English 570.02/Engl 404.04 Contemporary British Fiction                 Spring 2009                  

Stephan Flores (sflores@uidaho.edu)                                              

2:00-3:15 p.m. TR ALB 203                                                       

http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~sflores/                                885-6147

MW 1:30-2:30 p.m. & by appt.                                                     315 Commons

 

 

Course description: We'll explore contemporary "British" novels that represent different strands of fiction (including narrative styles/structures) and legacies of history, culture, and politics. The novels of post-WWII and post-empire Britain engage with emerging social and class structures, racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender relations, and questions of national and postcolonial identities. Course work includes a discussion starter question/comment on each novel, a critical response, several critical analyses, an ungraded exploratory abstract/prospectus for the term essay, and a term essayin other words, steady, substantial, manageable work that builds in cumulative fashion over the course of the semester.

 

Required texts:

 

Ishiguro, Kasuo. The Remains of the Day (Vintage reprint ed. 1990)

 

Davies, Peter Ho. The Welsh Girl (Mariner Books pbk. edition, 2008)

 

Hensher, Philip. The Northern Clemency (Knopf, 2008)

 

Barry, Sebastian. The Secret Scripture (Viking, 2008)

 

Coetzee, J. M. Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II (Penguin pbk. edition, 2003)

 

Criticism and texts on modern and postwar British history available on library reserve.

 

Requirements:

 

1. Five written Discussion Starters: a thesis or problem-driven/question-posing inquiry (approximately 150 words) on each novel. A discussion-starter may include but does not require some degree of explicating commentary: an explication presents a meticulous close reading (annotation) to provide a questioning sense of the text's meanings, methods, and implications. The explication is explanatory and implicitly argumentative: an occasion for you to clarify and advance your interpretation of the passage and its function. However, rather than focus exclusively on a particular passage, a Discussion Starter may in contrast to an explication, address broader topics through specific examples. Discussion Starters present a means for you and the class to share enthusiasms and doubts as you delve into the novel’s significance, methods, and effects. No late entries—Discussion Starters are due in class ('typed' hard copy): We'll divvy up when each entry is due, so that nearly every class session incorporates one or more students' thoughtful responses to that day's portion of the novel slotted for discussion (see syllabus below for these assigned days). Incomplete or insufficient discussion-starter entries will be counted against your semester grade (see below).

 

2. Critical Response (350 words, single-spaced, titled) on The Remains of the Day, that identifies something in/about the novel for analysis/discussion that you find intriguing/important/useful, and starts to explore its significance; your response may address an implied or explicit question that you determine, and should include a reasoned, interpretative claim on some aspect of Ishiguro's novel. You may, for example, wish to do a bit of research on this novel or the issue in question, and graduate students are particularly encouraged to do this, but incorporating or making reference to scholarship/critical commentary on the novel is not required for this critical response.

 

3. Critical Analyses (750 words for #1, 850 words for #2 & #3, double-spaced, titled) explore a significant issue and rhetorical strategy that you identify in relation to cultural, historical, or theoretical/narrative contexts and concerns, for Davies's, Hensher's, and Barry's novels. Your topic may be prompted in part by our discussions, by published scholarship/criticism, and of course by your reactions and understanding. A sharply focused analysis may contain the kernel of a hypothesis and topic that could serve as the cornerstone or shaping idea for a longer essay, such as the Term Essay. Your analysis can be quite 'thesis-driven'—that is, you may find it effective to compose a thesis for your response that maps out for readers the engaging, important points that you want to develop—or you may prefer a more reflective, question and problem-posing approach.

 

4. Term Essay: 2200 words for undergraduates for main body of essay (8 pp, excluding Works Cited page) and 3200 words for graduate students for body of essay (12 pp, excluding Works Cited page), double-spaced, 12 pt, Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, MLA format, with significant reference to at least two secondary works of criticism, such as recent articles or book chapters. This critical essay develops ideas prompted by our study, discussion, by recent scholarship, and by your perspectives. I shall attend to the ways that you select, define, and engage questions and contradictions, and to the clarity, imagination, and grace that you demonstrate in presenting your topic, (hypo)thesis, and argument, and the extent to which your work engages with, explains, and contributes to the larger 'conversation' of scholarship on the topic and novel or question under analysis. I do not always expect essays to conclude by 'solving' such problems or by 'proving' your thesis; I hope that you address interesting topics (questions for debate, interpretation, and analysis) in thoughtful and useful ways. Please feel invited to confer with me during the writing process. Note: You may draw upon and revise material from prior written work to form part of this Term Essay; but you may not, for example, cobble together two or three assignments to form this larger assignment. The Term Essay must embody and represent additional work to a substantial degree. This assignment also requires that you submit an ungraded exploratory abstract/prospectus for the term essay.

 

5. Participation: Please take advantage of opportunities to share your insights and to listen and reply to others' ideas. I hope that questions and discussions will enable you to move the class in directions you find most helpful, give you opportunities to develop critical skills through collaboration, and provide for a productive, interesting exchange of perspectives among the class. Graduate students shall also prepare in advance to lead off and facilitate discussion once during the semester. On these days you will lead off our discussion by presenting your positions on the material (with some brief summary, focus on key points in the reading, perhaps some incorporation of secondary criticism or historical research or interpretation), and by suggesting further issues the class might consider.

