This module celebrates an era of extraordinary creativity in these islands, which paradoxically occurs during one of the most troubled centuries in history. We will examine a diverse range of literature in multiple genres, produced from the First World War to the dawn of the new millennium. You will have the opportunity to read in depth some of the most enjoyable, influential, and revolutionary texts of recent times. You will explore artistic responses to an era in which ‘human character changed’, as Virginia Woolf famously put it.
You will encounter literature from across the twentieth century on this module, gaining a deeper understanding of the cultural, historical, and socio-political contexts of twentieth-century British and Irish writing. We will read an exciting selection of material that encompasses texts as different, for example, as T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. We will also track the cultural impact of historical events such as the traumas of The Great War and the 1916 Rising, through to the possibilities of the Good Friday Agreement and the opening of the Scottish Parliament. After all, the period was christened The Age of Extremes by the historian Eric Hobsbawm and is marked by intense political and military conflict, as well as rapid social and technological change.
Following on from an introductory lecture that sets the scene on early twentieth-century life and literature, the first three weeks explore the literary innovations of some of the giants of modernist poetry and fiction. In Ezra Pound’s resonant phrase, we will witness writers’ attempts to ‘make it new’. The following two weeks investigate the formal experiments of mid-century drama and the postmodern novel, while the module ends with a week each on influential recent plays, novels, and poems. In summary, you will explore literature’s responses to the fraught political, social, and technological landscapes of the twentieth century, tracing literary movements from modernism to postmodernism and beyond.
|A||Autumn Term 2020-21|
This module aims to help you to identify and contextualise a number of key developments and innovations in the literatures of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland during the twentieth century. We will do so via discussion of a series of representative texts, with in-depth close reading and careful historico-political and theoretical framing.
On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:
Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with a range of texts published in Britain and Ireland during the twentieth century.
Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with wider cultural and political developments, including issues of ideological conflict, national identity, and technological change, as well as in relation to class, gender, and race.
Examine key debates and critical contexts, including modernism and postmodernism.
Develop oral and written arguments which demonstrate a proficiency in critical thinking and research skills.
|Task||Length||% of module mark|
|Departmental - attendance requirement
1000 word research / analysis task
2500 word essay
|Task||Length||% of module mark|
Reassessment: 3000 word essay
Seminar participation mark
Key Texts for this module may include: