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EN263 Devolutionary British Fiction

Convenor: Professor Michael Gardiner

Office Hours: 2019-20 tbc

Seminars: Tuesday 9:30-11:00, Tuesday 11:00-12:30, Tuesday 2:30-4:00.

From 2019/20, there will be two new module codes:
Intermediate Year: EN2C7
Final Year: EN3C7
*Please ensure that you register for the correct code for your year of study*

This module looks at issues of political power, representation and democracy, and decline in Britain, particularly in terms of the relation of constituent nations to the whole and to British empire. It does not present a group of texts that are 'devolutionary', but rather looks at how late-British and 'post-British' values might point to new ways of reading. The module might be thought of as a set of questions about the mythologies of Britishness. It looks at post-1940 texts for themes including the founding form of the British state, questions of nationality, immigration, and constitutional crises (particularly devolution, but up to and including Brexit). There are no specific requirements for students beginning this module. By the end, after seminars and personal reading, there should be some familiarity with the broad historical parameters, particularly 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. We are likely to also consider: ‘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; 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’; questions of place, experience, physicality, violence, addiction, and ‘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, and the politics of Standard and non-Standard English.

Each week there will be one set text, which is compulsory, and familiarity with which, and some thought about which, is a condition of attendance. There will also be a couple of recommended texts, which are not compulsory but which it is in your own interest to look at.
Please note that the library isn't responsible for making set texts available; you are asked to buy all set texts. You should do this as far in advance as possible, and in week one we will talk about availability of set and recommended texts, and confirm the text list.

There is also a concise 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. This will be added to periodically.

There is no requirement to have any specific A-Levels, for example in History or Politics, and there is no need for any specific knowledge in this fields, only 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. Historical embedding is important to all modules in the department, not this one particularly, but if you are struggling with contexts you can consider this a 'post-1940 fiction' module.

Please note that the tutors on this module are not offering personal opinions, but rather are trying to prompt debate.

There is one seminar a week - for which you will have to have become familiar with the set text and be ready to take about it - and no lectures. There are no seminars in Term Three, but office hours continue.


Assessment is by two 4000 word essays or two 5000 word essays (see below). We will be available during office hours to discuss any aspects of the module or any themes or interests arising from it, but for the sake of fairness we try to limit the extent to which tutors can help individual students construct essays. You can see the essays as an on-going project you carry with you throughout the year, and make notes with the essays in mind as soon as you can. Students will choose their own titles (nb this is different from 2019-20, when there was a system of essay titles being negotiated with the convenor).

Intermediate Years:
2 x 4000 word essays

Final Years:
2 x 5000 word essays

SYLLABUS 2019-20

1. Introduction, no preparation required

1. Consensus

2. SET: George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and ‘England, Your England’ (1941)
RECOMMENDED: Orwell, ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946), ‘Notes on Nationalism’ (1945), and as many from Penguin Essays as possible
RECOMMENDED: Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul (1989)

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: Raymond Williams, The Volunteers (1978)
RECOMMENDED: Raymond Williams, Culture and Society (1958)
RECOMMENDED: Universities and Left Review first three numbers (1957-60)

7. SET: Gillian Slovo, Ten Days (2016)
RECOMMENDED: Gillian Slovo, The Riots (2011)
RECOMMENDED: J.G. Ballard, Kingdom Come (2006)

2. Thatcherism

8. SET: Chris Mullin, A Very British Coup (1982)
RECOMMENDED: Tom Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain (1977)

9. 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)

10. SET: dir. Steve McQueen, Hunger (2008)
RECOMMENDED: dir. Terry George, Some Mother's Son (1996)
RECOMMENDED: Timothy Shanahan, The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Morality of Terrorism (2008)

3. The Second Scottish Literary Renaissance

11. SET: Alasdair Gray, Lanark (1981)
RECOMMENDED: R.D. Laing, The Divided Self (1961)
RECOMMENDED: Cairns Craig, The Modern Scottish Novel (1999)

12. SET: James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late (1994)
RECOMMENDED: James Kelman, And the Judges Said... (2002)
RECOMMENDED: essays from ed. Scott Hames, The Edinburgh Companion to James Kelman (2010)

13. SET: Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting (1993)
RECOMMENDED: essays from ed. Berthold Schoene, The Edinburgh Companion to Irvine Welsh (2010)
RECOMMENDED: dir. Danny Boyle, Trainpotting (1996)

14. SET: Janice Galloway, The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1989)

4. Melancholia, Mapping, Nostalgia, Hauntology

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

17. Jez Butterworth, Jersusalem (2009)
RECOMMENDED: Ian Baucom, Out of Place: Englishness, Empire, and the Locations of Identity (1999)
RECOMMENDED: essays from eds. Claire Westall and Michael Gardiner, Literature of an Independent England (2013)

18. SET: Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life (2014)
RECOMMENDED: Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx (1993/ 1994)
RECOMMENDED: Belbury Poly, From an Ancient Star (audio) (2009)
RECOMMENDED: Richard Littler, Discovering Scarfolk (2014)

19. SET: Laura Oldfield Ford, Savage Messiah (2011)
RECOMMENDED: Iain Sinclair, London Orbital (2000)

20. SET: dir. Robin Hardy, The Wicker Man (1973)
RECOMMENDED: Adam Scovell, Folk Horror (2017)

Please also see Extra Reading - the extra reading list has been carefully constructed to provide a basis for essay writing/ seminar response. Start with the above and Extra Reading before JSTOR or general search.

Advice on Writing Essays