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20th-Century British Literature: Youth, Crime and Fantasy

ENGL 061.001
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

 
This guided, intermediate-level study of British literature since 1900 takes youth, violence, and transgression as its central themes.   We begin with two major historical contexts, a slowly-dying British Empire and an all-too-fatal WWI, understood as sources of violence that reshaped the coming-of-age story for young men and women in the 1900-1925 period.  We then move quickly into later decades of the 20th century to explore other kinds of transgressive action including sexual experimentation, juvenile delinquency, anti-authoritarian protests, drug addiction, and class-passing.  By the time we finish, with a series of novels written in the last twenty years, we will also have encountered youthful protagonists who a) witness the fallout of incestuous relations;  b) discover the dark side of backpacking in Thailand;  c) attempt to carve out both queer and trans-gender spaces in rigid social or religious circumstances; d) confront the racial antagonism of Thatcher-era London from the point of view of Asian immigrant families;  and e) give vent to emotional and spiritual confusion by triggering a Columbine-style school shooting in Texas.  Our central writers will include Rebecca West, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, Anthony Burgess, Muriel Spark, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Alex Garland, Patrick McCabe, DBC Pierre, Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, a selection of WWI poets, and a few "angry young man" playwrights.  Graded requirements will include quizzes and brief in-class writing assignments, a film-adaptation essay (1000 words), a short biographical or historical review (1000 words), and a longer critical essay (2500 words).