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EN377 - Literature, Theory and Time

EN377: Literature Theory and Time, 2017-18

Tutors: Liz Barry (Term 1) and Christina Lupton (Term 2)


This course, open to second and third year students, introduces students to theories and philosophies of time in relation to some literary texts that involve themselves closely with temporality (Tristam Shandy; Mrs Dalloway; The Accidental; The Argonauts). We will be thinking about how time is represented in these narratives; about how narrative helps us imagine tenses such as the historical past and the future. We will consider the relatively recent history of standardized time, and the effects of there being a “mean” time on patterns of work and leisure and on concepts of the self and the nation. How were ideas of the past and the future invented? The question of media will also be important here as we consider what it means for a book or an image or a poem to be situated in time, and ask whether media themselves are responsible now for our sense of time. Have we outsourced time itself to machines, and what might this mean for our own agency? Above all, students taking this module should be interested in engaging deeply and in a sustained way with both literary and philosophical texts.

A further overview of some of the texts we will be reading can be found here in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia entry on Literary Theory and Time.


You have a choice of these two assement methods:

100% assessed: 1x 3,000 word essay (30%) + 1x 5,000 word essay (50%) + journal c. 3000 words (20%)


50/50: 1x 3,00 words essay (30%) + 1x 3hr exam (50%,) + journal (20%)

Both the exam and the essay will require students to write on a combination of one literary text and at least one theory text. The journal, which may be kept in different formats, will require students to write 1-2 page entries over the course of the year about 8 different readings in relation to their own experience of time.

Required Texts for Purchase

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, OUP (2009)

Lawrence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, OUP (2009)

Ali Smith, The Accidental (2005)

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (2014)


Week One: Introduction

Mrs Dalloway, up to page 80.

Week Two: Time in Narrative

Mrs Dalloway, to the end.

Gerard Genette, Narrative Discourse, "Introduction," "Order," "Duration"

Week Three: Others Times/Prolepsis

From Paul Ricouer, Time and Narrative, Vol 2, 100-112

Mark Currie, About Time: Narrative, Fiction and the Philosophy of Time (Edinburgh, Univ. Press, 2007), introduction and chapter 3.

Week Four: Space and Time

Mikhail Bakhtin, “Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, (UTP, 1981), pg 84-258.

Week Five: Phenomenological Time

Henri Bergson, from Time and Free Will; Creative Evolution

Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (London: Athlone Press, 1989)

Week Six:


Week Seven:

Ali Smith, The Accidental

Clark Lawlor, “Consuming Time: Narrative and Disease in 'Tristram Shandy' The Yearbook of English Studies, Vol. 30, Time and Narrative (2000), pp. 46-59

Week Eight: : The Future

Heidegger on anxiety, from Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (London: SCM Press, 1962)

Eugène Minkowski, Lived Time [1933], trans. Nancy Metzel (Evanston: Northwestern Press, 1970)

Stephen Kern, ‘The Future’, The Culture of Space and Time: 1880-1918 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983)

Week Nine: Trauma, History, Time

Hayden White, ‘The Modernist Event’, in The Persistence of History: Cinema, Television and the Modern Event, ed. Vivian Sobchack (New York: Routledge, 1996)

Lauren Berlant, ‘Trauma and Ineloquence’, Cultural Values, 5, no. 1 (January 2001), 41-58

Suzanna Radstone, ‘The War of the Fathers: Trauma, Fantasy and September 11’, Literature and the Contemporary, 117-123

Week Ten: Women's Time, Present Time

Julia Kristeva, ‘Women’s Time’, trans. Alice Jardine and Harry Blake, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 7, no. 1 (1981)

From Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and the Avant Garde (London: Verso, 1995)

Carol Watts, ‘Back to the future: revisiting Kristeva’s ‘Women’s Time’’, Literature and the Contemporary, ed. Roger Luckhurst and Peter Marks, 156-178


Week One: Reading in Time

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Chapter 2 (pg 9-36)

from Stuart Sherman, Telling Time

from De Certeau, Reading as Poaching

Week Two: Beginnings

Lawrence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, Books 1-2

Week Three: Middles

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy, Book 3-4

Week Five: Technology and Time

Bernard Steigler, "Memory," in W. J. T. Mitchell & Mark B. N. Hansen (eds.), Critical Terms for Media Studies (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press): 66–87. (2010)

Mark B. N. Hansen. "Living (with) Technical Time: From Media Surrogacy to Distributed Cognition." Theory, Culture & Society 26 .2-3 (March/May, 2009): 294-315.


Week Seven: Queer Time

Dinshaw et al. ‘Theorizing Queer Temporalities: A Roundtable Discussion’ GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (2007) 13(2-3): 177-195

Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories, Introduction.

