English Culture II

A.Y. 2019/2020
9
Max ECTS
60
Overall hours
SSD
L-LIN/10
Language
English
Learning objectives
Focusing on the literary and non-literary works, films, art forms, discourses and cultural practices which inform and characterize the current British debate on national and cultural identity against the backdrop of the country's imperial past and with a view to redefine its role in Europe and globally, this course aims to enhance the students' knowledge and understanding of these themes, which are central concerns in the British and European experience of contemporaneity.
This aim is pursued through the methodological and critical tools of cultural studies, which, in line with the main objectives of the Degree Course, favour an understanding of ideological, intercultural and socio-spatial relations, as well as a multicultural and interdisciplinary approach. The course is meant to foster active participation from the students, and, besides advancing their spoken English skills, aims to enhance their ability to make judgements and recognize the differences and connections among divergent forms, genres, and cultures, according to the wider multicultural and intercultural mission of Mediazione Linguistica.

- Knowledge and understanding - Students will gain knowledge and understanding of a variety of cultural practices and productions (visual art, films, writing, performances) and literary texts, primarily in English, presented through the lens of Cultural Studies and against the backgrounds of contemporary British culture, history and society. Attention will be devoted to representations and redefinitions of British identity/ies, multi-culturalism, new ethnicities, the reemergence of nationalism, and current social inequalities and tensions. Cultural production and consumption will also be considered, along with the discourses and practices of consent construction and resistance, and youth cultures.

· Applying knowledge and understanding - Students will the opportunity to apply their acquired knowledge and understanding to close read and analyze cultural productions and literary texts; synthesize and compare relevant information; debate and discuss texts and issues in the class and in groups; produce brief oral or written work, and powerpoint presentations, consistent with the topics of the course.

- Making judgements - Students will acquire the skills relevant to making more informed and autonomous judgements. Thanks to their familiarity with different perspectives of intercultural analysis, they will develop analytical and critical attitudes towards cultural productions and literary texts and draw comparisons and establish connections between the various contexts under scrutiny and their own situated experience.

· Communication skills - The course will enable students to improve their oral skills in English, and, in particular, to discuss given topics, present their own work to an audience of peers; structure group work among peers; use IT technology to support both academic study and networking.
Expected learning outcomes
Beside consolidating their skills in comprehension, and oral and written English, students will acquire interdisciplinary methodological and cultural tools for discussing and analyzing cultural, political and media discourses and practices, fictional and non-fictional texts, visual culture, documentaries and films. This will be done from a variety of perspectives and using the methodological approaches of Cultural Studies. The acquisition of these skills will be fostered by encouraging active participation and dialogue, and by enabling the students to draw comparisons between the British context and their own situated experience of being Italians and citizens of the world, so as to facilitate forms of analysis and engagement with the issues and challenges of the British present which are consistent with the avowed specialist and intercultural mission of their Degree Course. Through active participation and independent work, students will be invited to develop a higher degree of intellectual curiosity, autonomy, and ability to discriminate; transfer the acquired skills to related fields of analysis; and to apply a methodological approach to future research and activities.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Course syllabus
This course, which relies mainly on a cultural studies approach, focuses on the divisive political and cultural tensions, as well as controversial misunderstandings of nationhood, identity and belonging, that have been among the main elements behind the 2016 Brexit vote, the 2017 general election results, and the period leading to the scheduled implementation of Brexit in March 2019 and to the current parliamentary turmoil. The course will address, in particular, the issues of austerity, social exclusion, anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiment, and the coterminous return of new forms of radical politics and action. These issues will be examined not only in their political and discursive expressions, but also through the analysis of their imaginative representations in literature, films, art works and forms of civil action and resistance.

THIS COURSE IS TAUGHT BY TWO DIFFERENT PROFESSORS. The first two modules will be taught by Prof. Lidia De Michelis, the third one by Dott. Roberto Pedretti.

Prof. De Michelis - Against the framework of the complex and controversial political, economic, social and cultural conjuncture which has characterized the period in British history which began with the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 and led to the return to power of the Conservative Party in 2010, module 1 will address, in particular, the re-emergence of exclusive and nostalgic understandings of British/English national identity. Often fueled by segments of the so-called 'popular' media and by nationalist parties, this misplaced feeling of belonging is at the heart of the anti-immigrant positions lying behind the 2016 vote for Brexit and the current political turmoil. Xeno-racism and hostility towards migrants, alongside incremental poverty and precaritization, will be the main foci of this module, which will address literary works, plays and films that attempt to resist such widespread fears through alternative representations. In this light, attention will be paid, in particular, to representations of migrants, asylum-seekers, 'racialized others' and the so-called white 'underclass'. The troublesome and somewhat 'revolutionary' institutional process meant to actualize Brexit - and the way it is represented by old and new media - will be, also, major themes highlighted during the course.

