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Literature, Culture and Society 1914-1945


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Professor Joanna Bourke
  • Assessment: two essays of 2500 words and a three-hour examination

Module description

Between the First World War and the end of the Second World War, Britain and Ireland were in turmoil. Men and women were dismembered (both physically and psychologically) in battle, unemployed people massed in the streets, the middle classes turned for consolation to new genres of crime fiction and 'rural romances', feminists waged war against their oppressors, sexuality (including homosexuality and lesbianism) blossomed, the literary elite penned some of the greatest poems and essays of the century, and there was revolutionary fervour on both the political left and right.

In this module we focus on social and cultural history, using novels, poetry, plays, film, autobiographies and medical texts to examine British and Irish society between the wars. We do not focus on any one social group or genre but attempt to analyse similarities and differences between genres, classes and genders. We focus as much on the body and the history of medicine as we do on the social and cultural understanding of more conventional texts and films.

Indicative syllabus

  • The literature of the Great War
  • War medicine
  • Shell shock and the war neuroses
  • Death and dying
  • Sexology (heterosexuality, homosexuality and lesbianism)
  • Vivisection and the interwar animal
  • The psychology of panic
  • Feminism and romance
  • Crime fiction and the middle classes
  • The aristocracy and the countryside
  • T.S. Eliot
  • The Bloomsbury Group
  • James Joyce and Irish literature
  • Films from the First and Second World Wars
  • The new literature of political commitment
  • The Spanish Civil War