Contemporary Scottish Fictions: Ali Smith, Jenni Fagan and Douglas Stuart
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT07
Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)
What is the course about?
This online literature course will be concerned, above all, with the close reading of three novels: Summer, by Ali Smith, Luckenbooth, by Jenni Fagan and Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart. We’ll pay special attention to the ways in which they draw upon and reinvent essential traditions in Scottish fiction, from 19th century Gothic, psychological and social realism to the modernist strand of formal eclecticism and openness to the cosmopolitan.
We’ll also investigate their indebtedness to the achievements of the Scottish literary revival of the 1980s and beyond – major figures such as Alasdair Gray, Agnes Owens, James Kelman, Irvine Welsh, who opened up of new subject matters and new informalities of language. Continuities, in terms of the social ills we’ll see urgently reflected in the latest wave of novels certainly abound, not least those of social deprivation and inequality. We’ll revel in their sheer imaginative and linguistic brio but also identify what it is in the writers’ personal backgrounds and experiences – and ongoing development as makers of fiction -that has contributed to the visions they now offer of their surrounding worlds. What is it about cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow that can generate such a sense of deep belonging and, at the same time, condemnation? And what happens to the Scottish novel when it steps out into the broader currents of an island gone awry?
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
-Summer, the culmination of Ali Smith’s ‘Seasons’ Quartet, triggered (as she told Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh Festival in 2018) the need to deal head-on with “the darkest times that I’ve ever lived in”. Smith drew on the models of other artists, other women, and especially wartime refugees, demonstrating a profound belief in the value of art and the untapped potential of the young despite Brexit, climate change and Covid.
-Luckenbooth is Fagan’s 100 year history of a single Edinburgh tenement, a scandalous cocktail of heroic, diabolical, suprahuman females wrestling with the city’s corrupt, tentacular bureaucracy.
-Stuart’s Shuggie Bain is a relentless traversal of post-industrial, 80’s Glasgow, with its decimated mining communities, alcoholism, and blighted families that somehow manage, at every turn, to celebrate the transcendent power of human love.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Discuss the narrative methods of the featured novelists with some critical sophistication
• Place them against the backdrop of Scottish literary and social history
• Proceed with an informed sense of direction to further reading in the contemporary Scottish novel and in Scottish literature as a whole.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No previous knowledge is required. Anyone who enjoys close reading and is willing to take part in discussion is welcome.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
There will be a variety of teaching methods, including direct tutor input, powerpoint, and group discussion, with opportunities to express why individually we are participating on the course and what we hope to take away from it. No work outside the class except preparatory reading.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
We will be looking closely at passages the tutor will send digitally before each class, but if you wish to buy all or any of the named texts to read beforehand that will certainly aid discussion: Summer (Penguin, 2021), Luckenbooth (Windmill Books, 2021), and Shuggie Bain (Picador, 2021) – all are available in paperback.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please look for other poetry courses at www.citylit.ac.uk/courses under History, Culture and Writing/literature/fiction.
Stephen Winfield has lectured in English for over thirty years. He taught Language and Literature at Richmond upon Thames College in Twickenham from 1989 to 2017, and was Coordinator of the International Baccalaureate there from 2004 to 2016. He has also lectured in English Literature at the University of Katowice in Poland and taught Business English in Paris. He has taught a range of EFL courses at Richmond College, for the Bell School of Languages, the Sinoscope Project at Kings College London and the BBC Summer School. He has taught classes in English, American and International Literature at City Lit since 2014.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.