Convenor: Liz Barry
This course, open to second and third year students, introduces students to theories and philosophies of time in relation to some literary and cinematic texts that involve themselves closely with temporality (Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (1924); Ali Smith's novel The Accidental (2005); Marion Coutts' illness memoir The Iceberg (2014); Maggie Nelson's work of 'autotheory' The Argonauts (2015); Christopher Nolan's film Memento (2000) and Barry Jenkins' film Moonlight (2017).
We will be thinking about how time is represented in these narratives: how narrative helps us imagine the past and the future; how tenses and other languages of time create affect; how space and time are brought into relation via narrative structures, concepts, images, metaphors. We will consider the relatively recent history of standardized time, and the effects of this on patterns of work and leisure and on concepts of the self and political identity. How were ideas of the past and the future invented? We will think about subjective experience of time in relation to emotional states such as anxiety, boredom and desire, and how time is experienced in states of mental disorder. We will think about time in relation to the body, illness, chronic conditions, bereavement and the temporality of (health) care.
We will also think about our own experiences of time, in the recent pandemic, in our experiences of illness and grief, in relation to our identities and different experiences and transitions between life stages, in relation to race, sexuality and age; in relation to the planet and the non-human.
The critical and theoretical tools you will learn in the first few weeks of the module will be valuable in helping you 'read' works on this module but also on your other English modules (and almost any module that engages with texts, narratives, history, psychology or philosophy).
...the infinitely variable gearbox that links the told to the ways of its telling, ...how the narrative discourse works to subvert, replay, or even pervert the normal passages of time. (Peter Brooks in the brilliant Reading for the Plot on what Genette reveals to us about narrative)
NB. It will be helpful to you to have read at least the first few chapters of Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway before the start of term. If you can't get hold of a copy, there is a Project Gutenberg version freely available online. But it would be best for you to purchase the OUP or Penguin versions for the term's work if possible. Think about the depiction of time in the book. How much time is passing? How do past, present and future relate to each other? What is the relationship between time and emotion? How do altered mental states affect the perception of time? There will be a light-hearted quiz in the first week (on more superficial, factual matters than these) so you can evaluate how much you've picked up from the novel so far.*
Think too about the reading and watching (and other cultural consumption) you're doing this summer -- are you being made particularly aware of time in any aspect, and if so how? It would be nice to hear about these experiences in our discussions.
Do have a look at the module's past padlets for a range of quotations, gifs, memes, allusions to time (and illness), from the sublime to the -- not-so sublime: Literature, Theory and Time padlet (1) Illness TimeLink opens in a new window
A critical 'reading package' will be distributed to you in or before week 1 with the key theoretical readings for term 1.
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.
[1 formative short piece (1000 words);] 1 x 3000 word essay (40%); 1 x 3600 word reading journal (60%)
[1 formative short essay (1000 words);] 1 x 4000 word essay (40%); 1 x 4400 word reading journal (60%)
Each entry will pair ideas about time from one or two of the theoretical sources with a piece of fiction, literary non-fiction, film, or other cultural artefact, and make a reading of the 'text' in relation to the idea(s) in question. One of the four entries can be (but doesn't have to be) applying the theory we've looked at (or other time-oriented theory) to your own lived experience.
The entries can vary in length to make up the allotted word count (+/- 10%), but shouldn't be less than 500 words or more than 1500.
Below are some anonymized samples from previous years:
(Sensitive content is indicated with a 'CW' for 'content warning', with some brief indication of the nature of the content.)
Week One: Introduction
Mrs Dalloway, up to page 80.
You may like to read an article in the New Yorker about why people have been reading Mrs Dalloway during the pandemic, for a topical angle: Why Why Anxious Readers Under Quarantine Turn to Mrs. Dalloway
Week Two: Time in Narrative
Mrs Dalloway, to the end.
If you have time/interest to think about further questions :
Some weeks I have included the slides of mini-lectures -- I will go through any essential material in the seminar, but if you need to have a look at some online resources ahead of time or afterwards, there are slides, and -- in weeks 2, 4 and 8, hastily made videos -- from my pandemic teaching:
Week Three: Space and Time
Mikhail Bakhtin, “Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, (UTP, 1981), pg 84-258.
Christopher Nolan (dir.), Memento (2000)
Week Four: Phenomenological Time
Henri Bergson, from Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, section collected as 'The Idea of Duration' in Henri Bergson, Henri Bergson: Key Writings, ed. Keith Ansell Pearson and John Mullarkey (Continuum, 2002)
Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (London: Athlone Press, 1989)
BBC Radio 4, In Our Time: Bergson and Time (particularly recommended as this is challenging material -- but don't worry if it's a bit baffling, we will draw out what's important and useful in the session).
(listen to particularly 05.08 -- 8.25; 10.42 -- 15.56; and 17.52 -- 25.18 but it's all good value. Around these sections on the philosophy, there are discussions of his theory of evolution (how new things come into being), and his clashes with Einstein and the new physics, for instance)
Emily Thomas on The Philosophy of Time and the New Thinking about Time in C20 (video) -- listen to 06.10 -- 08.50
Week Five: Mrs Dalloway and other critical approaches
From Queer Bloomsbury (2016): Kimberly Engdahl Coates's 'Virginia Woolf's Queer Time and Place: Wartime London and a World Aslant' [see Talis reading list]
Woolf on how her contemporaries were responding to the shock and destabilizing impulse of World War One:
Woolf and mental health: Patricia Waugh, 'The novelist as voice hearer', The Lancet (2015); Michael Whitworth on <em>Mrs Dalloway </em>and mental health (critical survey)
Week Six: READING WEEK
Ali Smith, The Accidental
Week Eight: The Future
Stephen Kern, 'The Future', The Culture of Space and Time: 1880-1918 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983)
Week Nine: Time and Non-Normative Mental States
CW: mental illness, trauma
Eugène Minkowski, from Lived Time , trans. Nancy Metzel (Evanston: Northwestern Press, 1970)
Matthew Broome, 'The Neuroscience, Psychopathology and Philosophy of Time', Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology, 12: 3 (2005), 187-194
Judith Herman, from Trauma and Recovery (1992)
Non-Normative Mental States, Mrs D and The Accidental (ideas, exercises)
A bit leftfield, but a talk (slides and video) I have written on dementia, time and laughter -- tangential link to the Minkowski!
