Related Courses: Contemporary British Fiction (English 356 B, Washington and Lee University)

Professor Suzanne Keen
office: Payne Hall 32A
phone: 463-8759
email: [email protected]

Conflict and Memory in Contemporary British Fiction

This course focuses on novels of the 1970s and 1980s by writers of three generations. By focusing on two decades out of the fifty years since World War II, we study novels by writers at different stages in their careers, and confront issues in the study of the contemporary. The techniques of narrative fiction and theories of the novel will be emphasized. Cultural and historical context will be integrated into discussion by means of lectures and study questions. We examine provincial and metropolitan fiction, naturalistic, allegorical, historical, and experimental narratives, as well as variants of nineteenth-century models such as the bildungsroman, the "loose baggy monster" novel of multiple plots, and the philosophical novel.

Requirements: completion of all reading on time (see page numbers on syllabus); faithful attendance and participation (20%); study questions and quizzes (10%); an hourly exam (10%); final exam (20%); and either two 8-10 pp. essays (20% each), or, with permission, one 15-20 pp. seminar paper (40%).

Martin Amis, Time's Arrow
Pat Barker, Regeneration
A.S. Byatt, Possession
Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child
Iris Murdoch, The Philosopher's Pupil
Salman RushdieSalman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
Graham Swift, Waterland
Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit


F 9/12 Introduction

M 9/15 Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day, 1-44
W 9/17 Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day, 45-126
F 9/19 Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day, 129-245

M 9/22 Swift, Waterland, 1-109
W 9/24 Swift, Waterland, 109-213
F 9/26 Skylark Retreat: no class

M 9/29 Swift, Waterland, 213-358


W 10/1 Barker, Regeneration, 1-74
F 10/3 Barker, Regeneration, 77-145

M 10/6 Barker, Regeneration, 149-252
W 10/8 Amis, Time's Arrow, 1-69
F 10/10 Amis, Time's Arrow, 69-165

M 10/13 hourly exam
W 10/15 Rushdie, Midnight's Children, 1-54

Reading Days: no class. Read 55-247 of Midnight's Children

M 10/20 Rushdie, Midnight's Children, 249-366
W 10/22 Rushdie, Midnight's Children, 367-458
F 10/24 Rushdie, Midnight's Children, 459-552

M 10/27 Lessing, The Fifth Child, 1-75
8-10 pp. paper (#1) due in class ( approx. 2500 words)
W 10/29 Lessing, The Fifth Child, 75-133
F 10/31 Carter, The Bloody Chamber. Consult handout.


M 11/3 Carter, The Bloody Chamber. Consult handout.
W 11/5 Carter, The Bloody Chamber. Consult handout.
F 11/7 Murdoch, The Philosopher's Pupil, 9-102

M 11/10 Murdoch, The Philosopher's Pupil, 103-218
W 11/12 Murdoch, The Philosopher's Pupil, 219-328
F 11/14 Murdoch, The Philosopher's Pupil, 329-422

M 11/17 Murdoch, The Philosopher's Pupil, 423-558
W 11/19 Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, 1-89
F 11/21 Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, 93-176

Thanksgiving Break


M 12/1 Byatt, Possession, 1-76
W 12/3 Byatt, Possession, 77-165
15-20 pp. paper due in class (approx. 5000 words)
F 12/5 Byatt, Possession, 166-259

M 12/8 Byatt, Possession, 260-357
W 12/10 Byatt, Possession, 358-451
F 12/12 Byatt, Possession, 452-555
8-10 pp. paper (#2) due in class (approx. 2500 words)

Policies: Please take paper deadlines seriously. I mark down a third of a grade a day for late work. Keep a hard copy of every paper. Don�t trust your disc, hard drive, or neighbor�s hard drive as a back-up. If I should misplace a paper, I will expect you to provide another copy of your essay immediately.

Drafts: I am always willing to read and comment upon drafts of papers before the paper deadline.

Format: Please consult Diana Hacker, A Writer�s Reference (or Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 4th ed.) for a rundown on MLA style. Once cited, use parenthetical references for citations of the novel�s page numbers. Use normal (one inch) margins and double-spacing. No essay is complete without page numbers. If you do not know how to make your word-processor number your pages, please write the numbers on by hand. A normal typed page has between 250 and 300 words: Courier, New York, or Palatino 12 are appropriate fonts. (Times 12 creates a page of approximately 375-400 words: you may use it, but adjust length accordingly). Use your word-processor�s word count feature, or check one page and estimate the length of your essay. Overly long essays will fare no better than overly short essays.

Resources: Histories of contemporary Britain, critical studies, collections of interviews, and articles are available at Leyburn Library. On the stacks you will find critical studies of some of the writers in this course, as well as their other novels. Much of the criticism of contemporary fiction can be located in periodicals (in bound volumes), on microfilm, and on Nexis. Nexis comes in handy for finding interviews, reviews, and news about writers in the US, British, and international English-language press. You might also consult Book Review Digest, a collection of reviews in brief, organized by year, and the volumes of Contemporary Literary Criticism.

Last Modified: 14 March, 2002