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ENGLISH 2BL3 20th&21st C. Brit. Lit & Film

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Sarah Brophy


Office: Chester New Hall 331

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 22243

Office Hours: Mondays 3:00-4:30 pm, CNH 331

Course Objectives:

Course description:

This course offers an introduction to twentieth- and twenty-first-century literary texts and films from the British Isles, with attention to their historical, cultural, and socio-political contexts. Together, we will explore how writers and filmmakers based in the British Isles have responded to the social, geopolitical, and cultural upheavals of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, using a variety of representational strategies to tackle such topics as war; empire; national identity and belonging; the experiences of migrant, diasporic, and refugee subjects; sexual and gender identity; trauma, disability, illness, and aging; political action and activism; labour and working-class life; feminism; decolonization; historical memory; futurity; the welfare state; healthcare, education, and housing; local, regional, national, and transnational imaginaries of place; religion; hospitality; surveillance; and the rise of neoliberalism. How has the world come to look from the vantage point of the British Isles, still powerful but not so dominant as before?



  • to familiarize students with literary cultural production of the period across several genres (poetry, short story, novel, essay, drama, and film)
  • to introduce students to key historical and social contexts for interpreting twentieth- and twenty-first-century writing: for instance, we will look at social and political transformations; trends in the visual arts; technology, environment, and infrastructure; and intellectual and ideological developments)
  • to develop students’ analytical skills, by challenging you to engage in close reading and critical thinking
  • to consider some influential theoretical frameworks for literary study (e.g. trauma studies, postcolonialism), and to encourage students to engage in a critical dialogue with theoretical concepts when writing about and discussing literature
  • to give students the opportunity to improve their writing skills, by offering guidance in the art of writing clear, well-argued, and well-supported analyses and arguments

    Accessibility Statement:

    I assume that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, so that some of the written handouts or the images on my PowerPoint slides may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to me and to your TA as soon as you can about your individual learning needs, including any Student Accessibility Services arrangements, and how we can work together in this course to best accommodate you. Even if you do not have a documented disability, we are always glad to consult about your learning processes and to help you identify resources on campus; useful supports include the English and Cultural Studies Departmental Writing Tutors as well as McMaster’s Student Success Centre, which provides academic skills support for all students.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts:

Kevin Dettmar, ed. The Longman Anthology of British Literature

(Volume 2C: The Twentieth Century and Beyond).  Fourth Edition.  Longman.

Humphrey Jennings, London Can Take It! (online)

Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners.  Penguin.

Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Frears, My Beautiful Laundrette.*

Pat Barker, Regeneration.  Plume.

Lemn Sissay, Something Dark. Oberon. [Now included in custom courseware, so students do not need to buy a separate copy of Sissay's play]

Joe Cornish, dir. Attack the Block*

Ali Smith, Autumn. Pantheon.

Required online readings

Custom Courseware


Recommended Reference Texts:

Lester Faigley, et. al., eds.  The Little Penguin Handbook. Pearson.*

M.H. Abrams and Geoffrey Harpham, A Glossary of Literary Terms. Eleventh Edition.


A good dictionary. Note that the Oxford Dictionary is part of the Oxford Online

Reference Suite, which is available to you at no additional cost through Mills


*on reserve at Mills Library

Method of Assessment:

Evaluation (due dates are indicated below in the schedule of readings): [Revised Jan 11, 2018 to account for missing 15%]

Participation and Attendance                                                                        10%

Annotations (2 @ 5% each)                                                                           10%

Very Short Papers (2 @ 300 words, 5% each)                                               10%

The marks for the TWO BEST short assignments, whether Annotations or VSPs, for each student will be re-weighted retroactively to make them worth 10% each, up from 5% each

Longer Paper (1500 words)                                                                            25%

Final Exam (2 hours)                                                                                      30%  

+ 5% reweighting of the Final Exam, up from 30% to 35%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Important Notes:


In the event of class cancellations, students will be notified on Avenue to Learn and the English and Cultural Studies Department Website.  It is your responsibility to check these sites regularly for any such announcements.

