Narrating the Sunset of the British Empire: The Twentieth-Century Novel from Modernism to Postmodernism
In this course, we will read five twentieth-century novels tracing the decline of the British empire and the new narrative forms arising in its aftermath. Looking at the work of writers such as Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Samuel Selvon, and Michelle Cliff in novels traversing the spaces of Britain, Central Africa, India, and Jamaica, we will explore how the novel form registers the impact of imperial collapse, world war, global migration, and the rise of a multi-ethnic British society. As we consider the ways the novel genre provides especially deep insight into the shifting world-views and multiplicity of perspectives emerging from key historical switch-points over the last century, we will trace the rise of modernist fiction and the factors governing the novel’s slide into postmodernism.
Arts & Letters (A&L) courses create meaningful opportunities for students to engage actively in the modes of inquiry that define a discipline. Courses are broad in scope and demonstrably liberal in nature (that is, courses that promote open inquiry from a variety of perspectives). Though some courses may focus on specialized subjects or approaches, there will be a substantial course content locating that subject in the broader context of the major issues of the discipline. Qualifying courses will not focus on teaching basic skills but will require the application or engagement of those skills through analysis and interpretation.
Literature, 1789 to the present courses focus on literary work produced over more than two centuries -- from the period of British romanticism and the early republic of the United States up to now -- in order to foster familiarity with key works in British and American literary history. Literary history illustrates how literary works reflect, address, and resist the social and political environments in which they are produced as well as other works that have preceded them.
Empire, Race, and/or Ethnicity courses focus on ways that race matters in literature, media, and culture. Recent courses have examined such matters as native American literature and film; nineteenth-century writings by slavers and enslaved people in the U.S. and British colonies; fiction and filmmaking in post-apartheid South Africa; Latinx science fiction and environmental justice, and the novels of Toni Morrison.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.