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Unit information: Literature 1940-1970: Writing After War, After Modernism in 2015/16

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Unit name Literature 1940-1970: Writing After War, After Modernism
Unit code ENGLM0035
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Wootten
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit focuses on literature written in English in the post-war period. Reading texts against the background of the Second World War, the Cold War, and the great cultural and sociological changes of the period, the unit will offer the chance to study continuities with and challenges to high modernism, and to investigate the alternatives offered to modernist modes by the resurgence of realist and traditionalist models, on the one hand, and by the rise of postmodernism, on the other. The unit will consider writing that responds to Auschwitz, the hydrogen bomb and the emergence of Welfare State democracy, and that chronicles the rise of consumerism and the mass media, the dismantling of Empire and the rise of new, postcolonial realities. The period 1940-1970 presented new challenges to the writer and new ways of answering them, and the unit examines a range of authors in order to build a complex picture of the writing of the period. Writers studied might include Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Keith Douglas, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Doris Lessing and Muriel Spark.

Intended learning outcomes

1. A broadened experience of the range and variety of writing from the period 1940-69.

2. Improved independent critical thinking about literature of the period.

3. A maturing ability to apply critical, social and cultural contexts to the discussion of mid-twentieth century English literature.

4. Developing an appropriate style of critical writing for the discussion and analysis of literary works.

5. Improving existing skills through independent reading, research and writing on defined texts and topics.

Teaching details

8 x 2-hour seminar, 1 reading week, 11 Consultation Hours

Assessment Details

1 essay of 4,000 words which would assess the standards reached of the abilities and knowledge listed in learning objectives 1-4; a class presentation (of c.1000 words).

Reading and References

Katharine Cockin and Jago Morrison, eds., 'The Post-war British Literature Handbook' (London: Continuum, 2010)

Nigel Alderman and C. D. Blanton,eds., 'A Concise Companion to Post-war British and Irish Poetry (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009)

Brian W. Shaffer, 'A Companion to the British and Irish Novel, 1945-2000', (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005)

Alan Sinfield, 'Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain' (1997; London: Continuum, 2004)

Magali Cornier Michael, 'Feminism and the Postmodern Impulse: Post-World-War II Fiction' (Albany: State University of New York, 1996)

Lorna Sage, 'Women in the House of Fiction: Post-War Women Novelists' (Macmillan, 1992)