Recap, informal feedback.
Other supplementary term 1 materials:
Talk on reading Mrs Dalloway via further Genette/ Narrative Discourse material; Paul Ricoeur's section on Mrs Dalloway in his monumental work on time and literary narrative, and Mark Currie's book about time and narrative (which mostly covers contemporary fiction but touches on Mrs D), About Time.
CW: (terminal) illness, cancer, bereavement
Marion Coutts, The Iceberg
Week Two: Illness Time
CW: (terminal) illness, cancer, bereavement
Sarah Lochlann Jain, 'Living in Prognosis: Toward an Elegiac Politics', Representations, vol. 98. no. 1 (2007), 77-92
Frank, Arthur. The Wounded Storyteller. Body, Illness and Ethics. Second Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Week 3: Grief Time
CW: bereavement; grief, sudden death
Lisa Baraitser in Conversation with Denise Riley. Studies in the Maternal (2016), 8(1), p.5 Link to the article
Caroline Pearce, ‘Making Sense of Grief’, in The Public and Private Management of Grief (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 61-101
Week Four: Time and Work
E.P. Thompson, ‘Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism'
from Kathi Weeks, The Problem With Work (chapters 1&2)
Readings from Ling Ma, Severance; Studs Terkel, Working
Week 5: Race and Time
CW: racism; death; bereavement and mourning
Christina Sharpe's In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (ch 1),
Michael Hanchard, 'Afro-Modernity: Temporality, Politics and the African Diaspora', Public Culture (1999) 11 (1): 245-268.
Week 6: READING WEEK
Week 7: Queer Time
CW: possible transphobia, homophobia, heterosexism
Lee Edelman, No Future, ch. 1: 'The Future Is Kid Stuff'
Week 8: (Not) Reproducing Time
CW: childbirth; heterosexism, transphobia
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
Barry Jenkins (dir.), Moonlight [film]
Recapping and applying ideas such as Deleuze's time-image, Bakhtin's chronotope, Sharpe's 'wake', Afro-modernism; concepts of queer temporality.
Week 10: Deep Time
(CW: climate emergency)
Essay Writing: A List of Points/ Resources
These are some aspects of essay writing (and writing in general) that I've noticed trip people up repeatedly, and feature in lots of my feedback:
- The most important thing for me, as you'll become aware from my feedback, is to know -- and to write -- a good paragraph. Andrew Frayn's blog (links below) is good on this and a host of other essay-writing issues.
- There is a growing tendency for people to use subordinate clauses as stand-alone, independent sentences. They are only half a sentence -- see below for an explanation of such clauses (which must be part of a larger sentence with a main clause involving a conjugated verb).
- Lots of people this year have fallen foul of the dangling modifier... Follow the link below to find out what they are, and for advice on avoiding them.
- Frayn is also good on how to write a good introduction to an essay -- that's something that has made essays stand out too this year (for good or ill...).
Choose ONE of these two referencing styles, become familiar with it and learn it, and make sure you reference the materials you quote or draw directly on in the body of the text through in-text citations or footnotes so your reader knows exactly where to go and find the material:
You might also want to do this very good Moodle about referencing and avoiding (inadvertent) plagiarism. (I’m not suggesting you would ever plagiarise, but this is a good general training in referencing appropriately):
Required Texts for Purchase*
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, OUP (2009 )
Ali Smith, The Accidental (2005)
Marion Coutts, The Iceberg (2014)
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (2015)
* The Woolf is a recommended edition, but there are no rules about which edition you have, as long as it's the (accurate) full text and useable, so don't be concerned if yours is an edition with a different publication date.
Recommended Extra/Essay Reading
Bender, John, and David E. Wellbery, eds, Chronotypes: The Construction of Time (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991)
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)
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)
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
Friedland, Roger, and Deirdre Boden, eds, NowHere: Space, Time and Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994)
Gallagher, Sean, The Inordinance of Time (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1998)
Gould, Stephen Jay, Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991)
Harvey, David, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989)
Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (London: Bantam Books-Transworld Publishers, 1988)
Huyssen, Andreas, Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 249-260.
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)
King, Nicola, Memory, Narrative, Identity: Remembering the Self (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000)
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
Lloyd, Genevieve. Being in Time: Selves and Narrators in Philosophy and Literature (London: Routledge, 1993)
McQuire, Scott, Visions of Modernity: Representation, Memory, Time and Space in the Age of the Camera (London: SAGE, 1998)
Minkowski, Eugene, Lived Time: Phenomenological and Psychopathological Studies (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970)
Nicholls, Peter, Modernisms: A Literary Guide (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995)
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)
Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Berg, 1986)
Schleifer, Ronald, Modernism and Time: The Logic of Abundance in Literature, Science and Culture, 1880-1930 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)
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).
Thompson, Damian, The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium (Hanover, NH.: University Press of New England, 1997)
Sample Essay Questions