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EN263 Devolutionary British Fiction

EN263 Devolutionary British Fiction

Tutors on this module in 2017-18 are Michael Gardiner, T1 (T1 convenor: on leave Term Two) and Graeme Macdonald (T2 convenor) and Lara Choksey (T2)

Seminars 2017-18:

Spring Term:

GM: Tue 14.00 - 15.30 (H501), 15.30 - 17.00 (H501)

LC: Mon 1630-1800 (G03); Thurs, 1700-1830 (H305)

Assessment is by two 5000 word essays, which will be due near the starts of Term 2 and Term 3. See Essay Deadline Page.

GM office hours 2017-18: T2 Wed 9-10; Tues 5-6

LC office hours

This module looks at issues of political power, representation and democracy, and decline in Britain, in particular as voiced by its constituent nations (including England), from around World War Two to around the time of the late 2000s 'financial crisis'. It does not present a group of texts that are 'devolutionary', but rather suggests how the sovereignty issues of the era of devolution suggest new ways of reading. It may be thought of as a set of questions about the mythologies of Britishness, and expressions of the 'post-British'. The module explores how post-1940 texts can be read in terms of themes including:

The form of the British state, questions of nationality, and constitutional crises. There should be some familiarity with the two sets of national devolution referendums (1979, 1997), the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, and ongoing issues of constitutional change and pressure for Scottish self-determination (to say that EU withdrawal means constitutional change is a bit misleading, but we're free to talk about the contexts of Brexit too);
the issue of ‘democratic deficit’ - that is, the way that power, particularly after 1979, has seemed ‘far away’ from the people, and responses to democratic deficit throughout the UK (mostly this has only been documented of Scotland, but we can consider all the UK's nations);
Consensus, its links to the welfare state and to neoliberalism, and attacks on and defences of ‘British values’;
Empire and neo-imperialism; the cultural forms of British empire; migration and ‘postcolonial melancholia’;
History, memory, and nostalgia;
Questions of place, experience, physicality, violence, addiction, and in general of ‘embodiedness’;
English Literature’s conception of a canon, how this came about and the pressures on it in an era of devolution and 'post-Britishness':
Language and dialect in post-war culture, and the politics of Standard and non-Standard English.

Each week there will be one set text, which is compulsory, and (in Term One) a couple of recommended texts, which are not compulsory but which you are invited to look at and which have been carefully chosen to help you think around the subject, and to construct essays when the time comes. Please do try to have read and thought about the set text, and be ready to offer thoughts on it (this is a condition of taking the module).

There is also a concise synoptic reading list ('Extra Reading'). This is not exhaustive, and we are happy to make further recommendations and to add new texts to the list if they are useful. Start here for essay reading.

There is no requirement to have any specific A-Levels, for example in History or Politics (or English), and, contrary to what you may be tempted to think part-way through, there is no need for any specific knowledge in this fields. All that is needed is a willingness to read around the subject. You are expected to investigate the historical backgrounds of the periods in which we read, and after years of thought we've decided not to recommend specific history books (or documentaries): whatever you like for the period you're interested in - as long as you read critically.

If all else fails, you can consider this a 'post-1940 fiction' module. You'll have to be aware of the historical backgrounds to texts, and how texts engage with this, but this is the same for all your modules.

You are invited to the office hours of either your tutor or the convenor to talk about any issues surrounding the module.

In 2017-18, the assessment of this module changes to two 5000w essays. We will be available during office hours to discuss any aspects of the module or any themes or interests arising from it, but to try to maintain a level playing field we will not be co-constructing essays in detail. We appreciate your understanding that this is neccesary to protect the chances of all participants. Try not to worry about workload issues - 5000w is less than you may think - but try to see the essays as an ongoing project you carry with you throughout the year, and make notes as soon as you can. Both sets of essay title choices will be posted at least five weeks before the deadline (in practice, probably a few weeks more).

SYLLABUS 2017-18

1. Introduction

Consensus, Thatcherism, Nostalgia, Hauntology
[n.b. This is a departure from the usual structure because of staff specialisms in T2. We will return to the previous structure in 2018-19]

2. SET: George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and ‘England, Your England’ (1941, widely available online) RECOMMENDED: Orwell, ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946), ‘Notes on Nationalism’ (1945), and as many from Penguin Essays as possible

3. SET: Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (1962)
RECOMMENDED: dir. Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange (1971)
RECOMMENDED: Anthony Burgess, 1985 (1978)

4. SET: Muriel Spark, The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960)
RECOMMENDED: Alan Sillitoe, ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner’ (story) (1959)
RECOMMENDED: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (film) (1962)
RECOMMENDED: Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (1886)

5. SET: Chris Mullin, A Very British Coup (1982)
RECOMMENDED: Raymond Williams, The Volunteers (1978)
RECOMMENDED: Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain (1977)
RECOMMENDED: wr. Trevor Griffiths, dir. Roland Joffé et al, Bill Brand (1976)

7. SET: David Peace, GB84 (2004)
RECOMMENDED: Seumas Milne, The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners (1994)
RECOMMENDED: dir. and wr. Bernard Jackson and Tony Wardle, The Battle for Orgreave (1986) (on youtube)
RECOMMENDED: Frank Kitson, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency, and Peacekeeping (1971)

8. SET: J.G. Ballard, Concrete Island (1974)
RECOMMENDED: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719)
RECOMMENDED: Muriel Spark, Robinson (1958)

9. SET: dir. Shane Meadows, This is England (2007)
RECOMMENDED: Paul Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack (1987)
RECOMMENDED: wr. and dir. Stuart Hall, Racism on TV in Great Britain (1979) (on youtube)

10. SET: dir Steve McQueen, Hunger (2008)
RECOMMENDED: dir. Adam Curtis, The Living Dead ep.3: The Attic (1995)
RECOMMENDED: Tom Nairn, Pariah (2002)
RECOMMENDED: dir. Danny Boyle, Olympics Opening Ceremony (2012)

The (Second) Scottish Literary Renaissance

11-12. Alasdair Gray, Lanark (1981)

13. James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late (1994)

14. Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting (1993)

15. Janice Galloway, The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1989)

After Britain? Apocalyptic Futures

17. Introduction to After Britain section - in-class screening and discussion of Threads (Jackson and Hines, 1984) Monday Feb 19th, 1700-2000, Room SO:20

18. Russel Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980)
19. Sarah Hall, The Carhullan Army (2007)

20. P.D. James, The Children of Men (1992)

There is no teaching in Term Three on this module, but T3 tutor(s) will be available during office hours to talk about any aspects of course content, and, if you like, how our themes relate to other modules. Office hours are tbc.

Advice on Writing Essays