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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Sarah Brophy

Email: brophys@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 331

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 22243


Office Hours: Wednesdays 12:00-2:00

Course Objectives:

This course will explore the cultural contexts for the writing, marketing, and reading of the British novel over the past decade. Criticism has had some difficulty coming to terms with new criteria for literary success such as bestseller lists, prizes, publicity, and media adaptability. Our project will be to debate possible critical vocabularies for the analysis of a number of contemporary British novels which can at once be categorized as “serious” and “popular.” We will consider six novels in light of selected critical readings from literary and cultural theory. While paying due attention to questions of genre and form, we will concentrate on investigating the production of literary value and meaning in contemporary culture. Topics for discussion include: the increasing importance of cross-promotion, literary celebrity, media adaptations, and fan reception; novels’ mediation of identity in a postmodern, consumer, and multicultural society; and conflicting re-inventions of history, language, culture, and politics in a rapidly changing late twentieth and early twenty-first-century Britain.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts

Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic.

John Lanchester, Capital

Gautam Malkani, Londonstani.

Ian McEwan, Saturday.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Zadie Smith, White Teeth.

Custom Courseware

Selected online articles (see “links” page under Resources tab on Avenue)

Optional Reference Text

Edgar, Andrew, and Peter Sedgwick.  Cultural Theory: The Key Concepts (available on reserve at

            Mills Library)

Method of Assessment:


Seminar presentation (15 minutes; 2-3 discussion questions)             25%    

Essay proposal (500 words) and annotated bibliography (8 sources)  20%     (due Mon. Oct. 27)

Research essay (2500 words)                                                              40%     (due Fri. Dec. 5)

Participation                                                                                          15%


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

English/CSCT 4CB3: Schedule of Readings and Seminars


Sept. 10:          Organizational


Sept.17:           Gabler, “The Secondary Effect”

                       Radway, “The Struggle over the Book”

Fuller and Rehberg Sedo, “’And Then We Went to a Brewery’: Reading as a Social

            Activity in a Digital Era” (online)

                        Toynbee, “Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony history is only a partial truth” (online)

                        Gilroy, “Has it come to this?”


Sept. 24:          John Lanchester, Capital

                        Massey, “Vocabularies of the Economy (The Kilburn Manifesto)” (online)

                        Tyler, “Designed to Fail: A Biopolitics of British Citizenship” (online)

                        Smith, “Speaking in Tongues” (online)          

            seminar 1: the world of finance

            seminar 2: forms of home and displacement

            seminar 3: voices and point of view  


Oct. 1:             Lanchester, Capital (continued)

O’Hagan, “A working-class hero is something to be… but not in Britain’s posh culture”


While, “Locating Art Worlds: London and the Making of Young British Art” (online)

Brouillette, “The Creative Class and Cultural Governance”

                        Appleyard, “Life and Death of Cool Britannia”

            seminar 4: the artist known as Smitty

                                    seminar 5: entrepreneurship


Oct. 8:             Bourdieu, “The Production of Belief”

                        Self, “The novel is dead (and this time it’s for real)” (online)

                        English and Frow, “Literary Authorship and Celebrity Culture”

                        Wernick, “Authorship and the Supplement of Promotion”               

                        Mota, “What’s in a Name: The Case of Jeanette Winterson.com” (online)


                                    seminar 6: the field of cultural production

                                    seminar 7: the supplement of promotion

                                    seminar 8: copyright in a digital era






Oct. 15:           Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic

Hochschild, “Gender Codes and the Play of Irony”

Weedon, “Feminist Critical Practice”

                        Ghosh, “Res Emptito Ergo Sum: Fashion and Commodity Fetishism in Sophie

                                    Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic

McRobbie, “‘What Not to Wear’ and Post-Feminist Symbolic Violence”   

            seminar 9: point of view and irony

            seminar 10: advice literature  

            seminar 11: class, aspiration, and glamour


Oct. 22:           Malkani, Londonstani

Husain, “Bling Bling Economics and the Cultural Politics of Desi Identity in Gautam

            Malkani's Londonstani

                        Brouillette, “The Creative Class and Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani” (online)

                        Featherstone, “Lifestyle and Consumer Culture”

            seminar 12: British Asian youth culture

            seminar 13: language and authenticity

            seminar 14: marketing the margins


Oct. 29:           Smith, White Teeth

Dawson, “Genetics, Biotechnology, and the Future of ‘Race’ in Zadie Smith’s White


                        McMann, “British Black Box: Return to Race and Science in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth

                        Brah, “Diaspora, Border, and Transnational Identities”

            seminar 15: forms of fanaticism

            seminar 16: femininity and reproduction


Nov. 5:            Smith, White Teeth (continued)

Huggan, “Introduction: Writing at the Margins”

                        Smith, “How it feels to me” and “The North West London Blues” (online)

                        Bentley, “Re-writing Englishness” (online)

            seminar 17: Smith’s sense of place

                                    seminar 18: Smith’s celebrity and her negotiation of “success”


Nov. 12:          Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Zipes, “The Harry Potter Phenomenon, or Why all the Talk?”

