The University of Southampton
Courses

ENGL6131 Approaches to the Long Twentieth Century (1914–Present)

Module Overview

This core module for the MA English Literary Studies (Twentieth-Century) pathway, taught by all those contributing to the pathway in a given year, will introduce students to the key critical, theoretical, historiographical and conceptual debates surrounding the study of the long twentieth century. It will emphasise the issues which have been central to the emergence and revision of key areas of scholarship on the period over the last quarter century, and to effective methods for archival research.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: • broaden your knowledge of key theoretical, critical, historiographical and conceptual debates in the study of the long nineteenth century (1914–present); • stimulate your awareness of the available range of cross-disciplinary approaches to twentieth-century studies; • deepen your understanding of the methodological questions in recent scholarship in twentieth-century studies; • develop the diverse skills needed to work across disciplines in the period.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • current key debates in twentieth-century studies;
  • genres and movements such as modernism, avant-garde aesthetics, poetics, experimental drama,
  • specific issues raised by topics including: revolution, innovation, ekphrasis, medicine, interdisciplinarity
  • key questions raised by critical concepts including: gender, race, class, science, imperialism and decolonization, capitalism, money/ finance, and globalization, environmental crisis, energy, affect, material culture and print culture across literary and historical disciplines;
  • how critical, cultural, and scholarly material contributes to the ways we think about and respond to literature and culture in the long twentieth century;
  • what is common and what is specific to the approach of different disciplines to the study of literature and culture in the long twentieth century;
  • the complex formal, stylistic, generic and aesthetic dimensions of twentieth-century texts and their relationship to debates surrounding the value and uses of literature;
  • how to research and develop an appropriate interdisciplinary topic in the period using archival sources.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and analyse the shifting historical frameworks through which culture is understood across the period;
  • critically evaluate both primary source materials and arguments in secondary texts;
  • Synthesize and integrate the analysis of primary sources and secondary texts in a coherent written argument;
  • conceptualize historical and cultural issues in new ways as a result of interdisciplinary work.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and outline the main debates in a given field;
  • draw upon a range of relevant primary and secondary sources to explore specific historical and literary questions;
  • develop ideas in concert with others in the context of discussion and debate;
  • communicate a coherent and convincing argument at length in written form;
  • demonstrate the capacity for self-directed problem-solving and independent work within a strict time-frame.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify lines of enquiry about cultural change common to historical and literary disciplines;
  • apply appropriate critical and historical approaches to diverse cultural forms;
  • describe and evaluate the state of research and scholarship on culture in cross-disciplinary perspective;
  • identify and develop a topic for further research which might form the basis of an MA dissertation.

Syllabus

This is the core module for the MA English Literary Studies (Twentieth-Century) pathway, taught by all those contributing to the MA in a given year, and will introduce you to the key critical, theoretical, historiographical and conceptual debates surrounding the study of the long twentieth century. It will emphasise the issues which have been central to the emergence and revision of key areas of scholarship on the period over the last quarter century, and to effective methods for research. The module looks at how twentieth-century literary and visual culture has responded to major social, technological, economic, scientific, and political transformations. Indicative topics through which these will be addressed include: the emotions; the body; the literary marketplace; cultures of reading; global crisis; the age of decolonization; sexuality; terrorism and political violence; cultural production, authorship and literary celebrity; science, apocalypse and environmental crisis, and discourses of race; new modes of tragedy in twentieth-century drama; ekphrasis extended; writing for revolution; ‘forms of fiction now’; and race and innovation in twenty-first century poetics. These topics are studied across the English-speaking world, in Africa and South Asia as well as Britain, Australia and North America. The module will use primary materials from the period, e.g. literary texts, periodical literature, legal documents, fine art and popular visual images, artefacts etc. in relation to a wide range of secondary critical and historical texts drawn from literary criticism and its history, social history, the history of art, the law, and political economy. The module examines how far separate disciplines have been involved in a common debate about cultural change, and how far they have developed specialised accounts of such change. The module will explicitly raise questions about the problems and possibilities of interdisciplinarity in Literary and Cultural Studies, and the conceptual and methodological issues involved in interdisciplinary study. An introductory session on critical approaches to the period will be followed by sessions on the following indicative topics: subjectivity, memory, the archive, ‘the method wars’, contemporaneity, embodiment, decolonization, subjectivity, money and finance, catastrophe and the event, reading the world, and affect. In the final weeks of the course we will synthesize and review the work covered.

Special Features

Training in using primary sources together with critical and cultural theory and secondary critical reading will develop your understanding of the interdisciplinary field of twentieth-century studies and your skills at integrating knowledge from different sources. Work on individual topics and themes will encourage you to develop your own questions and research topics. Essays will test your ability to bring these skills together in a coherently argued and properly documented form. You will also have the opportunity to work with the F.T. Prince Archive at the Hartley Library, which includes original unpublished material by authors including John Ashbery, E.M. Forster, Susan Howe, Geoffrey Hill, and Siegfried Sassoon.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods may include: • supervised visits to libraries and museums to work with primary material; (The Archive of British Publishing and Printing, University of Reading; the British Library, the Bodleian Library, Oxford); • seminars involving both tutor and student led discussion; • use of internet and other electronic resources on the long twentieth century. Learning activities include: • participation in general discussion of themes drawn from weekly reading; • oral seminar presentation; • independent reading and research; • development of archival skills; • development of techniques and conventions of visual analysis.

TypeHours
Seminar20
Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Completion of assessment task100
Follow-up work80
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Giovanni Arrighi (1994). The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. 

Warwick Research Collective (2015). Combined and Uneven Development. 

Sara Ahmed (2002). Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Postcoloniality. 

Brian Massumi (2002). Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. 

Pheng Cheah (2016). What is a World? On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature. 

Sianne Ngai (2005). Ugly Feelings. 

Susan Stanford Friedman (2016). Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time. 

Rob Nixon (2011). Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

There will be no non-contributory assessments in this module, but classroom activities and individual discussions, should help you to judge how you are progressing in the module.

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (2000 words) 20%
Essay  (5000 words) 65%
Individual Presentation  (15 minutes) 15%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Costs

Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Costs for this module will not exceed £60.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

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