Contemporary English literature

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
This course explores the various developments of contemporary English literature, starting from a methodological reflection on the area of the discipline. It provides students with cultural and literary knowledge of the period ranging from the second half of the twentieth century to the present and offers reading paths and critical analysis of texts belonging to different literary currents and trends (Postmodernism, Postcolonialism, etc.). In addition, it draws attention to the continuities and discontinuities between past and present literature, to the contamination of literary genres and to the intersections between written works and other media (cinema, television, etc.).
Expected learning outcomes
KNOWLEDGE: By the end of the course, students should be able to discuss the contents of the discipline, contextualise the literary texts included in the programme within the cultural and literary background in which they were produced, and provide critical interpretations of the literary works included in the programme.
LINGUISTIC AND LITERARY ABILITIES: Students should be able to read the texts and acknowledge their linguistic complexity. Students should also be able to critically analyse the texts included in the programme and be able to connect different authors, texts and literary trends. They should demonstrate understanding of the different critical approaches and of the various levels of textual interpretation. In addition, students are expected to express themselves with clarity and precision and to use the specific terminology of the discipline correctly.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Course syllabus
The international plot of English fiction: On the development and compositional strategies of spy fiction

The course is divided into three units:
A. Spy fiction: origins and development
B. Spy Fiction and the Cold War
C. Spy Fiction after the Cold War
The course is addressed to graduate students majoring in Foreign Languages. Students wishing to take 6 cfu can choose to attend Unit A and Unit B or Unit A and Unit C or Unit B and Unit C; students wishing to take 9 cfu must attend all three Units.
This syllabus is valid until July 2021.

Spy fiction has established itself as a key genre of English fiction since the nineteenth century. The vast map of international plots on which spies move around has always been the privileged ground to negotiate the relationship between UK (or, sometimes England) and others. Spy fiction also underwent crucial transformations in correspondence with historical and geopolitical watersheds, such as the Great War and the Cold War.
Unit A will focus on the origins of the genre at the turn of the nineteenth century, with particular attention to its relationship with imperial romances on the one hand, and with "invasion literature" on the other.
Unit B will focus on spy fiction as preferred genre to deal with the role and the position of the UK in the historical and cultural context of the Cold War.
Unit C will focus on the legacy of spy fiction in contemporary literature, considering both postmodern instances and its revival during Brexit.
Prerequisites for admission
The course is taught in English. Students are expected to read English literary texts and criticism and to discuss them in English, therefore a very good knowledge of English is required. Knowledge of the main developments in English literature (XVIII to XX century) is required, as well as basic notions in narratology.
Teaching methods
The course employs the following teaching methods: lectures including close reading and analysis of the texts; audiovisual materials (film adaptations or documentaries). Students are encouraged to actively participate in textual analysis and in the discussions in class.
Teaching Resources
The website of the course is online on the Ariel platform ( students will be able to download materials uploaded by the course convenor. For each unit critical essays on general questions or on specific texts will be available. The website also contains general information on the course.
General bibliography:
The Oxford History of the Novel in English, voll. 4 e 7 (selected chapters)
Paolo Bertinetti (ed.), Spy Fiction: un genere per grandi autori, Trauben, Milan 2014 (selected chapters)

Unit A:
Set texts:
Rudyard Kipling, Kim, Norton Critical Edition
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, Penguin
John Buchan, The Thirty Nine Steps, Penguin

Secondary reading:
Michael Denning, Cover Stories, Routledge Revival Edition 2014 (selected chapters)
Selection of critical essays provided through Ariel.

Unit B:
Set texts:
William Somerset Maugham, Ashenden: Or the British Agent, any edition
Graham Greene, The Human Factor, any edition
John Le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, any edition

Secondary reading:
Michael Denning, Cover Stories, Routledge Revival Edition 2014 (selected chapters)
Sam Goodman, British Spy Fiction and the End of Empire (selected chapters)
Toby Manning, John Le Carré and the Cold War (selected chapters)
Selection of critical essays provided through Ariel.

Unità C:
Set texts:
John Banville, The Untouchable, any edition
John Le Carré, Agent Runnning in the Field, any edition

Secondary reading
Selection of critical essays provided through Ariel.

Students are suggested to attend class. Non-attending students will have to read the whole of Bertinetti, Denning, and Goodman's books, as well as Mario Del Pero, La guerra fredda, Carocci e Philip Derry e Mario Del Pero, Spiare e tradire. Dietro le quinte della Guerra Fredda, Feltrinelli
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam consists in an oral interview. The minimun score is 18, the maximum is 30. The oral exam (in English) will entail general questions on the English novel in the 20th and 21st centuries. It will also include methodological questions on Englishness and the literary representation of national identity, the issues concerning the literary canon and the system of the literary genres as well as the main critical approaches to fiction. More specific questions will pertain to the literary texts included in the syllabus, their language and motifs, their connections and intertextual quality.
Students may accept or reject the mark, in this case it will be recorded as "ritirato".
Students with disabilities are requested to contact the teacher as well as the University Disability Services.
To sit the exam, students are expected to bring their own copies of all the literary texts in English.
When registering for the exam, students are required to refer to the name of the teacher who taught the course.
Unita' didattica A
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica B
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Unita' didattica C
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours