If you asked me now who I am, the only answer I could give with any certainty would be my name... For the rest: my loves, my hates, down even to my deepest desires, I can no longer say whether these emotions are my own, or stolen from those I once so desperately wished to be.
—Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
interdisciplinary course surveys the literature and history of Great Britain throughout the twentieth century. Readings for this course will combine historical scholarship with literature and primary source documents from different periods in the development of Modern Britain.
The goals of the course are to introduce students to the basics of historical research and analysis as well as to literary criticism and theory. Students will be given an overall narrative of 20th-century history with attention to competing interpretations and key themes in scholarship. The study of literature will introduce students to major developments in 20th-century British literature and how British society and politics both contributed to and were affected by these developments. The interdisciplinary approach will train students to appreciate works of literature for their importance as historical texts as well for their literary value. It will also challenge students to consider the role of fiction, language, and literary imagery in the creation of historical memory.
Our literary study will focus on four important novels: Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts (1941), Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945), Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen (1974), and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005). In addition, we will read poetry, correspondence, essays, and manifestos by war poets such as Wilfred Owen, social critics such as George Orwell, and members of the interwar London avant-garde including Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Wyndham Lewis. Postwar writers will include, in addition to novelists, poets such as Una Marson, Philip Larkin and Alice Oswald. Historical topics will include the First World War; Interwar politics, society and class dynamics; British involvement in the Spanish Civil War; British society in the Second World War; building the welfare state; postwar decolonization and immigration; popular culture in the 1960s and 70s; Thatcherism and its political and cultural consequences; and and multicultural British society going into the 21st century.
This course requires sophomore standing or higher and counts toward both the history and English majors. Students from all disciplines are welcome.