ENGLISH 4CB3 Contemporary British Fiction (C01)
Academic Year: Winter 2019
Instructor: Dr. Sarah Brophy
Office: Chester New Hall 331
Phone: 905-525-9140 x 22243
Office Hours: Thursdays 3:00-4:00pm or by appointment
- Course Objectives
- Textbooks, Materials & Fees
- Method of Assessment
- Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties
- Additional Policies and Statements
- Topics and Readings
- Other Course Information
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:
Monica Ali, Brick Lane: A Novel. Scribner, 2004.
John Lanchester, Capital. Emblem, 2013.
Ian McEwan, Saturday. Vintage, 2006.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  Bloomsbury, 2014.
Ali Smith, Autumn. Hamish Hamilton, 2017.
Zadie Smith, NW. Penguin, 2013.
Articles and book chapters (available on A2L)
Recommended Reference Text
Edgar, Andrew, and Peter Sedgwick. Cultural Theory: The Key Concepts, Second Edition (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 to A2L Mar. 5)
Research essay (2500 words) 40% (due to A2L Apr. 9)
Attendance, Preparation, and Participation 15%
Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:
Attendance, participation and preparation: Consistent attendance at seminar meetings is required for all members. I expect that you’ll arrive to our meetings well prepared for discussion, having completed and contemplated the bulk of the weekly readings; that you’ll contribute thoughtfully to class discussions and respond constructively to one another’s presentations; that you’ll work together as a group to foster an inclusive and equitable classroom environment that is conducive to learning and free from harassment and discrimination; that you’ll make an effort to engage with cultural and theoretical contexts as well as fictional texts; and that you’ll make regular use of Avenue to Learn (A2L).
Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:
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:
- Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
- Improper collaboration in group work.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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:
- For this discussion-based seminar course, you are expected and encouraged to read the bulk (80-90%) of the listed texts according to the weekly schedule and to do your very best to catch up on any missed readings.
- The required articles are posted on A2L: the majority of these are housed on the Links page, but for PDFs you will need to visit the Content tab.
Jan. 10: Welcome and Organizational
Jan. 17: Introductory Discussion: Critical and Cultural Contexts for Studying 21st- Century British Fiction
1) Authors, Readers, and the Literary Marketplace:
Will Self, “The Novel is Dead (This Time It’s for Real)”
Henry Jenkins, “The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence”
Danielle Fuller and Rehberg Sedo, “’And Then We Went to a Brewery’: Reading as Social Activity in a Digital Era”
2) British National Identity, Cultural Representation, and the Afterlife of Empire:
Polly Toynbee, “Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony history is only a partial truth”
Gary Younge, “Britain’s imperial fantasies have given us Brexit”
Paul Gilroy, from Postcolonial Melancholia (“Has it come to this?”) (PDF)
Jan. 24: John Lanchester, Capital
Doreen Massey, “Vocabularies of the Economy (The Kilburn Manifesto)”
Jodi Dean, “Enjoying Neoliberalism”
Imogen Tyler, “Designed to Fail: A Biopolitics of British Citizenship”
Zadie Smith, “Speaking in Tongues”
seminar 1: the world of finance
seminar 2: home and displacement
seminar 3: voices and point of view
Jan. 31: John Lanchester, Capital (continued)
Pierre Bourdieu, “The Production of Belief” (PDF)
Alison Flood, “Authors’ Incomes Collapse to Abject Levels”
Sean O’Hagan, “A working-class hero is something to be… but not in Britain’s posh culture”
Aidan While, “Locating Art Worlds: London and the Making of Young British Art”
seminar 4: the field of cultural production
seminar 5: Smitty as a celebrity artist
seminar 6: gentrification and entrepreneurship
Feb. 7: Monica Ali, Brick Lane
Graham Huggan, from The Postcolonial Exotic (Introduction: “Writing at the Margins”)
Michael Perfect, “The Multicultural Bildungsroman: Stereotypes in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane”
Esra Mirze Santesso, “Rethinking Hybridity in Brick Lane” (PDF)
seminar 7: stereotypes and exoticism
seminar 8: Nazneen’s “coming-of-age”
seminar 9: women, money, and work in the diaspora
Feb. 14: Monica Ali, Brick Lane (continued)
Begin Zadie Smith, NW
Zadie Smith, “The North West London Blues”
BBC Start the Week with Zadie Smith, David Kynaston, Owen Jones, and David Willetts on “Social Mobility” (listen to podcast)
Alexander Beaumont, “Placing Politics: Home and the Right to Habitation in Monica Ali’s
Brick Lane and Zadie Smith’s NW” (PDF)
seminar 10: the politics of place and habitation
seminar 11: classed identities and social mobility
Week of Feb. 18-22-24: READING WEEK (no classes)
Feb. 28: Zadie Smith, NW
Zadie Smith, “That Crafty Feeling” (PDF), “Generation Why” and “Two Paths for the Novel”
Wendy Knepper, “Revisionary Modernism and Postmillennial Experimentation in Zadie
Smith’s NW” (PDF)
seminar 12: modernist experimental form
seminar 13: gender, race, and sexuality
Mar. 7: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Jack Zipes, “The Harry Potter Phenomenon, or Why all the Talk?” (PDF)
Tammy Turner-Vorbeck, “Pottermania: Good Clean Fun, or Cultural Hegemony?”
