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EN3A3 Writing the Isles

It’s hard to write about Britain, the (not very) United Kingdom, the British Isles, the ‘unnameable archipelago’: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the other bits, the tax havens and principalities; those who want out, of this and that, and those who want in.

This module attends principally to the development of the contemporary British literature of nature and place, urban and suburban as well as rural, and in doing so must navigate the politics of ownership and belonging. We’ll read contemporary writing about the complexities of human relationships with place, beginning with the loaded question: where are you from?

Since part of the project of this module is that students should engage with and imagine themselves participants in the most recent writing, the themes of the module will vary a little from year to year, but we will be consistent in attending to the writing of urban space and the interrogation of traditional accounts of ‘the city’; to the cultural and literary significance of islands; to the borders and edges that fragment and contain our archipelago.

The activities of Coventry City of Culture may offer opportunities for students to approach their immediate environment in creative ways.

Illustrative plan:

Week 1: introduction: Britain, the United Kingdom, the British Isles: Selected poems and essays

Week 2: Where are you from? Estates and selected essays

Week 3: writing workshop

Week 4: The Outrun

Week 5: Where do you belong? The Plot

Week 6: reading week

Week 7: Being outside: selected essays

Week 8: Waterlog

Week 9: Where are you now? Writing workshop (Coventry/campus)

Week 10: Who belongs here? The Good Immigrant and other readings

Illustrative Bibliography

Lynsey Hanley, Estates

Amy Liptrot, The Outrun

Madeleine Bunting, The Plot

Roger Deakin, Waterlog

Ed. Nikesh Shukla, The Good Immigrant