Link:  (Department)

Link: (Avenue to Learn)


Tutorials start during the week of January 8-12. Students are expected to attend every tutorial and to be prepared to discuss the material weekly.


Attendance and Participation: Active, thoughtful, and respectful participation in lectures and tutorials is expected. Students are required to read the course materials carefully and to keep up with the schedule. If you miss a class, be sure to catch up by asking one of your peers to share notes with you. Dr. Brophy’s PowerPoint slides will be posted on Avenue after each unit of study; keep in mind that the slides offer outlines only and should not be considered a substitute for complete lecture notes. 


Avenue to Learn: please check the online course site regularly for announcements about the course as well as important course documents. While online discussion-board participation is not required and cannot be considered a substitute for in-class contributions, you and your TA may take the quality and quantity of any online postings into account when assessing your contributions at the end of the year.

Essay Policy: Late assignments will be penalized one grade per day late up to 7 days. For example, a B+ paper handed in two days late would be lowered to a B-. Saturday and Sunday are included in the calculation of days late. After seven days the grade is zero. Essays more than 100 words over the assigned limit will be subject to similar deductions (deduction of one letter grade per 100 words over the limit). Note, too, that TAs are not authorized to grant deadline extensions. Students must go through the appropriate channels (i.e. contacting Dr. Brophy and your Faculty Office) before any deadline extensions or alternate examination arrangements can be considered. Students are expected to retain copies of all work submitted for the course.


Documentation: Students are required to use MLA format consistently and correctly. See The Little Penguin Handbook and/or The First-Year English and Cultural Studies Handbook (online) for MLA format and examples of how to apply it.


Office Hours and Consultation: Your TAs and I look forward to getting to know you and to supporting your learning this year! Brief, logistical questions may be handled via email; please put the course code 2BL3 in the subject line, and we will do our best to reply within 48 hours. If you wish to discuss course materials and/or your written work in detail, then please feel welcome to drop by during our posted office hours. Always see your TA first regarding marked assignments and to discuss how you can improve; only after you have discussed a graded assignment with your TA should you come to see Dr. Brophy or the head T.A. with further questions about marked assignments.


Email 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 the 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.


Students will be invited to complete an online course evaluation at the end of the year. Your feedback is much appreciated.

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

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 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 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 2BL3: 20th and 21st C British Literature and Film

Dr. Sarah Brophy, Winter 2018


Schedule of Readings and Lectures

Jan. 4: Welcome and Introductory Lecture; Thomas Hardy, “Hap” and “Convergence of the Twain” (in anthology); Karen McCarthy Woolf “To Dover from Calais” and “Tatler’s People Who Really Matter” (online)

Jan. 11: Rebecca West, “Indissoluble Matrimony”; Rupert Brooke, “The Soldier”; Wilfred Owen, “Dulce et Decorum Est”; Siegfried Sassoon, “The Glory of Women”; Theresa Hooley, “A War Film” (all in anthology)

Jan. 18: W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming” and “Easter 1916”; T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”; start The Waste Land (all in anthology) Annotation #1 due in tutorial week of Jan. 15-19

Jan. 25: continue T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land; Virginia Woolf, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” (CCW); start Mrs. Dalloway (in anthology)

Feb. 1: continue Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway VSP #1 due in tutorial week of Jan. 29-Feb. 2

Feb. 8: W.H. Auden, “September 1, 1939” (in anthology); Humphrey Jennings, dir. London Can Take It! (online); Elizabeth Bowen, “Mysterious Kôr” (in anthology)

Feb. 15: Louise Bennett, “Colonization in Reverse” (CCW); Lord Kitchener, “London is the Place for Me” (CCW); Samuel Selvon, The Lonely Londoners Annotation #2 due in tutorial week of Feb. 12-16

Feb. 22: Reading Week (no classes)

Mar. 1: Hanif Kureishi (wr.) and Stephen Frears (dir.), My Beautiful Laundrette

Mar. 8 Pat Barker, Regeneration VSP #2 due in tutorial week of Mar. 5-9

Mar. 15 Benjamin Zephaniah, “Dis Poetry” (online); Eavan Boland, “Mise Eire” (in anthology); Jackie Kay, “In My Country” (online); Lemn Sissay, Something Dark

