MA Gender, Sexuality and Culture / Course details
Year of entry: 2020
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Course unit details:
Reading the Contemporary
|Unit level||FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Offered by||English and American Studies|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
This module provides a brief overview of contemporary fiction from the 1970s to the millennium, looking in particular at the historical, political and critical contexts of that fiction’s production and reception, and examining the various historical and cultural continuities and discontinuities across the period. A central question here concerns the utility of the concepts of ‘consensus’ and ‘dissensus’ for understanding both aesthetic and political matters in the late twentieth century.
The consideration of a mixture of theoretical/critical material (by critics such as Alan Sinfield, Patricia Waugh, Wendy Brown, David Harvey, Brian McHale, David Lodge and others) alongside a range of novels published in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, seeks to bring to light the galvanizing themes and topics of each decade: the tension between realism and experimentalism in the 1970s; state and identity politics in the 1980s; Britishness, multiculturalism and history in the 1990s; and discussions of the ‘end of the book’ coincident with the advent of new digital technologies.
To develop a critical understanding of the recent history of contemporary fiction, through the analysis of a range of novels published between 1970 and 2000. To situate those novels in their appropriate historical, political and cultural contexts, thereby developing a better understanding of the functions of literature - and of 'culture' more generally - during this period.
By the end of this course students should be able to:
Knowledge and understanding
Show a developed knowledge and understanding of literature of the period 1970-2000, its formal and stylistic diversity, its critical reception, and the contexts of its production, along with some knowledge of critical/theoretical discourse of this period.
Demonstrate skills of close reading and analysis of literary texts, alongside skills of appropriate research and critical argument.
Locate and employ library and web-based materials in support of a developed critical argument, plan a project and meet a deadline.
Transferable skills and personal qualities
Demonstrate enhanced verbal and written communication skills, with a view to clarity, concision and reasoned argument, and work well both independently (in the preparation of the assessment) and in groups (in class-based discussion exercises).
Teaching and learning methods
One three-hour seminar per week, plus optional essay tutorial, and guidance during published office hours.
Use of Blackboard:
Class handouts, extracts from critical material, relevant journal articles, readings lists and information on assessment, plus other course materials will all be posted on Blackboard.
One 6000 word essay.
Essential reading (a more detailed outline will be provided to students during Welcome Week):
J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition
Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince
Angela Carter, The Passion of New Eve
Pat Barker, Union Street
Martin Amis, Money
Alan Hollinghurst, The Swimming-Pool Library
A.S. Byatt, Possession
Hanif Kureishi, The Black Album
Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves [excerpts]
Zadie Smith, White Teeth
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Kaye Mitchell||Unit coordinator|
|Christopher Vardy||Unit coordinator|