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The Twentieth-Century British Novel

Course outline

This course examines works by some of the key British novelists of the twentieth century, from modernism to postmodernism, introducing students to the variety and complexity of twentieth-century writing; to the formal techniques and procedures used by twentieth-century novelists; to the linguistic issues relating to the texts; and to an awareness of the relationship between twentieth-century writing and its social and cultural context. We will make visits to current art exhibitions as they are available, as part of increasing our cultural awareness.

Teaching and learning methods

Each session will involve a variety of teaching methods, with an emphasis on group discussions, workshops and student activities, as well as the use of videos and films, and we will consider the relationship between some of the novels and their film versions. Students may be asked to prepare short presentations for particular sessions.

Coursework and assessment

Assessed component Basic requirements Weighting Deadline
Essay 2000-2500 words 60% Week 9
Examination Answer two questions 40% Week 14

Reading List

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (1945)
George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (1953)
Angela Carter, The Passion of New Eve (1977)
Martin Amis, Money (1984)
Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)

Short bibliography (by no means exhaustive)

Check the Birkbeck Main Library for other useful works. You may use any available edition.

All of the novels listed above – any edition.

  • Brannigan, John, Orwell to the Present: Literature in England 1945-2000 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2002).
  • Connor, Steven, Postmodernist Culture: An Introduction to Theories of the Contemporary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).
  • Corcoran, Neil, After Yeats and Joyce (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
  • Faulkner, Peter (ed.), A Modernist Reader Modernism in England 1910-1930 (London: Batsford, 1986).
  • Goldman, Jane, Modernism 1910-1945: Image to Apocalypse (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2004).
  • Haffenden, John, Novelists in Interview (London: Methuen, 1985).
  • Hutcheon, Linda, The Poetics of Postmodernism, and The Politics of Postmodernism (London: Routledge, 1989).
  • Lane, Richard J.; Mengham, Rod and Tew Philip, Contemporary British Fiction (Cambridge: Polity, 2003).
  • Lodge, David, The Art of Fiction (London: Penguin, 1992).
  • McHale, Brian, Postmodernist Fiction (London: Routledge, 1991).
  • Marcus, Laura, Auto/biographical Discourses (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994).
  • Mullan, John, How Novels Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • Sage, Lorna, Women in the House of Fiction (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992).
  • Waugh, Patricia, Feminine Fictions: Revisiting the Postmodern (London: Routledge, 1989).
  • Waugh, Patricia, Metafiction (London: Methuen, 1989).
  • Woolf, Virginia, Women and Writing, ed. by Michèle Barrett (London: Women's Press, 1989).