Mar. 22 Zadie Smith, “The North-West London Blues” and “Fences: A Brexit Diary” (both online); start Joe Cornish, dir. Attack the Block

Mar. 29 continue Attack the Block; start Ali Smith, Autumn

Apr. 5 continue Ali Smith, Autumn; conclusions and final exam review Longer Essay due in tutorial week of Apr. 2-6



Other Course Information:

Guidelines for Students in English 2BL3: 20th and 21st C British Literature and Film

Participation and Attendance:  

How does the self-assessment process work?  At the beginning of the year, we will take some time in class to determine the criteria for “productive participation” and “regular attendance.”  I will then generate an assessment form based on the discussion and will post the form on Avenue.  At the end of the year, you will be asked to evaluate your own participation using the form.  In filling out the form, you will be expected to account for your attendance, to give detailed written comments on your participation, and to indicate a numerical grade out of 10.  The instructor and TA reserve the right to modify any participation grades that we do not find to be reasonable and accurate.  Incomplete self-assessment forms and those that are more than 7 days late will receive a grade of zero.


General tips on preparing for 2BL3 lectures and tutorials: Carefully read the assigned texts according to the schedule below.  As you are reading, underline key terms and passages and make brief notes in the margins of questions or insights that occur to you along the way.  It is crucial to bring the assigned readings for the day with you to both lecture and tutorial.  And it is always beneficial to review your notes and selected material after we have discussed them in lecture and tutorial.  Keep your syllabus close at hand – it contains valuable guidance to the year’s work.


Short Assignments:

            I: Annotations (week of Jan. 15-19 and week of Feb. 12-16, in tutorial)

Think of an Annotation as an exercise in squeezing as much meaning as possible out of a passage of a larger text. We will be practicing our annotation skills throughout the course. A successful annotation selects an important passage and picks up on stylistic details of language and structure, on thematic issues, on repetitions and returns. In addition to just pointing these things out, a successful annotation includes notes on why and how these details contribute to a greater understanding of the text.


First, choose a passage from a recent reading (no more than 10 days old). This may be as short as a sentence, although a paragraph or stanza is generally more productive. Passage choice is key, because you want to have lots to say. Look for contrasts, oppositions, paradoxes; reflective, revelatory, or epiphanic narrative passages; descriptive passages; passages in which the author explicitly articulates his or her argument.


Next, scan, photocopy or retype your passage. Write on your passage everything that occurs to you. Circle, underline, draw arrows: whatever helps to make your notations more comprehensible to your reader. Focus not only on what this passage means, but how it means what it means. Here are some questions to help you get started:

            ― Does the passage articulate a conflict, or appear to offer resolution to a conflict?

— Does it make an argument? How?

            ― What is the tone of the passage? How do you know?

            ― Does the passage introduce a significant metaphor, image, or trope? What and how

                        does this metaphor, image, or trope signify?

            ― Think about what is apparently being said vs. how it is being said. Does the “how”

                        complement or undercut the “what”? Is the passage ambiguous? How so?

            ― What does the passage leave unsaid?


Finally, indicate (in a sentence or two) the significance of the passage for the text as a whole. What argument (about the text as a whole) could this passage be used to support? Remember that an effective thesis about the text will likely not focus on the behaviours and motivations of characters, but on what the text (through the behaviours and motivations of its characters among other things) has to tell us about broader issues such as subjectivity, the nature of work, or conceptions of national identity.


You should be prepared to share and discuss your passage with your tutorial classmates. In a sense, you are preparing a reading guide for your classmates.


Annotations are graded on a percentage scale (out of 100). 0 – 50 indicates that the passage you have chosen is not significant or that you have done a poor job of wringing information out of a good passage. 50 – 70 indicates that you could have chosen a better passage, the passage you have chosen could yield much more, or your notes are based on assumption or speculation. Scores between 70 – 80 indicate that you have done well with a bad or “light” passage or you have chosen a good passage, but it could yield more. Scores between 80 – 100 indicate you’ve chosen well and wrung out all the meaning that you can while indicating that you understand why and how what you’ve observed is important.


