English Culture II

A.Y. 2020/2021
6
Max ECTS
40
Overall hours
SSD
L-LIN/10
Language
English
Learning objectives
Focusing on the literary and non-literary works, films, discourses, art forms and cultural practices which contribute to inform the current British debate on national, social and cultural identity against the backdrop of the country's imperial past, and with a view to redefine the United Kingdom's role in Europe and globally, this course aims to enhance the students' critical knowledge and understanding of these themes, as well as of the enduring influence and attraction of British institutions, literature and culture on our current experience of contemporaneity.
These aims are pursued through the methodological and critical tools of cultural studies, which, in tune with the avowed educational and vocational objectives of our Master Degree Course, privilege multicultural and interdisciplinary exchanges and perspectives. These approaches are particularly rewarding in order to contextualize British cultural phenomena against the backdrop of a rich web of relations among culture(s), beliefs, literatures, genres, social and discursive practices and paradigms, and the production and consumption of cultural products. By fostering active participation from the students, the course aims to enhance their critical analytic skills, their ability to make independent judgements and organize their own work and study projects, and encourages an advanced ability to recognize differences and make thoughtful connections among divergent forms, genres, practices and identities, in line with the overall mission of Lingue e Culture per la Comunicazione e la Cooperazione Internazionale.

Objectives include:
Knowledge and understanding - Students will gain knowledge and critical understanding of a range of cultural practices, productions (visual art, films, writing, performances), and literary genres and texts in English, relevant to the main themes of the course, which they will approach through the lens of selected Cultural Studies practices and theories, applied to the current British context. Knowledge and understanding of the historical, political and social background, as well as of essential cultural paradigms, will be important elements of the programme. These include, but are not limited to: definitions and re-definitions of British national identity against the new multicultural and multi-ethnic social reality; Englishness, Britishness, exclusion and inclusion; London as urban space, and as literary and film imaginary; borders, immigration, diaspora and their representation in the British public sphere and in British literature, film, art, and music. Other themes, connected to specific courses, may include notions such as: empire, post-empire, Commonwealth, post-colonialism, and the relations with the former colonies; identity, alterity, difference, hybridity; "race", ethnicity, multiculturalism, and cosmopolitanism; the discourses and practices of dissent and resistance; power, ideology, hegemony and the ways they are reflected in British culture; politics, practices and representations of the body; alterity, speculative genres, science fiction.
Applying knowledge and understanding - Students will have the opportunity to apply their acquired knowledge and understanding to in-depth close reading and critical analysis of cultural productions and literary texts; to improving their ability to retrieve, select, synthesise, compare, evaluate and organize relevant information and materials; to debating and discussing relevant texts and issues in the class and in groups and producing oral and written work in English, and PowerPoint presentations, consistent with the topics of the course.
Making judgements - Students will acquire the following skills relevant to making informed and autonomous judgements: by acquiring and developing comprehensive analytical and critical attitudes towards a diversity of cultural productions and literary texts, they will be better equipped to embrace and transfer intercultural and plural perspectives of analysis. The ability to draw comparisons and establish connections between the various contexts under scrutiny, and the habit to experiment with a diversity of approaches to selected issues consistent with the course will also be major assets in developing judgements skills.
Communication skills - The course will enable students to enhance their ability to use English to discuss selected topics, present their own work to an audience of peers and engage the audience in fruitful debates, use IT technology to support both academic study, research and networking.
Expected learning outcomes
Acquired knowledge and skills will match the multicultural mission and learning objectives of the Master Degree Course by allowing students to select, contextualise, critically analyse, evaluate and discuss the thematic threads, the cultural practices, discourses, literary, visual and artistic productions of contemporary Britain showing an awareness of their historical, political, social and cultural backgrounds. The acquisition of these skills will be fostered by encouraging the students to engage in active participation and dialogue and by enabling them to draw comparisons and unravel the connections between the British context and their own culture and experiences, according to a cross-cultural perspective which, in line with the overall objectives of Lingue e Culture per la Comunicazione e la Cooperazione Internazionale, will enhance their ability to compare different histories, ideologies, claims, cultural practices, and the way they offer thoughtful responses to central issues of the present. Through active participation and independent work, students will develop linguistic and argumentative skills which will help them undertake further study with a higher degree of intellectual curiosity, autonomy, and ability to discriminate, transfer the acquired skills to related fields of analysis and apply multiple methodologies and a consistent intercultural approach to their dissertation and post-graduate research.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Due to the spread of Covid-19, the course of English Culture II 2020-2021 will be delivered online and exams procedures will include written assignments and activities in addition to an oral test. These variations will be always fine-tuned to the University's official directions and, hopefully, applied only during the first term of the academic year 2020-2021.

