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British Literature, post-1945


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Professor Roger Luckhurst
  • Assessment: one non-assessed exercise (0%) and two 2500-word essays (50% each)

Module description

This module examines the cultural history of post-war Britain through the lens of some of the principal writers of the era. We will get all mournful about the end of aristocracy, worry a fair bit about God or Big Brother, explore the end of Empire, examine the new postcolonial cultures of London, and think about class, revolutionary uprisings and the coming of the Triffids, and worry that we are finding car crashes a bit too sexy.

The module also aims to explore some of the key modes of writing and movements that emerged in the wake of Modernism: the return of Realism, the 1950s 'Golden Age' of genre fiction, the neo-avant-garde writing of the 1960s, feminist critique, Postmodernism and the new generation of experimentalists that began writing as the 'post-war consensus' collapsed.

We will read the following texts:

  • Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (1954)
  • Martin Amis, Money (1984)
  • J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition (1970)
  • Samuel Beckett, The Expelled, The Calmative, The End, with First Love, ed. Christopher Ricks (London: Faber 2009)
  • Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (1962)
  • Angela Carter, The Passion of New Eve (1977)
  • J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace (1999)
  • Daphne Du Maurier, The Birds (1952)
  • John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969)
  • Alan Garner, The Red Shift (1973)
  • Seamus Heaney, North (1975) or in Collected Poetry
  • M. John Harrison, short story 'Running Down' (in Things That Never Happen)
  • Ted Hughes, Crow (1970)
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (1989)
  • Philip Larkin, The Less Deceived
  • Doris Lessing, The Grass is Singing (1950)
  • Ian McEwan, First Love, Last Rites
  • John McGahern, Amongst Women (1990)
  • George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948)
  • Selections from Sylvia Plath, Ariel (1963) (or in Collected Poetry)
  • Jean Rhys, The Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
  • Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (1997)
  • Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (1981)
  • Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners (1956)
  • Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (1945)
  • John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids (1951)

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to understand literature of the post-war era through the conceptual, historical and formal frameworks provided.