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Unit information: The Spanish Civil War in British and American Writing in 2015/16

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Unit name The Spanish Civil War in British and American Writing
Unit code ENGLM0045
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Kennedy-Epstein
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit enables detailed study of the British and American literature of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39),a pivotal moment in 20th-century political and cultural history. The war was the last battleground against the rise of fascism in Europe, and the defense of the Spanish Republic was a fight for progressive and left-wing ideals: it became an international war. 35,000 international volunteers joined the fight against fascism in Spain, including many prominent artists, critics, and writers. As a testing ground for modern warfare and for the technologies that documented its destructiveness (such as the 35mm camera), the battle for Spain defined a generation, as writers harnessed modernist avant-garde, documentary, and narrative techniques to respond to their time’s most urgent political crisis. We will consider novels, poetry, journalism, memoirs, and plays, exploring the shifting relationships between art and propaganda, witness and documentation, transnational solidarity and political exile that defined the period’s writings.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a detailed knowledge of British and American writing on the Spanish Civil War; (2) developed a critical understanding of the historical and political contexts of the civil war in Spain; (3) acquired an understanding of major critical approaches to war studies, modernist studies, and textual analysis; (4) demonstrated their ability to analyse and compare primary texts and critical sources; (5) strengthened their skills in academic writing, argumentation, and evaluation of evidence from primary texts and critical literature. Additionally (specific to level M), students will be expected to (6) display high level skills in evaluating, analysing, synthesising and (where apt) critiquing images and ideas; (7) apply existing analytical strategies to new evidence with flexibility and creativity; (8) demonstrate the capacity for independent research.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour seminar per week

Assessment Information

One summative essay of 4000 words and one 1000 word presentation (100%). Measures ILOs 1-8.

Reading and References

  • Valentine Cunningham, ed.,The Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War

(Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986)

  • Helen Graham, The Spanish Republic at War (1936-39) (Cambridge:

Cambridge UP, 2003)

  • Cary Nelson, ed., The Wound and the Dream: Sixty Years of American
  • Poems about the Spanish Civil War (Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois

Press, 2002)

  • George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938; Penguin Modern Classics, 2000)
  • Muriel Rukeyser, Savage Coast, ed. by Kennedy-Epstein (New York: The

Feminist Press, 2013)

  • Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas, ed. by Mark Hussey and Jane Marcus (1938;

Sussex: Harvester, 2006)