Module 2 will take as case study Julian Barnes' hyperreal futuristic novel England, England, set in a near future when all the main marks, symbols and myths of 'traditional' England are concentrated in a theme-park on the Isle of Wight which ends up by replacing the United Kingdom within the European Union, while the main island, in its new isolation, faces irreversible decadence and nostalgia. In particular, the module will address the ways this novel thematizes Englishness, its myths and stereotypes as well as its enduring fascination, by setting them out against the wider issues of national identity, collective memory, authenticity and the 'invention of cultural traditions'.

Dott. Pedretti - In the light of Brexit (2016) and following the election results of June 2017, module 3 will discuss the divisive political and cultural tensions, as well as the controversial issues of nationhood, identity and belonging, that are currently affecting the United Kingdom, and appear to be even more dramatic in the run up to the fateful opt out date of October 2019. Common people's opinions and feelings about 'Leave' and 'Remain' will be explored through a cultural reading of Anthony Cartwright's novel 'The Cut'. Special attention will be paid, as well, to the Labour Party's leader Jeremy Corbyn and his political strategies, in order to point to the ways in which his success may be understood as responding to the desire for new forms of political participation expressed by broad sectors of civil society and, in particular, by the young. This module is mostly in Italian.

THIS COURSE COUNTS FOR 9 CREDITS AND ITS PARTS CANNOT BE SELECTED FOR 3 CREDITS EXAMS
Prerequisites for admission
Students are expected to have a good command of English, as the lessons of modules 1 and 2, most texts, audiovisual material and some lectures are in that language.
Teaching methods
The lectures will primarily consist in whole-class teaching: internet usage, online material and articles, films, slides, talks by guest speakers moderated by the course lecturers, discussion sessions with the participation of the students, however, will also be prominent characteristics of the course.
The lectures od modules 1 and 2 will be mainly in English, the lectures of module 3 in Italian, while most texts and audiovisual material will be in English. Close reading and ideological textual and discourse analysis will be particularly highlighted, with a view to foster the ability to apply cultural studies methodologies and intercultural approaches to the interpretation of contemporary British culture.
Teaching Resources
The bibliography of the first module consists in a few short stories, 3 compulsory essays and 1 essay to be selected from the list published below, with a view to encourage students to develop individual interests:

Literary texts:
· David Herd, Anna Pincus (eds), Refugee Tales, Comma Press, 2016 (The Unaccompanied Minor's Tale, The Lorry Driver's Tale; The Interpreter's Tale);
Compulsory essays:
· John Clarke and Janet Newman, "'People in this country have had enough of experts': Brexit and the paradoxes of populism", Critical Policy Studies, 11:1 (2017), pp. 101-116
· Michael Silk, "'Isle of Wonder': Performing the mythopoeia of utopic multi-ethnic Britain", Media, Culture & Society, 37:1, 2015, pp. 68-84.
· Rebecca Langlands, "Britishness or Englishness? The historical problem of national identity in Britain", Nations and Nationalism, 5:1, 1999, pp. 53-69.

Plus 1 essay to be chosen between
o David Herd, "Calling for an End to Indefinite Detention: The Spatial Politics of Refugee Tales",
and
o Lidia De Michelis, "Reclaiming Human Movement, Restor(y)ing Hope",

Both are included in the dossier edited by Claudia Gualtieri, "Mobility, Immobility and Encounters along the South-North European Route", published in the November issue, n. 5 (2019), of the open access academic journal From the European South (available at: http://europeansouth.postcolonialitalia.it/).

Plus all the files and slides made available on the Ariel Website of the Course

The bibliography is the same for attending and NON-ATTENDING STUDENTS. The latter may choose to replace the slides and files published on the Ariel website with 2 additional short stories from Refugee Tales, edited by David Herd and Anna Pincus.

