What is the course about?
Few would dispute the audacity or ingenuity of both writers’ contributions to the art of the modern novel, or the sheer scale of their ambition. Orhan Pamuk’s fictional world, centred almost entirely on Istanbul, constitutes a dizzying succession of works that have resulted – according to many in the West including the Nobel Prize committee – in his becoming the foremost literary interpreter of Turkey’s conflicted political and religious manoeuverings from the sultanate to Kemalism to Erdogan. The younger Milan Kundera likewise offered a scathing dissection of the brutalities of life under Communist rule, until his abrupt departure and re-emergence as a naturalised French citizen between 1975 and 1981. His insistence thereafter on being a French writer, writing in French and aspiring to a place in the European pantheon – and some withering diatribes against Czech provincialism – have meant that, like the ‘cosmopolitan stooge’ Pamuk, he has always had an uneasy relationship with the forces of nationalism at home. This course maps the routes taken by both writers in their search for a Western-oriented literary identity by selecting and reading closely the novels that, in each case, best exemplify how that transformation was achieved.
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.
What will we cover?
Our main texts for Pamuk will be: The White Castle (1990), My Name is Red (2001) and The Red-Haired Woman (2017). Each in turn explores the plight of a divided consciousness that retains aspects of Turkish traditionalism while reaching towards intellectual enlightenment and modernity. We will also refer frequently by way of essential context to Istanbul: A Memoir (2005), Pamuk’s love letter to the city and to his own upbringing in which he avows, optimistically, of his fellow citizens ‘I speak for them all’. The Kundera texts are: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978), Immortality (1990) and ‘Slowness’ (1995), charting the evolution of a personal style that abandons social realism – especially that of the author’s brilliant earliest novel, The Joke – for the playfulness and philosophical irony with which he is now most associated. All the named texts are published by Faber and Faber, and two out of three in each case are relatively short, enabling a more concentrated discussion.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Place the works discussed in the wider contexts of their societies, the writers’ careers and biographies, and the literary traditions they draw upon
• Discuss each novel with confidence, literary awareness and in detail
• Identify the aspects of Pamuk and Kundera that have most intrigued you and which you would like to pursue further in your own reading.
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, power point, video and audio clips. Small group or pairwork will be encouraged and there will also be plenary feedback and discussion. There will be opportunities to express why individually we are participating on the course and what we hope to take away from it. No work outside class apart from any reading of one or more of the featured texts you are able to do beforehand.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Texts to borrow or buy are:
1.The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk (Faber & Faber)
2.My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk (Faber & Faber)
3.The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera (Faber & Faber)
4.Slowness by Milan Kundera (Faber & Faber)
It would be helpful if you could read the first of the named texts before coming to class.
The tutor will also provide samples from any other works that feature in class discussions.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look up Literature courses in the prospectus under Humanities or on the website under History, Culture and Writing at www.citylit.ac.uk.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details