Contemporary English literature

A.Y. 2020/2021
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
First semester
Most lessons will be video recorded and uploaded on the Ariel website of the course, but also some online lessons will be taught on Microsoft Teams (at least two lessons per unit). These lessons will be recorded too and made available on Teams.
The course schedule will be published on the Ariel website at the beginning of the lessons.
All the materials used during the course will be uploaded on the Ariel website.
The oral exam will be taken on Microsoft Teams, as suggested by the University of Milan. On the website of the course all the instructions concerning exams, dates and other will be published and constantly updated.
Course syllabus
Course title: Crossing boundaries in contemporary English literature.
The course includes a general introduction concerning the definition of contemporary English literature and the analysis of some crucial notions related to English identity, the literary canon, intertextuality. The three units in which the course is divided revolve around the issue of boundaries which becomes a key metaphor for interpreting the selected literary texts. Unit A aims at investigating questions connected with the representation and reinterpretation of the past, especially wars; unit B deals with the postcolonial and cosmopolitan perspective through the examination of narrations intersecting different points of view in terms of gender and ethnicity; unit C shifts to the transition from human to posthuman and focuses on the construction of worlds exploring the limits of the human. A map of contemporary English literature will be drawn, focusing on boundaries, on their fluidity and on their crossings, and showing the challenges of the contamination and the hybridisation of cultures, languages and literary forms.
It is divided into three units:
A. Rewriting the past, redefining national identity
B. Postcolonial transitions and cosmopolitan scenes
C. Technological shifts: from human to posthuman
The course is addressed to graduate students specialising in Foreign Languages and Literatures. Students interested in the 6 credit exam can choose Unit A and Unit B or Unit A and Unit C or Unit B and Unit C; students interested in the 9 credit exam are required to study Unit A, B and C.
The syllabus is valid until February 2022.
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. They should also show a very good knowledge of English literature from the XIX century onwards as well as a proven ability to analyse literary texts.
Teaching methods
The course employs the following teaching methods: lectures including close reading and analysis of the texts; audiovisual materials, such as sequences of television and film adaptations or documentaries, etc. Students are encouraged to actively participate in textual analysis and in the discussions in class and on the website forum.
Teaching Resources
General bibliography:
The Cambridge Companion to British Fiction 1980-2018, edited by Peter Boxall (a selection of chapters to be provided)
A Concise Compaion to Contemporary British Fiction, edited by James F. English (a selection of chapters to be provided)
Other critical materials will be suggested during the course and will be uploaded on the website.

Unit A
Rewriting the past, redefining national identity
Literary texts:
Graham Swift, Waterland (any edition in English)
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (any edition in English)
Beryl Bainbridge, Master Georgie (any edition in English)
Pat Barker, Double Vision (any edition in English)

Unit B
Postcolonial transitions and cosmopolitan scenes
Literary texts:
V.S. Naipaul, Half a Life (any edition in English)
Alexandra Fuller, Scribbling the Cat. Travels with an African Soldier (any edition in English)
Abdulrazak Gurnah, The Last Gift (any edition in English)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (any edition in English)

Unit C
Technological shifts: from human to posthuman
Literary texts:
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (any edition in English)
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (any edition in English)
Ian McEwan, Machines Like Me (any edition in English)
In addition:
A selection of essays from The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Posthuman (available on the website)
Film adaptations (Blade Runner, Never Let Me Go)

The website of the course is online on the Ariel platform ( students will be able to download lessons and other materials. For each unit critical essays on general questions or on specific texts will be available. The website also contains general information on the course.
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 and will also include methodological questions on the frame of contemporary literature, the literary representation of national identity, the issues concerning the literary canon 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.
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