Pamela Ingleton, “Neither Can Live while the Other Survives: Harry Potter and the
Extratextual (After)life of J.K. Rowling” (PDF)
Henry Jenkins, “Why Heather Can Write: Media Literacy and the Harry Potter Wars” and
“Transmedia Storytelling 101”
seminar 14: the J.K. Rowling story and the Harry Potter “phenomenon”
seminar 15: fans: consumers and/or co-creators?
Mar. 14: J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter (continued)
Karin E. Westman, “Spectres of Thatcherism: Contemporary British Culture in J.K.
Rowling’s Harry Potter Series” (PDF)
Robert J. Helfenbein, “Conjuring Curriculum, Conjuring Control: A Reading of Resistance
in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (online)
Catherine Tosenberger, “Homosexuality at the Online Hogwarts” (online)
seminar 16: education
seminar 17: sexuality
seminar 18: race, racism, and national identity
Mar. 21: Ian McEwan, Saturday
David Alderson, “Saturday’s Enlightenment” (PDF)
BBC Channel 4 News: “Iraq War Marchers Vindicated a Decade On—Ian
McEwan” (watch/listen online)
Judith Butler, “Violence, Mourning, Politics” (PDF)
seminar 19: politics and the war in Iraq
seminar 20: vulnerability and anxiety
Mar. 28: Ian McEwan, Saturday (continued)
Begin Ali Smith, Autumn
Sarah Brouillette, “Valuing the Arts in Ian McEwan’s Saturday” (PDF)
Petra Rau, “Autumn after the Referendum” (PDF)
seminar 21: social class, atavism, and violence
seminar 22: the role of the arts
Apr. 4 Paul Gilroy, “Has it come to this?” (PDF; re-read)
Ali Smith, Autumn (continued)
Ali Smith, “The Novel in the Age of Trump” (lecture)
seminar 23: the power of word play
seminar 24: the novel against nostalgia?
Other Course Information:
Course Expectations and Policies:
1. Attendance, participation and preparation: Consistent attendance at seminar meetings is required for all members. I expect that you’ll arrive to our meetings well prepared for discussion, having completed and contemplated the bulk of the weekly readings; that you’ll contribute thoughtfully to class discussions and respond constructively to one another’s presentations; that you’ll work together as a group to foster an inclusive and equitable classroom environment that is conducive to learning and free from harassment and discrimination; that you’ll make an effort to engage with cultural and theoretical contexts as well as fictional texts; and that you’ll make regular use of Avenue to Learn (A2L).
2. In the event of class cancellations, students will be notified on Avenue to Learn and on
the Department of English and Cultural Studies website. It is your responsibility to check these websites regularly for any such announcements:
3. 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 presentation in the course of the term. Please submit to me (in the form of an email message or a note to CNH 321) by Mon. January 14 a list 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 permanent a/v equipment, and I can help you get things up and running.
5. A 500-word proposal for the Research Essay is due on Tues. March 5 as a Word document via the Dropbox on A2L. 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 Tues. April 9. Please submit your essay as a Word document via A2L. I will accept no essay after April 12. Students are expected to retain a copy of the assignment. Please be aware that I will not accept essays via email.
7. Assignment Policies: It is expected that you will arrive 10 minutes early on the day of your seminar presentation to allow time for coordination with Dr. Brophy and the other presenters and to allow time for audio-visual set-up. If you encounter any circumstances that are beyond your control (e.g. illness), please contact me as soon as possible before the start of class. Please be aware that missed presentations cannot be rescheduled, though you would be granted one opportunity to start over again with a different novel and topic.
Late proposals and essays 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). Students are expected to retain copies of all work submitted for the course.
Students must go through the appropriate channels (i.e. contacting Dr. Brophy and your Faculty Office) before any deadline extensions can be considered.
Exceptions to these policies may be made for students with SAS accommodations, based on ongoing consultation with Dr. Brophy.
8. Documentation: Follow MLA guidelines (version 7 or 8) 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.
9. 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:
10. Course evaluations: Students will be asked to complete an evaluation at the end of the course.