· Lectures will be delivered online. Most of them will be synchronous, in line with the official time-table, and will be accessed through the Microsoft TEAMS platform. Occasionally, and certainly during the weeks in which some courses of our Degree Program will be classroom-taught, asynchronous lessons (video-recordings, audio/video ppt) will be made available. Other teaching materials and suggestions will be provided through the ARIEL platform of the course. Asynchronous lectures may be shorter, and particularly designed to facilitate the achievement of learning objectives. They may be followed by online discussions and interactions. Active involvement will be encouraged.

· Testing has been redesigned so as to be equally accurate and effective in the case of classroom teaching and remote teaching (see the official programme).
These temporary provisions are meant not to interfere with the achievement of the intended learning objectives and acquired skills which define this course.
Programmes and teaching materials are the same in the case of classroom and remote teaching.
Information, announces and further changes will be published on TEAMS and on the ARIEl website of the course.
Course syllabus
The programme is the same for attending and non-attending students.

Module 1 - "Let Us Make Britain Great Again": Discourses, Metaphors and Affective Narratives of British National Identity from Margaret Thatcher to Boris Johnson.

The course will address the ideological and rhetorical features, as well as the symbolic and affective fallout of the long path to Brexit (and more precisely on its most recent stages). Particular attention will be given to the role of the literary, artistic and counter-hegemonic imagination in addressing the emotional and cultural complexities of the present conjuncture, as well as their social and cultural fallout. Attention will be given, in particular, to the period 2018-2020, unfolding around the dreams and difficulties of "achieving" Brexit. The slow death of the second May government, the prime ministerial ascent of Boris Johnson and his recent election victory in December 2019 have fostered the sharpening, inside the national community, of deep divisions increasingly experienced in terms of imaginative and affective commitment and performed through the new media. Module 1, in particular, will highlight the deeply metaphorical basis of Brexit discourse, and the way it attempts to connect nationalist nostalgia and the so-called British exceptionalism with drives and scenarios more immediately based on populism and affect.

Module 2 - "It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times": Magical Realism and Hopeful Storytelling as Spaces of Mediation and Encounter.

Module 2, which is centred on fictional representations, focuses on some compelling attempts to enrol fiction, storytelling, and other forms of cultural production in order to resist and countermand the increasingly aggressive and degraded language of politicians and the media (and the simplistic and polarized affective scenarios that their discourse aims to create). After a brief introduction to the literary phenomenon called "Brexlit", the module will focus on two multi-layered and compelling novels - Spring (2019) by Ali Smith and Exit West (2017) by Mohsin Hamid - which pose essential questions about issues of "truth", memory, universalism, transnationalism, and welcoming (as opposed to hate). One of their main characteristics is, indeed, the clash between the stifling horizons of hate speech and the experimental, liberatory languages of literature, uniquely apt to open up painful imaginaries of strife and division through new declensions of the notions of "community" and "hope".
Prerequisites for admission
Students are expected to have a good command of English, as lectures, films, texts and debates will be in that language. Lectures by guest speakers may be in Italian. Students from other Universities or Degree Courses who do not have a background in Cultural Studies may read: Roberto Pedretti, Dalla Lambretta allo skateboard, 2.0, Milano, Unicopli 2009 (or, in English, Gary Hall, Clare Birchall, eds., New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory, University of Georgia Press, 2006).
Teaching methods
Teaching methodology: The lectures will mainly rely on whole-class teaching (including 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). Group work and students' autonomous productions and commentary on essays and additional material will be highly encouraged and actively pursued.
During the Covid-19 emergency lectures will be delivered through remote teaching. Most of them will be synchronous, in line with the official timetable, and will be accessed through the Microsoft TEAMS platform. Occasionally, and certainly during the weeks in which some courses of our Degree Program will be classroom-taught, asynchronous lessons (video-recordings, audio/video ppt) will be made available. Other teaching materials and suggestions will be provided through the ARIEL platform of the course. Asynchronous lectures may be shorter, and particularly designed to facilitate the achievement of learning objectives. They may be followed by online discussions and interactions. Active involvement will be encouraged.
Teaching Resources
The reading list is the same for attending and non-attending students.

*Most of the essays are available freely through the internet or the University Library online periodicals division. (Don't forget to log in!). This does not apply to novels and monographs

Module 1 -

Books:

· Jonathan Charteris-Black, Metaphors of Brexit; No Cherries on the Cake?, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019. [Capp: 4 - "'Take Back Control': Invaded Nation or Sovereign Nation?" (pp. 103-131); 6 - "The Metaphors of Boris Johnson" (pp. 161-196).