Ingleton, “Neither Can Live while the Other Survives: Harry Potter and the Extratextua (After)life of J.K. Rowling”

Turner-Vorbeck, “Pottermania: Good Clean Fun, or Cultural Hegemony?”

Jenkins, “Why Heather Can Write: Media Literacy and the Harry Potter Wars” and

            “Transmedia Storytelling 101” (both online)

            seminar 19: the J.K. Rowling story and the Harry Potter “phenomenon”

            seminar 20: consumerism



Nov. 19:          Rowling, Harry Potter (continued)

Blake, “Harry Potter and the Re-invention of the Past”

Westman, “Spectres of Thatcherism: Contemporary British Culture in J.K. Rowling’s

            Harry Potter Series”

                        Helfenbein, “Conjuring Curriculum, Conjuring Control: A Reading of Resistance in Harry

                                    Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (online)

                        Tosenberger, “Homosexuality at the Online Hogwarts” (online)

            seminar 21: education

            seminar 22: sexuality

            seminar 23: national identity in Harry Potter and White Teeth


Nov. 26:          McEwan, Saturday

                        Alderson, “Saturday’s Enlightenment”

                        Smith, “Two Paths for the Novel” (online)   

                                    seminar 24: anxiety

                                    seminar 25: politics and the war in Iraq


Dec. 3              McEwan, Saturday (continued)

                        Gilroy, “Has it come to this?” (re-read)

            seminar 26: social class, atavism, and violence

                                    seminar 27: the role of the arts                       

Other Course Information:


Office hours and email: I am always glad to consult with you about the course and your work! If you wish to discuss your essay or seminar in detail, please drop by during my office hours, or email me to make an appointment for another time.  Briefer questions may be handled by email.  Please put the course code (4CB3) in the subject line; I will do my best to get back to you within 48 hours.


4.  Each class member will present one 15-minute seminar in the course of the term.  Please submit to me (in the form of an email message or a note to CNH 321) by Fri. Sept. 12 of five seminar choices (in five different weeks) in order of preference. I will then post the schedule of seminars on Avenue and on my office door. Seminar presentations should aim to involve class members in discussion and debate. Key terms should be clearly defined, and you should support your argument with textual evidence and with well-developed links to one or more of the critical essays we’re studying. Conclude your presentation with 2-3 interesting, thoughtfully-developed discussion questions. On or before the day of your presentation, you are required to post your speaking notes and discussion questions on Avenue. Creativity and the use of audio-visual materials are strongly encouraged! The seminar room is equipped with an LCD projector and DVD player, and I can help you get things up and running.


5.  A 500-word proposal for the Research Essay is due on Mon. Oct. 27 as a Word document via the Dropbox on Avenue. You are asked to draw on the course materials, theories, and questions to design your own research topic. Note that your essay must be on a subject other than that of your seminar presentation. The proposal should be accompanied by an annotated bibliography (approx. 2 pages) including a minimum of eight sources. While you may include relevant interviews and book reviews in your bibliography, at least four of your eight sources must be scholarly ones (i.e. journal articles, academic books or book chapters).  For the annotations, provide a brief description (2-3 sentences) of the argument of each source and its relevance to your own proposed essay. Models of past student assignments are available on Avenue for you to consult.


6. The term research essay (2500 words), which derives from the proposal and bibliography assignment, is due on Fri. Dec. 5. Please submit your essay as a Word document via Avenue. I will accept no essay after Dec. 15.  Students are expected to retain a copy of the assignment. Please be aware that I will not accept essays via email.


7.  Documentation:  Follow MLA guidelines for the presentation and documentation of research, including both print and web sources. ALL sources cited or paraphrased in seminars and essays must be acknowledged.


8. Academic Integrity: Academic dishonesty consists of misrepresentation by deception or by other fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. Plagiarism and submission of work that is not one’s own or for which previous credit has been obtained are examples of academic dishonesty.  For information on the various kinds of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, specifically Appendix 3:



9. Course evaluations: Students will be asked to complete an evaluation at the end of the course.