Dis-United Kingdom: Violence as Subject and Aesthetic

in British Literature since WWII

English 6115: Seminar in British Literature II

Dr. Maria Doyle


W 5:30-8, TLC 1204

Office: TLC 2248

Phone: 678-839-4853

Email: mdoyle@westga.edu

Office Hours: M 10:15-12:15, 3:30-4:30, W 11:15-12:15, 3:30-4:30 and by appt.

Virtual Office Hours: T 9-12 (log in to CourseDen and use the chat function)

Web: http://www.westga.edu/~mdoyle


Course Description:

Orwellian Newspeak posits that language controls thought: only what one has a word for can one feel. Excising words from the lexicon thus constrains consciousness, violating it and subjecting it to force just as bodies in Orwell’s text are contained, controlled and tortured into a vision of self-hood concurrent with the values of the state. This course will explore the conjunctions of these “violent” impulses – the bodily and the linguistic – in British literature since WWII. Central to this investigation will be the idea of how violence in the text serves as both a thematic and an aesthetic phenomenon: how is disruptive content related to and intensified by disruptive form? To pursue this question, the class will explore how writers have deployed postmodern experiments with narrative structure, silences and linguistic absences, and English hybridized by class-based dialect and the influence of colonized languages. Such textual disruptions will be used to explore tensions and dislocations within the concept of Britishness itself: how is the stability of this identity troubled by political conflict, class- and gender-based discourses and by the changing position of the United Kingdom in the global arena? How does the disruptive text seek to assert control over its audience’s perception? Does the text employ its dual acts of violence as forms of destruction or as vehicles of liberation, a boundary breaking that creates as it demolishes? Course texts will include fiction, poetry and drama so as to allow for a broad-based discussion of these practices.


Learning outcomes and program goals are accessible through the English Department's website at:





Research Paper (50%): Students will complete a 15-18 page research paper on a topic of their own devising related to the course material. Papers will be preceded by a two-page prospectus that will outline the primary text or pair of texts and major secondary sources the student plans to use and set out the tentative argument of the essay as a whole. Complete papers will follow current MLA guidelines. Approach this paper as a preliminary version of an academic article, your entry into the conversation represented by the secondary works on this seminar syllabus. The prospectus will be due several weeks before the finished project. As a preliminary exercise, it will not be graded, but I will offer commentary on your proposed topic and suggestions for further research; failure to turn in a prospectus on time will have an effect on your grade for the completed essay. Final papers will be assessed on the depth of your argument, your use of research materials and the quality of your writing.


Seminar Participation (15%): In a graduate seminar, active participation in discussions is of great importance. Students should have read assigned material before class meetings and must attend regularly; more than two absences will have a negative impact on your final grade. Most importantly, students are expected to contribute constructively to the conversation about the texts by asking questions and responding to ideas presented by both the instructor and other seminar participants.


Response Essays (20%): Students will write two short (3-4 page) papers during the first eight weeks of the term. Each of these papers will involve your application of a theoretical idea to a specific literary text. Papers will be assessed on how well you narrow your focus and elaborate your position with relevant analysis of primary and secondary material as well as how clearly you express your ideas. This assignment is designed to give you graded feedback on your writing--both style and content--so that you will have a good sense of the course expectations in this area before you embark on the major research project.


Oral Presentations (15%): Students will prepare two oral presentations during the semester, one a class presentation on a specific assigned play (students will sign up for specific dates) and the second a presentation on their research in progress for the research workshop (12/2).  Further instructions will be distributed in class.


Academic Integrity Statement: Academic dishonesty involves any attempt on a writer's part to claim ideas and/or specific phrasing that s/he has gotten from elsewhere as original or to fabricate sources or evidence so as to make an argument sound stronger. Students are expected to adhere to standards of academic integrity in this course. All external research for presentations and papers must be properly cited; failure to cite sources for factual data or critical ideas, inadequately attributed use of another's ideas or words or submission of work that does not represent your own thought and writing will be considered violations of this policy. Such violations will be taken seriously, and students who breach this policy risk their course grade and potentially also their status in their program. In keeping with departmental and university honor policies, all cases of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Chair of the English Department and to the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs as well as the appropriate director of the student's graduate program. In short, do your own work and when you use outside information, provide accurate citations for it. For more on the English Department's plagiarism policy, see http://www.westga.edu/~engdept/Plagiarism/pladef.html.