J.E. Munoz, Cruising Utopia: the There and then of Queer Futurity, Introduction.

Week Eight: (Not) Reproducing Time

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts

Week Nine: Time and the Anthropocene

Paul Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind”

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Cilmate of History"

Optional: Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (in library)

Week Ten: Slow and New Time

Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (Verso, 2013) (please read chapter 1)

Lynn Segal, Out of Time

Recommended Extra/Essay Reading

Bergson, Henri, Creative Evolution, in Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents, ed. by Vassiliki Kolocotroni, Jane Goldman, and Olga Taxidou (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), pp. 68-71

Bergson, Henri, Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, trans. F.L. Pogson Bergson, Henri Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer (New York: Zone Books, 1988)

Kristeva, Julia, Time and Sense: Proust and the Experience of Literature (New York: Columbia, 1996)

Lloyd, Genevieve. Being in Time: Selves and Narrators in Philosophy and Literature (London: Routledge, 1993)

Deleuze, Gilles, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (London: Athlone Press, 1992)

---, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (London: Athlone Press, 1989)

Doan, Mary-Anne, The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003)

Kittler, Friedrich, Discourse Networks: 1800/1900, trans. Michael Metteer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990)

---, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999)

Marx, Leo, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal In America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964)

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Berg, 1986)

Solnit, Rebecca, Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge (London: Bloomsbury, 2003) Greenslade, William, Degeneration, Culture and the Novel 1880-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

Nicholls, Peter, Modernisms: A Literary Guide (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995) Schleifer, Ronald, Modernism and Time: The Logic of Abundance in Literature, Science and Culture, 1880-1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Harvey, David, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989)

McQuire, Scott, Visions of Modernity: Representation, Memory, Time and Space in the Age of the Camera (London: SAGE, 1998)

Birkerts, Sven, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1994)

Douglas, Jane Yellowlees, The End of Books or Books Without End: Reading Interactive Narratives (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000)

Erikson, Thomas Hylland, ‘Speed is Contagious’, in The New Media Theory Reader, ed. by Robert Hassan and Julian Thomas (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006), pp. 272-278

Harpold, Terry, ‘The Contingencies of the Hypertext Link’, in The New Media Reader, ed. by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003)

Hesse, Carla, ‘Books In Time’ in The Future of the Book, ed. by Geoffrey Nunberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 21-36

Lee, Heejin and Liebenau, Jonathan, ‘Time and the Internet’, in The New Media Theory Reader, ed. by Robert Hassan and Julian Thomas (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006), pp. 266-271

Huyssen, Andreas, Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 249-260.

King, Nicola, Memory, Narrative, Identity: Remembering the Self (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000)

LaCapra, Dominick, History and Memory after Auschwitz (London: Cornell University Press,1998)

---, Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory, Trauma (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994)

Bender, John, and David E. Wellbery, eds, Chronotypes: The Construction of Time (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991)

Krämer, Sybille, 'The Cultural Techniques of Time Axis Manipulation: On Friedrich Kittler’s Conception of Media' Theory Culture Society Vol. 23 (7–8) 2006: pp 93–109.

Fukuyama, Francis, The End of History and the Last Man (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1992)

Gray, John, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (London: Allen Lane, 2007)

Harpold, Terry, and Philip, Kavita, ‘“Party Over, Oops, Out of Time”: Y2K, Technological ‘Risk’and Informational Millenarianism’, in NMEDIAC 1.1 (2002) (available online O’Leary, Stephen, Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994)

Thompson, Damian, The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium (Hanover, NH.: University Press of New England, 1997)

Benjamin, Walter ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History,’ Illuminations (London: Fontana, 1992), pp. 246-258

Friedland, Roger, and Deirdre Boden, eds, NowHere: Space, Time and Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)

Gould, Stephen Jay, Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991)

Gallagher, Sean, The Inordinance of Time (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1998)

Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (London: Bantam Books-Transworld Publishers, 1988)

Kennedy, J. B., Space, Time and Einstein (Chesham: Acumen, 2003)

Kern, Stephen, The Culture of Time and Space: 1880-1918 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983)

Levinas, Emmanuel, Time and the Other [and additional essays]. Trans. Richard A. Cohen (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1987)

Lewis, Wyndham, Time and Western Man (London: Chatto and Windus, 1927)

Minkowski, Eugene, Lived Time: Phenomenological and Psychopathological Studies (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970)

Osborne, Peter, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-garde (London: Verso, 1995)

Poulet, Georges, Studies in Human Time (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1956)

White, Hayden, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Interpretation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989)