ENGL 266 Topics in Literature


This course will provide students with a comprehensive introduction to modern, postmodern, and contemporary literary London through the lens of gender. In the course we will read and analyze a variety of canonical and non-canonical texts all of which take place in or are about London from the twentieth to the early twenty-first centuries.

Students will be encouraged to think historically, in terms of the way London and representations of the city have changed and developed over the past century; and theoretically, in terms of the way the city is mediated through gender identities, different forms and genres (e.g. poetry, novels, essays, film; satire), and the interrelationship of literary and material spaces. In addition to interrogating the significance of gender in identity formation in our class texts, we will also examine the definition of the modern metropolis as a labyrinthine city of Babylon; the influence of metropolitan culture and changing gender roles on Modernism and Modernity; assimilation versus multiculturalism; immigration; and the effects of modern spaces on individuals and gender identities. Many of the texts we will read interrogate the theme of London characters feeling “outside” the city, or not part of it metaphorically. Thus, another aim of the course is to expose students to an array of novels about or by migrants, with a view to enlivening students to the complexity, and evolving nature, of migrant experience. In these texts, we will pay special attention to affect and feeling; forms and affects of social and political agency; gender; genre and form, all of which will be contextualized within the rise of feminist literary studies and its emphasis on bodies, embodiment, and emotion.
Alongside these literary investigations, students will also learn about key concepts in gender, queer, Marxist and postcolonial theory, and they will be encouraged to think about how depictions of gender, class, race, ethnicity, nationality, and inclusivity reflect the anxieties and biases of culture at large. We will also consider other art forms and media contemporary to the texts we read, including films, art music, popular and folk song, news reels, visual arts. While broadly chronological, following representations of gender in London from the late eighteenth century to the early twenty first century, the course’s thematic focus will encourage students to consider the recurrence of particular ideas about gender, class, race, and citizenship across the decades, and across differing groups of Londoners and “outsiders.”
The course will be conducted mainly as a seminar, in which students will participate through oral presentations and class discussion, with introductory lectures when appropriate.. In class, students will be expected to incorporate critical thinking, including specific terminology, into discussions of texts. Assessed group presentations will allow students to take ownership of the materials, and to lead class discussion. Please note that this course includes texts of varying lengths, and it assumed students will do the majority of the reading before departing for London.