
Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth (1982)
wr and dir Derek Jarman, The Last of England (1988)
BBC Panorama, If the Bomb Drops (1980)
BBC, QED: A Guide to Armageddon (1982)
Wr. and dir. Duncan Campbell, Secret Society (1987)
Duncan Campbell, War Plan UK (1982)
Wr. and dir. John Pilger, The Truth Game (1983)
National Security Archive, The Able Archer 83 Sourcebook 
Oleg Gordievsky, Comrade Kryuchkov's Instructions (1994)
Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies (1989)
Félix Guattari and Toni Negri, Communists Like Us (1990)
Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory (1984)
John Caughie, Edge of Darkness (2007)
Lez Cooke, Troy Kennedy Martin (2007)
Jonathan Hogg, British Nuclear Culture (2016)
Daniel Cordle, Late Cold War Culture and Literature: The Nuclear 1980s (2017)
Diacritics 'Nuclear Criticism' special edition, 14-2 (Summer 1984)
eds. Grant and Ziemann, Understanding the Imaginary War (2016)
Gerry Loose, Fault Line (2016)


F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)
F.A. Hayek, Choice in Currency (1976)
Anthony Burgess, 1985 (1978)
William Rees-Mogg, The Reigning Error (1975)
wr. and dir. Peter Greenaway, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
Joe Pike, Project Fear (2015)
Lionel Robbins, Liberty and Equality (1977)
Wr. and dir. Adam Curtis, The Mayfair Set (1999)
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1689)
Alasdair Gray, Lanark (1981)
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine (2007)
Michael Gardiner, 'Eco-Catastrophe, Economic Patriotism, and the Thatcherite Promise of Nature' (2018)
Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of this Planet (2011)
Luc Boltanski, The New Spirit of Capitalism (2007)
Jamie Peck, Constructions of Neoliberal Reason (2010)
Evan Calder Williams, Combined and Uneven Apocalypse (2011)
Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming, Dead Man Working (2012)
Jonathan Crary, 24/7 (2014)
William Davies, 'Britain's Brezhnev-Style Capitalism' (2013)
William Davies, The Limits of Neoliberalism (2015)
David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules (2015)
Maurizio Lazzarato, Governing By Debt (2015)
Franco Berardi, After the Future (2011)
Franco Berardi, And: Phenomenology of the End (2015)
Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (2007)
Rebekah Sheldon, The Child to Come: Life After the Human Catastrophe (2016)

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