Essays:

· Lidia De Michelis, "«We have ceased to be a nation in retreat». Margaret Thatcher e gli usi strategici del conflitto", Storia delle donne, n. 10, 2014, pp. 29-53.
http://www.storiadelledonne.it/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/DeMichelis201…
· James Meek, "James Meek on Brexit and the myth of St. George", da Id., Dreams of Leaving and Remaining, London, Verso, 2019. (Accessibile tramite il blog dell'editore Verso, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4257-james-meek-on-brexit-and-the-myth…

Plus 1 essay to be chosen from the following list:

· John Clarke, "A Sovereign People? Political Fantasy and Governmental Time in the Pursuit of Brexit", in: Guderjan, Marius; Mackay, Hugh and Stedman, Gesa eds., Contested Britain: Brexit, Austerity and Agency, Bristol: Bristol University Press, pp. 117-130. http://oro.open.ac.uk/70514/1/A%20sovereign%20people_%20Pre-publication…
· Blair E. Williams, "A Tale of Two Women: A Comparative Gendered Media Analysis of UK Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May", Parliamentary Affairs, (2020) 0, 1-23, online first, doi:10.1093/pa/gsaa008
· Chiara Bonacchi, Mark Altaweel and Marta Krzyzanska, "The heritage of Brexit: Roles of the past in the construction of political identities through social media", Journal of Social Archaeology, vol. 18, n. 2, 2018, pp. 74-192

Plus all the slides and files made available on the Ariel website of the course (http://ldemichelisci1e2lin.ariel.ctu.unimi.it)

Students will be invited to participate actively in the analysis through workshop activities, presentations on essays and films, and debates.

Module 2 -

Novels:

· Ali Smith, Spring, London (Pantheon Books, 2019; paperback: Anchor Books, 2020)
· Mohsin Hamid, Exit West, New York and London, Vintage, 2017.

1 essay to be chosen among the following ones:

· John Masterson, "'Don't tell me this isn't relevant all over again in its brand new same old way': imagination, agitation, and raging against the machine in Ali Smith's Spring", Safundi, vol. 21, no. 3, 2020, pp. 355-372
· Eleanor Byrne, "Autumn, Winter, Never Spring: Brexit Season", Open Art Journal, n. 8, 2020, pp. 83-94 https://openartsjournal.org/issue-8/article-6


· Plus all the slides and files made available on the Ariel website of the course (http://ldemichelisca1e2lin.ariel.ctu.unimi.it)
Assessment methods and Criteria
The final exam will consist of a critical and detailed oral discussion on all the texts, files and other material included in the programme. Students are to take the exam in English, and are required to demonstrate their full knowledge of the texts and the syllabus, and to be able to contextualise, analyse, evaluate and discuss them critically 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 to show a sufficient awareness of the historical and cultural background of the United Kingdom, along the perspectives discussed in the syllabus.
Students will have the opportunity, if they wish, to take at least 1 mid-term written assignment (a short essay to be written at home), and/or to take part in other learning activities or group works agreed with their lecturer. The results of the test will be published on the ARIEL website of the course (http://ldemichelisci1e2.ariel.ctu.unimi.it). Passing this test and taking part in the activities will allow the students to concentrate on a shorter programme (to be defined at the beginning of the course) for their final oral exam. Detailed information about the precise contents and formats of the test will be provided at the beginning of the course and published on the Microsoft TEAMS and the Ariel website of the course.
Students are free not to take this test and discuss the whole programme in their final oral exam.
For the students 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 (plus, on a voluntary basis, their autonomous productions), and the result of the final oral discussion.
Excellence will be awarded in the final exam to students who will show deep understanding of the methodological approach, will adopt originality of presentation, and will be able to contextualize and critically connect events, texts, and cultural practices, analyzed in both their local and global dimensions, according to a cross-cultural perspective.

Prerequisites and testing are the same as for attending and non-attending students.

Students who enrolled no later than the academic year 2019-2020 and want to earn ONLY 3 CREDITS have to prepare the programme and bibliography of the first module of the course, centred on theory and essays. If they are more interested in fiction and would like to prepare the programme of the second module, they are required to contact their professor by email or in person. The 3 credit exam can only be taken as part of the 9 credits that students may allot to subjects of their own choice. Students who enrolled in the current academic year 2020-2021 can no longer select the 3 credits exam.

Students are welcome to refer to their lecturers for questions and further comment about the contents and programme of the course during office hours through TEAMS or by email. This applies also to foreign students in need of individual advice.
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 6
Lessons: 40 hours
Educational website(s)
Professor(s)