What is the course about?
The second half of the twentieth century was a time of unprecedented change in Britain, most notably in the changing role of women in society and the rise of multiculturalism through immigration. While these themes are reflected in many authors’ work, the memory of the past was also a common preoccupation, particularly as the legacy of two world wars continued to exert an influence and Britain adjusted to its new post-colonial reality. On this course we will trace these social and historical forces through representative literature from each decade. While only scratching the surface, these texts will not only show change over time but also point to important British themes of class anxiety, the pressure of society on the individual, the effects of second-wave feminism on women’s lives, character traits such as reserve and loyalty, and the assimilation of new cultures and ethnicities into daily life. At the same time the texts will be enjoyed and analysed as varied examples of styles ranging from the evocative prose of L.P. Hartley, the lyric poetry of Philip Larkin, the snappy short fiction of Fay Weldon, the dramatic irony of Kazuo Ishiguro, and the narrative exuberance of Zadie Smith.
Lewis Ward is a London-based teacher and editor. His PhD (University of Exeter) focused on history, memory and trauma in contemporary narratives. He has taught at four UK universities, covering most literary periods and genres along the way.
What will we cover?
• British Class: L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953)
• British Provincialism: Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings (1964)
• British Feminism: Fay Weldon, ‘Weekend’ (1978)
• British Character: Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (1989)
• British Multiculturalism: Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000).
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Recognise and respond to the works of the writers
• Analyse and discuss the work in an informed manner
• Identify ways in which different literary texts explore characters and ideas and comment on culture and society.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
• Anyone with an interest in the subject is welcome.
• You will need an enthusiasm for reading and discussing a range of texts in large and small groups.
• You should be willing and able to do some reading outside the class.
• You should be interested in listening to, and learning from, the responses of other students to the work discussed.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The classes will be highly participatory and interactive, with a combination of pair and group work, close reading exercises and class discussion. We will make use of mixed media including film and artworks along with the texts themselves. While the tutor will provide expert guidance and knowledge, your own responses and ideas will be to the fore.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You will need to buy or borrow copies of the following (recommended editions in brackets):
L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between (Penguin Modern Classics, 2004 ISBN 978-0141187785)
Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings (Faber, 2001 ISBN 978-0571097104)
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (Faber, 2010 ISBN 978-0571258246)
Zadie Smith, White Teeth (Penguin, 2001 ISBN 978-0140276336)
The short story by Fay Weldon will be provided at the beginning of the course, but feel free to look for a copy in an anthology beforehand. It is also available online at https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/weekend.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other Literature courses under History, Culture and Writing at www.citylit.ac.uk.