Literary London: Crises and Transformations -- ENG 1975 or *UL ENG Elective
The city of London has famously endured fire, plague, wars, pollution, rampant crime, acts of terror, and social upheaval, but it has survived, continuing to change, grow and even thrive. At least part of what we know about these events, and about the city and people who lived through them comes from works of literature. This course will focus on literature written during roughly the last 100 years, charting the particular crises of modernity: war, the collapse of the British Empire, social upheaval and immigration from former colonies. We will read stories, poems, novels, essays and plays, including works by Oscar Wilde, Jean Rhys, TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Angela Carter, Zadie Smith, and Alex Wheatle. Our goal will be to consider how each writer’s fictional dream, poetic epiphany, or eye-witness account can offer insight into the political, cultural, social, economic and aesthetic forces that have shaped the modern and contemporary city and its inhabitants. We will also use the city—its streets, buildings, parks and institutions—as a supplemental text, attending readings and performances, and following our authors (or their characters) as they visit institutions like the Victoria and Albert and the British Library, or journey through places like Hampstead Heath, the West End, Regents Park and neighborhoods like Brixton.
This course will also help you improve and expand your reading, writing and critical thinking skills—tools that you will use throughout your college career. Through class discussion you will learn to think on your feet, work together to analyze and understand the words we read, and though our writing assignments, you will further develop your ability to support your claims and to write, clear, concise essays that use both textual evidence and the imagination to communicate effectively.
*For students who have already taken ENG1975, this course will count as an upper level English elective.