The bibliography of the second module consists in a novel and two essays:

Literary texts:
· Julian Barnes, England, England, 1998 (or any English edition). - novel

Essays:
· Lidia De Michelis, "Julian Barnes and the Current Political Debate on Englishness", in Cross-cultural encounters: identity, gender, representation, G. Buonanno and Mark Silver (eds.), Roma, Officina Edizioni, 2005, pp. 86-96.
· Vera Nünning, "The Invention of Cultural Traditions: The Construction and Deconstruction of Englishness and Authenticity in Julian Barnes' England, England",
www.julianbarnes.com/resources/archive/nunning.pdf

· In addition students will have to prepare all the slides and files available on the Ariel website of the course.

The bibliography is the same for attending and non-attending students. NON-ATTENDING STUDENTS are welcome, if they wish, to replace the files and slides available on the Ariel website with 1 additional essay, to be chosen between:

· Cornelia Macsiniuc, "Post-Tourism and the Motif of Regression in Julian Barnes's England, England", Messages, Sages, and Ages, Vol. 2, No. 2, (2015), pp. 66-75.
· Fanny Delnieppe, "A Past Perfect Rather Than a Perfect Past: Julian Barnes's Reflective Nostalgia in England, England", Études britanniques contemporaines (49, 2015; online), accessibile al link: https://journals.openedition.org/ebc/2620

The bibliography of the third module, based on political-historical and cultural studies approach, consists in 1 novel, 2 essays and a volume of essays.

Literary texts:
· Anthony Cartwright, The Cut, Peirene, Londra, 2017 (ed. italiana Il taglio, 66th and 2nd, Roma,
2019) - romanzo

Essays:
· Owen Jones, Chavs. The demonization of the working class, Verso, London, 2011, chap.7, "Broken Britain," pp. 185-220
· AA.VV., Brexit and Literature. Critical and Cultural Responses, Routledge, Abingdon, 2018, chap.2, "Brexlit", pp. 15-29. N.B.: Students can freely access the ebook of this volume through the University digital library (remember to log in!)

· Perryman, Mark, (a cura di), The Corbyn Effect, Lawrence & Wilshart, London, 2017

· All the files and slides made available on the ARIEL website of the course.

The bibliography is the same for attending and non-attending students. NON-ATTENDING STUDENTS are welcome, if they wish, to replace the ppt presentations and files published on the ARIEL website of the course with 1 more chapter from Chavs: The demonization of the working class, Verso, London, 2011: Ch. V - "We're all middle class now".

Most of the essays included in the syllabus can be downloaded freely from the internet or accessed through the Ariel website or the University Digital Library (don't forget to log in!).
Assessment methods and Criteria
The final exam will consist of a detailed and analytical oral discussion on the texts and files included in the programme and at least one of the lectures hosted during the course. Students are free to take the exam in Italian or in English and are required to demonstrate their full knowledge of the texts and the syllabus, and to be able to analyse them in the light of the analytical tools and cultural studies approach developed during the course. Building on the information and bibliography provided during the course, they must be able, as well, to contextualize notions, issues texts, and cultural products showing an awareness of contemporary British history, culture, and cultural networks.

Towards the end of the course, the students who attend the course will have the opportunity, on a voluntary basis, to take an optional mid-term written test (written in Italian and lasting two hours), based on the material taught and discussed in the first and third modules. It will consist of series of open questions (generally 5, unless otherwise stated). Its contents and format will be advertised during the lectures and published on the Ariel website of the course in advance (https://ldemichelisci2.ariel.ctu.unimi.it). Foreign students, and the students who wish to do so, are free to take the test in English.
Passing this test will allow students to prepare a shorter programme for the oral exam which will be made known at the beginning of the course and published on the Ariel website.
For students attending the course who will choose to take the written test, the mark of the final exam (in a scale of 30) will be a combination of the marks obtained in the written test, the evaluation of their active participation in the course, and the result of the final oral discussion.
Students attending the course who will choose not to take the written test will have to discuss in the final oral exam the whole programme (essays, online files, novels, autonomous productions).

For students unable to attend the course, the final exam will be an analytical oral discussion of the whole programme (including the alternative material for students not attending the course listed in this programme as an option).
Non-attending students are welcome to refer to their lecturers for questions and further comment about the contents and programme of the course during office hours or by email. The same applies to foreign students in need of individual advice.

Excellence (honours) will be awarded in the final exam to students who will show an understanding of the methodological approach, will adopt originality of presentation, and will be able to connect events and cultural practices in an intercultural perspective.

THIS EXAM COUNTS FOR 9 CREDITS AND IS NOT ELIGIBLE AS A 3 CREDITS EXAM
Teaching Unit 1
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Teaching Unit 2
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Teaching Unit 3
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours