Course Policies for English 3809

In this course, we will explore the exciting genesis of new fictions that emerged in Britain after World War II. Specifically, we will look at how British writers start transforming the role of the novel to encompass the economic, political, and social crises of the late 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and beyond (from the rise of political violence in Northern Ireland, to the Cold War fears of nuclear warfare, to global terrorism). We will encounter significant theoretical currents of the contemporary such as postmodernism, feminism, postcolonialism, and existentialism.

Not only will we study British writers, but we will also consider how other British artists use mediums such as film, video, and music to explore and evaluate the vast socio-political and economic changes to their environment. Our primary texts will be a variety of intriguing novels, films, and generous considerations of popular music from the punk, post-punk, synth-electronica, new wave, and independent music movements in Britain, ranging from the Sex Pistols to Radiohead. Course requirements: two papers, weekly responses to online forum, active discussion, midterm and final examinations.

Required Texts:

  • Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance” (class handout)
  • J. G. Ballard, Crash
  • Martin Amis, Dead Babies
  • Angela Carter, Passion of New Eve
  • Pat Barker, Union Street & Blow Your House Down
  • David Mitchell, Black Swan Green
  • Margaret Thatcher, “To Conservative Rally, Cheltenham (July 1982)” (D2L)
  • Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory
  • Robert McLiam Wilson, Eureka Street

Note: We will most likely *not* be reading Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Required Films:

  • Alan Clarke, Elephant
  • Ken Loach, Hidden Agenda
  • Shane Meadows, This Is England (time permitting)

Required Music:

  • Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks
  • Joy Division, Closer
  • The Cure, Pornography
  • The Specials, Ghost Town
  • Generous selections from the punk, post-punk, synth-electronica, and new wave music scenes (all music available via this class web site.

Required Attendance, Materials & Editions:

  • Check e-mail daily
  • Visit class website frequently (use Firefox, Safari, or Chrome browsers
  • Use text editions found at Textbook Rental
  • Attend class and participate daily in class discussions
  • Listen to all assigned music carefully
  • Attend all film screenings
  • Additional course readings via class handouts or D2L


  • Paper #1 (5-7 pages): 15%
  • Term paper (8-10 pages): 30%
  • Attendance & Participation: 20%
  • Précis for Long Paper: 15%
  • Final Exam: 20%

Content Warning:
Contemporary, and especially postmodern, texts often use violence and disturbing misappropriations of sex (rape and other forms of sexual abuse) as a way to get readers’ attention and tell stories that represent realities and challenges they see in their worlds. Some of our texts may prove either emotionally painful for or morally offensive to you. If you’re unwilling to read such material, please consider switching to another course. If you consider this literature worth reading but find yourself upset by it, always feel free to talk to me during my office hours, and to bring up your concerns during class if you’re comfortable.

Specific Assignments:
All papers should be double spaced, in 12-point, Times New Roman or Cambria font, with 1” (top/bottom) and 1.25” (left/right) margins. Make sure to include your name, course name, professor’s name, and date on the front page; a title for your paper; and your name and page numbers in the headers of the paper. Staple your papers.

The Short Paper (5-7 pages): You must choose to write about one of the novels we have covered in the first half of the course. You should identify a specific topic of interest to you in the novel and develop an argument that interprets that aspect of the novel. For example, you may wish to discuss the treatment of a certain character or theme, the use of a recurring image, motif, or word/phrase in a given work, but make sure your topic is focused. Remember, this is a short paper that must present a convincing interpretation of the work you have chosen. Outside research is not required for this paper; it should simply be your analysis of the text(s) at hand.

The Term Paper (7-10 pages): This paper still requires you to close read and analyze a novel or film from class, but your choice of text must be different from the choice of your first paper. Outside research is required for this paper (at least two sources). You must cite your sources in MLA format.

For those of you pursuing careers in teaching high school English, you may choose to make your term paper a critical explanation of a unit lesson or teaching idea based on contemporary British literature and art that you would use in the classroom. Since some of our course material may not be allowed in high school classrooms (e.g., Crash), you can choose a text and/or film not covered in class (e.g., The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Siobhan Dowd's Bog Child, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, etc.). If you pursue this project idea, please consult with me first.

Regarding research for the term paper, you should strive to incorporate outside research into this paper and enter into (or create) a scholarly debate on your text. Acceptable sources include peer-reviewed academic (historical, theoretical, literary studies or film studies, philosophical, etc.) books or articles from professional presses or journals. Make use of Booth Library’s in-house catalog of books and check electronic databases via Booth Library’s “Magazine and Journal Articles” link to find academic articles (e.g., MLA International Bibliography, JSTOR, Academic Search Complete, Humanities International Complete, or Project Muse). When using outside research, cite your sources in MLA format.

Failure to cite any outside sources or critics will constitute plagiarism.