Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Topics in Modern British Novel

ENGL 265.302
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

This class will be a rather open-ended exploration of the contemporary British novel, focusing on novels published within the last few years. We will take up a series of questions that seem to be haunting the fiction scene in Britain: What is the relation today between the British novel and the American novel? What are the cultural, geographical, and linguistic limits of "British" literature? Is there such thing as a specifically British postmodernism, and if so, who are the postmodern British novelists? What distinguishes the English novel from the Postcolonial novel, and, as we approach the end of the century, is British fiction tending in a more emphatically postcolonial direction or emerging from a postcolonial moment into a new phase of its history? Listed in this way, these seem rather stale and abstract questions. But we will try to explore them in concrete and vivid ways, focusing our attention on the particular qualities of the novels we are reading. These novels are likely to include recent works by Marin Amis, Angela Carter, Kazuo Ishiguro, Doris Lessing, Timothy Mo, Caryl Phillips, Salman Rushdie, Jeanette Winterson, and some lesser-known writers. You do not need to have read any of these authors, or any contemporary British fiction at all, to take this class. Most of the novels we read will be short ones, and the written work will be spread out across the semester in the form of several 4-6-page essays and frequent one-page assignments. There will be midterm exams but no final.