 

6. All required work is due at the beginning of class on the due date—work turned in late will be graded accordingly. Required graded written work will be downgraded one notch (for example, B+ to B, converted to points for each assignment) for each weekday late (not just days classes meet but counting just one day for a weekend). Work submitted more than a week late will not be accepted. I will grant short extensions for medical and family emergencies—but talk with me as soon as possible to request an extension. Always keep copies of your work.

 

7. Attendance: One or two absences will not affect your semester grade; a third absence will lower your semester total by five points, with a five-point reduction for each additional absence (four absences=minus 10 points, five absences = minus 20 points); six or more absences will cause you to fail the class, regardless of your semester point total. Almost all absences will be counted—excused or not—if something extraordinary occurs, talk to me.

 

8. Grades: Critical Response (18 pts.); Critical Analysis 1 (30 pts.); Critical Analyses 2 and 3 (40 pts. each); Term Essay (122 pts.). These required assignments add up to a maximum of 250 points. Thus 225-250 points equals an A, 200-224 equals a B, 175-199 equals a C, 150-274 equals a D, and anything below 150 merits an F. I shall also reserve a potential five bonus points based on my perceptions of the strength of your participation and efforts over the semester; in addition, incomplete or insufficient Discussion-Starter entries will be counted against your semester grade, with the loss of five points for each missing/late, or incomplete entry, to a maximum loss of 25 points.

 

9. Office hours. I encourage you to confer with me—especially before assignments are due—to talk about your interests, intentions, and writing strategies. If you cannot make my regular hours (in 315 Commons), we’ll arrange another time. I also welcome communicating with you by E-mail (sflores@uidaho.edu).

 

10. Use of laptops and cell phones during class is prohibited; occasional use of laptops—typically for group work and to access the online components of the class—may be permitted with instructor’s approval.

 

11. Do not submit work for this class that you have submitted or intend to submit for a grade in another course; as always, be careful to cite anyone else's work that you draw upon. See highlighted link on the class website to a useful guide to avoiding plagiarism, and a link to information on the university's policies regarding plagiarism.

 

Additional reference sources for further study/research: I have placed works on UI Library Reserve for this course (see further below). Do not rely upon or incorporate research from non-refereed, non-“scholarly” sources or publications.

 


Contemporary British Fiction Spring 2009 Course/Semester Schedule:

Week

Tuesday

Thursday

1

read [soon] intro. Part I "From imperial to post-imperial Britain" (1-7) and intro. Part II "From welfare state to free market" (51-55) from British culture of the postwar : an introduction to literature and society, 1945-1999. Eds. Davies and Sinfield

1/15 Postwar Britain; also see online BBC history segments on course website, esp. "The Making of Modern Britain" including Jeremy Black's essay " Britain from 1945 Onwards"

2

1/20 The Remains of the Day (3-110); DSs: Nick Cooley,William Rannals, Bethany Davis

1/22 The Remains of the Day (111-141); DSs: Christie Culp, Tanya Thomas, Kyle Miller

3

1/27 The Remains of the Day (142-228); DSs: Jackie Bennett, Joe Roberts, Kyle Gray

1/29 Critical Response (350 words) due on The Remains of the Day (conclude discussion, 229-245); DSs: Kate Watts, Danielle Yadao, Becca Payne

4

2/3 The Welsh Girl (1-69, Prologue and Chs. 1-3); browse/review BBC History site on "Home Front: World War Two"

2/5 The Welsh Girl (70-119, Chs. 4-8); optional: Kilfeather, S. "Disunited kingdom: Irish, Scottish, and Welsh writing in the postwar period" in Davies and Sinfield, British Culture of the Postwar (9-30); DSs: Jackie Bennett, Joe Roberts, Kyle Gray

5

2/10 The Welsh Girl (120-198, Chs. 9-14); DSs: Christie Culp, Tanya Thomas, Kyle Miller; British culture of the postwar : an introduction to literature and society, 1945-1999. Eds. Alistair Davies and Alan Sinfield (2000) see short chapters Part III, "Britain, Europe, and Americanisation" and Part IV "Class, consumption, and cultural institutions"

2/12 The Welsh Girl (199-246, Chs. 14-18); DSs: Kate Watts, Danielle Yadao, Becca Payne, William Rannals

6

2/17 The Welsh Girl (247-333, Chs. 19-Epilogue); Jose Harris, "Tradition and Transformation: society and civil society in Britain, 1945-2001" in Kathleen Burk’s The British Isles Since 1945 (91-125); DSs: Nick Cooley, Bethany Davis

2/19 Critical Analysis 1 due (750 words) on The Welsh Girl; begin discussion on The Northern Clemency (3-47)

7

2/24 The Northern Clemency (48-130); Sinfield, Alan. Literature, Politics, and Culture in Postwar Britain. Second ed. London: Continuum, 2004. See esp. foreword to this second edition, Introduction, and Ch. 3 Literature and Cultural Production.

