English 439

ENGL 439
Modern British Literature

Catalog Entry

ENGL 439. Modern British Literature
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisite: CORE 101 and CORE 102

Study of works of British writers of first half of 20th century and appraisal of outstanding literary tendencies of the age.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course focuses on the study of a wide range of works by British writers from the first half of the twentieth century and beyond. Writers include poets, fiction writers, essayists, critics, and others from England, Ireland, and other nations within, associated with, or once part of the British Commonwealth (e.g., India, nations of Africa and the Caribbean, Canada, etc., excluding the United States). Readings can also include works of scholarship, criticism, and commentary on such writers, as well as works of literary theory useful for understanding the discipline and the period.

The course explores how literature informs and is informed by the cultural contexts of the 20th century. It addresses the large context of modernity and its permutations including modernism, anti-modernism, feminism, Marxism, popular culture, and the beginnings of post-modernism.

The course aims at an in-depth overview of the texts and contexts of modern British literature. The period is long and affords a large selection of texts.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The format of the course is a combination of large and small group discussion, student presentations and panel discussions before the whole class, and some lecture. Large group discussions take up texts read in common by the whole group. Small group discussions engage specific problems or issues involving these texts, and also provide opportunities to discuss and plan individual and small-group presentations and panel discussions. Presentations and panel discussions address particular works or topics chosen by students, individually and in small groups, and are aimed at informing the rest of the students in the class who did not read those particular works or pursue those topics. Lectures will present essential material about history and theory not available in the assigned texts. Writing and speaking requirements provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning in the course. They may include, but need not be limited to, the following list of requirements: reading logs, critical essays, individual and small group presentations or panel discussions, scholarly research papers, and quizzes and examinations:

  • Reading logs are informal or exploratory writing about each of the student's readings, which should demonstrate that students have read and thought about the texts, and which should serve as initial explorations of ideas for other work.
  • Critical essays develop ideas generated in class discussions and reading logs about particular texts or topics. Essay topics can be developed in and approved by small groups and the instructor.
  • Individual or group oral presentations or panel discussions will present information and ideas about texts or topics students have chosen from a list provided at the beginning of term. Students may submit written plans in advance of their presentations, as well as notes, outlines, and other written materials on their presentations.
  • The scholarly research paper is, typically, a 10-15 page scholarly paper on a topic, writer, or group of writers of the student's choice. The paper should be of the kind presented at regional or national conferences of student and professional scholars, and should demonstrate research in outside sources and commentary suitable for such a forum.
  • Finally, instructors may elect to require quizzes or tests, short answer or essay.


Goals and Objectives of Course

Given that the time period covered by "modern British literature" is so large and the definition of "British" adopted is broad enough to include works produced outside Great Britain herself, a "coverage" objective for the course would be impractical. At most, the course can introduce students to the wide range of texts and authors of the modern British period, produced by writers within or associated with the Commonwealth (excluding the U.S.). Students should become familiar with the diversity of literature produced during the period--from dominant trends such as "modernism" to oppositional writing such as feminism and "anti-modernism." Individual courses or instructors could pursue the general goal of introducing students to the diversity of modern British literature in a variety of ways: through selection of texts according to common theme; according to social and political relations; or according to principles of cultural diversity. Ideally, the course should expose students to as much of the period as feasible in one semester: great works, marginalized authors, other aspects of culture, history, society, politics, etc. A fundamental principle of the course should be that one cannot understand "modern British literature" as a limited canon of special texts, but that it constitutes and is constituted by ethnic, sexual, and social diversity or difference.

In addition to these general goals and objectives, the course is designed to help students improve the skills of writing and speaking from within the discipline of English. Students develop research skills which enable them to find information on the period and the literature, to distinguish important critical issues and ideas about the period, and to write with authority on topics in modern British literature.


Assessment Measures

Students have several and diverse opportunities to demonstrate their acquisition of knowledge and the meeting of course goals and objectives. Assessment of their performance is based upon evaluation of reading logs, critical essays, oral presentations and class participation, scholarly research projects, and quizzes and examinations:

  • Reading logs are assessed on how well they demonstrate that students have read and understood assigned readings, and on the originality and thoughtfulness of the ideas presented in the log.
  • Critical essays must conform to the same criteria of assessment as the logs, with the additional criteria of formal and effective writing. In addition to these requirements, scholarly research papers are expected to demonstrate research capability and organization and synthesis of outside data.
  • Oral presentations are assessed on effectiveness of public speaking, effort and preparedness, thoroughness within confines of timed presentation, organization of material.
  • Finally, quizzes and examinations assess level of learning of content of the course and ability to make connections among texts and topics.

In general, the assignments and activities of the course will allow students to demonstrate their acquisition of knowledge about modern British literature, and their ability to speak and write from within the discipline of English and the perspective of modern British studies.


Other Course Information


Review and Approval

October, 2009