            II: Very Short Papers (Week of Jan. 29-Feb. 2 and week of Mar. 5-9 in tutorial)


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The Very Short Paper (VSP) is a formal analytical exercise designed to help you get better and faster at writing critically in order to prepare you to write well supported longer papers. The VSP is a paragraph of approximately 300 words in which you develop an analytical thesis about the assigned reading given specific prompts. Think of it as the opening paragraph of a longer paper or the introduction to a longer discussion you might have about the text at hand. Critical analysis is not summary. Your thesis should talk about how and what a text does and convey your ideas about the text’s implications. Leave assumptions, generalizations, and speculations outside of your argument. They may help you figure out what your argument will be, but they have no place in the final argument. As demonstrated in the sample below, successful VSPs, like successful papers, will incorporate textual evidence.


In the following successful VSP example, please note the foregrounding of analysis in the first sentence and the incorporation of textual evidence, as well as the concluding sentences that answer any question of “So what?”. The following is single-spaced to save paper – your VSPs should be double-spaced and have a title and works cited.  (Additional model VSPs by recent students are available on Avenue for you to consult.)


Prompt: Discuss the treatment of gender roles in Elizabeth Bowen’s 1929 novel The Last September.


Ruling Marriage Out


                In The Last September, Elizabeth Bowen both draws upon and subverts the conventions of the bildungsroman, or coming of age narrative, in order to show how gender affects the development of the self. Bowen’s protagonist, Lois Farquar, displays an ambivalent attitude to growing up that reflects early twentieth-century shifts in gender norms. On the one hand, Lois appears eager to inhabit the adult roles of lover and wife, writing to her schoolfriend Viola about the various candidates for her romantic attention. Encountering Lois for the first time, Marda Norton says, “I’ve never met any woman so determined to love well, so anxious to love soon, so certain of her ability. She really prays for somebody to be fatal; she eyes doors” (118). The novel colludes with this determination to love well, foregrounding Lois’ romantic involvement with the soldier Gerald Lesworth. On the other hand, the novel hints that women’s lives may encompass more than (romantic) love, and that marriage may not be a desirable fate at all. It is only after the Irish militant whom Lois and Marda disturb at the mill derisively instructs the women to “keep within the house while y’have it” that Lois, “quite ruled out,” resolves to marry Gerald (181-182). Marriage is what you do once other possibilities – like participating in the struggle for Irish independence – have been ruled out. The Last September concludes with Lois unmarried but also uncommitted to any particular life path, suggesting that while the old script for womanhood has proven inadequate, a new script has yet to be written. Perhaps, indeed, the new woman will not need to follow any script whatever.

Works Cited


Bowen, Elizabeth. The Last September. New York: Anchor, 2000.


VSPs are evaluated by percentage. A VSP merits a 0 – 50 when it is completely observational in content or summarizes the text. A grade of 50 – 70 indicates that some analytical thought is present, but it is ill-expressed, unclear, and undeveloped. Scores of 70 – 80 indicate a thoughtful thesis that could be developed or proved further, or good ideas that are unsupported, or severe grammar problems. Scores of 80 – 100 indicate a successful, fully-developed, thoughtful thesis that is well-supported; writing has minimal grammatical problems, and is sophisticated.


Because VSPs are not long, you may be tempted not to spend much time on them. This is a bad idea. Instead, think of them as opportunities to really focus and work on your writing in a controlled environment: make them the best and smartest collections of sentences you can. Please read your TA’s written comments before working on the next VSP. The idea is to improve: the better you get at these VSPs, the better your longer paper will be.


The Longer Paper:

You will be responsible for writing a longer paper (1500 words). This essay is worth 25% of your grade and due in tutorial the week of April 2-6.  The essay will develop and offer detailed support for a critical thesis in response to one of a set of assigned questions, which will be posted online at least three weeks prior to the due date.

You will receive a letter grade and substantive feedback on your paper. Please read the comments carefully: they are offered with your improvement in mind. 


The 2BL3 Final Exam will be 2 hours long and is worth 30% of your overall grade. An outline of the exam structure and question types will be provided in lecture. The exam will be held in April 2018 and will be supervised by the Office of the Registrar.