2/26 The Northern Clemency (133-189); DSs: Christie Culp, Tanya Thomas, Kyle Miller

8

3/3 The Northern Clemency (190-245); Patricia Waugh', "Postmodern Fiction and the Rise of Critical Theory" A Companion to the British and Irish Novel 1945-2000

3/5 The Northern Clemency (249-283); DSs: Kate Watts, Danielle Yadao, Becca Payne

9

3/10 The Northern Clemency (287-364)

3/12 The Northern Clemency (365-416): DSs: Jackie Bennett, Joe Roberts, Kyle Gray

10

3/17 Spring Recess

3/19 Spring Recess

11

3/24 The Northern Clemency (417-540); DSs: Nick Cooley, William Rannals, Bethany Davis

 

3/26 Critical Analysis due 2 (850 words) on The Northern Clemency (also conclude discussion of novel, 541-597)

12

3/31 The Secret Scripture (3-60); additional reading on Irish society and history to be assigned; also browse/review BBC site on Northern Ireland: including "The Road to Northern Ireland, 1167 to 1921" and "The Troubles, 1963 to 1985"

4/2 The Secret Scripture (61-108); DSs: Kate Watts, Danielle Yadao, Becca Payne

13

4/7 The Secret Scripture (109-184); DSs: Nick Cooley, William Rannals, Bethany Davis

4/9 The Secret Scripture (185-216); DSs: Christie Culp, Tanya Thomas, Kyle Miller

14

4/14 The Secret Scripture (219-281); DSs: Jackie Bennett, Joe Roberts, Kyle Gray

 

4/16 Critical Analysis due 3 (850 words) on The Secret Scripture (282-300)

15

4/21 Youth: Scenes from Provincial Life II (1-63); DSs: Nick Cooley, William Rannals, Bethany Davis

4/23 Youth (64-104); Prospectus for Term Essay due (350-500 words, titled, double-spaced); DSs: Christie Culp, Tanya Thomas, Kyle Miller

16

4/28 Youth (105-150); DSs: Jackie Bennett, Joe Roberts, Kyle Gray

4/30 Youth (151-169); DSs: Kate Watts, Danielle Yadao, Becca Payne

17

5/5 Term Essay presentations: Undergraduates

5/7 Term Essay Presentations: Undergraduates

18

5/11 Term Essay due; 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (Monday) Final Class Meeting/Term Essay

Presentations: Graduate Students

 

Additional resources, including some of the following to be placed on library reserve:

 

Burk, Kathleen, ed. The British Isles Since 1945. Oxford UP, 2003.

 

Clarke, Peter. Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000. Second ed. Penguin, 2004.

 

Bradford, Richard. The Novel Now: Contemporary British Fiction. (Blackwell, 2007)

A companion to the British and Irish novel 1945-2000 (2005). Ed. Brian W. Shaffer, including Patricia Waugh's chapter "Postmodern Fiction and the Rise of Critical Theory"

 

British Fiction Today, eds. Rod Mengham and Philip Tew (Continuum, Jan. 2007)

 

Contemporary British fiction (2003) edited by Richard Lane, Rod Mengham, and Philip Tew

 

Head, Dominic. The Cambridge introduction to modern British fiction, 1950-2000 (2002)--on reserve

 

A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction. Ed. James English (Blackwell, 2005) pbk ISBN: 9781405120012

ISBN10: 1405120010

 

Lee, Alison. Realism and power : postmodern British fiction (1990)

 

Parkes, Adam. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (Continuum, 2001)--on reserve, and see my notes on Parkes's study, plus copy of an interview with Parkes.

 

Other Britain, other British : contemporary multicultural fiction (1995) edited by A. Robert Lee

 

British culture of the postwar : an introduction to literature and society, 1945-1999. Eds. Alistair Davies and Alan Sinfield (2000) --on reserve, see esp. introduction to Part I “From imperial to post-imperial Britain” (1-7) and introduction to Part II “From welfare state to free market” (51-55)—see also third edition of Sinfield’s Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain (Continuum, 2007)

 

Sinfield, Alan. Literature, Politics, and Culture in Postwar Britain. Second ed. London: Continuum, 2004. See esp. foreword to this second edition, Introduction, and Ch. 3 Literature and Cultural Production.

 

Shaffer, Brian W. Understanding Kazuo Ishiguro (1998)--on reserv

 

Holmes, Frederick M. The historical imagination : postmodernism and the treatment of the past in contemporary British fiction (1997)

 

Wood, Michael. “The contemporary novel.” The Columbia history of the British novel (1999) Ed. John Richetti

 

Tew, Philip. Contemporary British Novel (Continuum, May 2007)

 

Brook, Stephen. Class: Knowing Your Place in Modern Britain (Gollancz, 1997)

 

Other online resources:

 

BBC profile of United Kingdom

 

BBC: British History (including brief essay by Jeremy Black on "Britain from 1945 onwards")

 

BBC: The Troubles (on Northern Ireland)

 

In response to a question/request in class, here are some resources for further explorations of critical/literary theory.

 

In addition to profile of Peter Ho Davies at link under his name above, see also text of interview from 2008.