Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

British Fiction by Women, 1985-Present

ENGL 290.401
crosslisted as: GSOC 290
instructor(s):
MW 3:30-5
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective of the Standard Major

In a paraphrase of the heroine of Muriel Spark’s novel Loitering with Intent, Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), writes, “I went about my way rejoicing, thinking how wonderful it is to be a woman and a writer at the end of the twentieth century.”  In this spirit, this seminar surveys acclaimed female voices in late twentieth-century and contemporary British fiction.  We will focus in particular on these recent authors’ formulation of the Bildungsroman (novel of education), representations of sexual identity, and the dynamics of power in marriage and intimate relationships.  We will also explore how these artists craft the acts of writing and the interpretation of narrative.  Authors and texts may include A.S. Byatt (Possession), Jeanette Winterson (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit), Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies), Janice Galloway (The Trick Is to Keep Breathing), Zadie Smith (On Beauty), Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones’s Diary), Penelope Fitzgerald (The Blue Flower), Rachel Cusk (Saving Agnes), Penelope Lively (Moon Tiger), and Anita Brookner (Hotel du Lac).  Besides consistent active contributions to discussion, assignments will include a class presentation, a short paper early in the semester, and a long essay (12+ pgs.) at the end of term. No midterm or final exam.  Course will be cross-listed with Women’s Studies.