Schedule of Readings:

Students should have completed all primary reading assignments by the date they are listed on the syllabus. Students are encouraged to read all of the secondary material, but for weeks in which multiple readings have been assigned I will indicate in class what is essential and what is recommended of these; student presenters should always have completed all of the secondary reading for the week they are presenting. A list of secondary material is available through the library's online reserves page; most materials are directly accessible online through the reserves page, although in some cases a hardcopy has been placed on reserve in the library.


                        Violating Body, Language, History

Aug. 19           Introduction: England after World War II

                        Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History"

Aug. 26           George Orwell, 1984 (1948)

                        Secondary: from Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (Pt. 3, Ch. 3, "Panopticism" [required; online reserve], Pt. 3, Ch. 1, "Docile Bodies" [recommended; complete text available in hardcopy on reserve])


                        Language as Attack

Sept. 2             Philip Larkin, High Windows (1974): Click here for TOC

                        Secondary: Joseph Bristow, "The Obscenity of Philip Larkin"; Nigel Alderman, "'The Life with a Hole in It': Philip Larkin and the Condition of England"

Sept. 9             Harold Pinter, The Homecoming (1964)

                        Secondary: Marc Silverstein, from Harold Pinter and the Language of Cultural Power (Ch. 1, "The Pinter Problem Re-problematized")

                        Essay #1 due in class


                        Violence and the Divided Consciousness

Sept. 16           Martin Amis, Time's Arrow (1991)

                        Secondary: Julia Kristeva, from Powers of Horror (Ch. 1, "Approaching Abjection")

Sept. 23           Samuel Beckett, from Collected Shorter Plays: Krapp's Last Tape (1958), Play (1963), Not I (1972), That Time (1975), Rockabye (1980), Catastrophe (1982)

                        Secondary: N. Katherine Hayles, "Voices Out of Bodies, Bodies Out of Voices: Audiotape and the Production of Subjectivity"; Michael D. Fox, "'There's Our Catastrophe': Empathy, Sacrifice and the Staging of Suffering in Beckett's Theater"



Sept. 30           Seamus Heaney, Poems 1965-1975: read all the poems in North as well as "Digging," "Death of a Naturalist," "Personal Helicon" and "The Tollund Man"

                        Secondary: Rene Girard, from Violence and the Sacred  (Ch. 1, "Sacrifice")

Oct. 6              Last day to withdraw with a W.

Oct. 7              Ted Hughes, Crow (1971)

                        Secondary: Charles Fernandez, "Crow: A Mythology of the Demonic"

                        Essay #2 due in class

Oct. 14            Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (1980)

                        Secondary: Patricia Duncker, "Re-imagining the Fairy Tale: Angela Carter's Bloody Chambers"; Lucie Arnitt, "The Fragile Frames of The Bloody Chamber"



Oct. 21            Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children (1982): Books 1-2

                        Secondary: Homi Bhabha, from The Location of Culture (Ch. 8, "Dissemination: Time, Narrative and the Margins of the Modern Nation"); Wendy Faris, from Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative (Ch. 3, "Encoding the Ineffable" [recommended; hardcopy reserve])

Oct. 28            Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children: Books 2-3

Nov. 4             Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000): Parts 1-2 ("Archie" and "Samad")

                        Secondary: Peter Kalliney, from Cities of Affluence and Anger: A Literary Geography of Modern Englishness

Nov. 6             Research proposals due electronically by noon.

Nov. 11           Zadie Smith, White Teeth: Parts 3-4 ("Irie" and "Magid, Millat and Marcus")



Nov. 18           Martin McDonagh, The Pillowman (2003)

Nov. 25           No class

Dec. 2              Research Presentations


Research papers due Wednesday, Dec. 9 by 5 pm