Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

20th Century British Literature

ENGL 061.601
instructor(s):
W 6:30-9:10

This course will survey and attempt to explain some of the radical changes in consciousness that influence the novels,
poetry, and drama of 20th-century Britain.  Given the demise of the British Empire and the horrors of a global depression and two world wars, how does the illusory world of literature reflect an increasingly squalid reality for most British writers?  Do experiments in fiction, drama and poetry anticipate or follow the changes in modern consciousness, and how do such traditional forms as the autobiography, the dramatic monologue, and the well-made play reveal these changes to their audience?  Throughout our survey we will examine precisely why there is such a persistent anti-Victorian strain in twentieth-century British literature and why modernist authors play strikingly more alienated roles in society than their nineteenth-century counterparts.  We will read a dozen or more authors, addressing these questions from various perspectives, while exploring what happens to the assumptions about race, class, gender, and culture that form the backbone of British history.  We will read several masterpieces and some lesser known works by Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Thomas Hardy, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Bernard Shaw, W.H. Auden, Harold Pinter, Iris Murdoch, Ted Hughes, John Fowles, and Tom Stoppard.  All are welcome here; however, you are required to complete a midterm, a short paper, a term essay, and a final exam.