Contemporary English literature

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course offers a series of readings between the late xx and the early xxi century; its aim is to showcase how the anglophone literary world has reflected upon the present offering highly original interpretations and suggestions. The textual analyses imply a thorough knowledge of the historical and literary contexts and the acquisition of critical abilities.
Expected learning outcomes
During the course, students will acquire a general knowledge of the outlines of contemporary English literature (after 1945), with an insight into its complex interaction with other media and other cultures. Students will be able to position a literary text within its literary and cultural contexts. Students will be working on new critical approaches to literature and literary movements.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
This course offers classes in distance teaching. Distant classes will follow the official timetable published on the Unimi website. The Teams code for the classes is 03jpkbi.
More details will be made available according to the evolution of the pandemic.
Course syllabus
The course investigates different branches of ecocriticism, ranging from arboreal diversity (units A & B) to non-human animal diversity (unit C). Unit C, though not compulsory, is part of the ecocritical approach of the entire course.
The syllabus, which includes novels, short stories, essays, poems, and videos, has been designed in order to lead the students through different ecological and literary responses to late modernity.

Units A and B will be taught by prof. Vescovi, Unit C by prof. Iannaccaro.
Prerequisites for admission
The course — entirely in English — and the primary and secondary bibliography require a good knowledge of English, both oral and written, as well as a basic knowledge of the English classics. The course is NOT recommended to first-year students. A knowledge of Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees will help students to attend the course.
Please remember that you have to sign up for each class through the EasyLesson app.
Teaching methods
The course deploys the following teaching methods: lectures with close reading and textual analysis; whenever possible, videos, images and music will also be employed. Students will be asked to take an active part in the critical reading of the texts; they should therefore be willing to read some works during the course.
Teaching Resources
Units A and B:
Seamus Heaney, Sweeney Astray,…
a selection of poems will also be available on the course website.
Marlene Creates, A Virtual Walk of The Boreal Poetry Garden; internet project at
Sumana Roy, How I became a Tree, Aleph Book Co.
Richard Powers, The Overstory, W.W. Norton & Co.
James Cameron, Avatar, Disney.

Critical bibliography (the items marked with * are for non-attending students only)
Paul Poplawsky. From English Literature in Context, Cambridge U.P., Chapter 7.
*Timothy Clark. The value of ecocriticism. Cambridge U.P. (Available online on the Digital Lybrary)
Seamus Heaney "The God in the Tree", in Preoccupations, biblioteca di Lingue.
*Stephen Regan. "Seamus Heaney and the Making of 'Sweeney Astray.'" Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS), vol. 21, no. 2, 2015, pp. 317-339. (Online on
From: Carmen Concilio and Daniela Fargione, from: Trees in Literatures and the Arts, chapters: § *Introduction, § 7, § 16, § 17.
Interviews in
*Cynthia Erb. "A Spiritual Blockbuster: Avatar, Environmentalism, and the New Religions" in Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Fall 2014), pp. 3-17.

Lupi e cani sulla scena letteraria
Wolves and Dogs on the Literary Stage

Literary texts
- Jack Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, a selection of tales and poems [Anglistica library].
- Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber, 1979, the following tales: "The Werewolf"; "The Company of Wolves"; "Wolf Alice". The Vintage edition is recommended (introduction by Helen Simpson).
- Philip Armstrong, "Litter", in Among Animals: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction. Edited by John Yunker, 2014 [Anglistica Library]. This short story will provide an occasion for a class debate.

Critical bibliography
- Jack Zipes, "Prologue" and "Introduction" to The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, Routledge, pp. 1-90 [Anglistica library].
- Angela Carter's biography, in Unimi Database > Banche dati > Literature Online > Opere di riferimento > Carter Angela, 1940-1992, Author Page.
- An Interview with Angela Carter: "The Company of Angela Carter", Marxism Today, January 1985, pp. 20-22.
- Raymond, Midge. "An interview with Among Animals contributor Philip Armstrong ("Litter")." 27 March 2014:…

NON-ATTENDING STUDENTS will also study a good textbook of Narratology in order to be able to apply the main categories of the discipline to the literary texts in the syllabus.
- Manfred Jahn, Narratology 2.2: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative, 2021 [Free online]
- Hermann Grosser, Narrativa. Manuale/Antologia, Milano, Principato, 1985 [Anglistica Library]

NON-ATTENDING STUDENTS: the course syllabus does not change, but attendance to classes is highly recommended; the interaction between students and teachers is an important element of the educational project.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam consists in an oral test assessed in thirtieths. 18/30 is the pass score. The test (an interview) will ascertain: the capacity of students to read and translate the literary texts studied (non-Italian students will be asked to paraphrase the same in English); their knowledge of the historical, cultural, and literary context of both texts and writers proposed; their knowledge of the literary works proposed; their critical abilities (their capacity to analyse the literary works, and to connect different authors, texts and literary trends). Linguistic precision will also be part of the assessment. In order to take the exam it is mandatory to bring along all the literary texts.
It is possible to sit the exam both in Italian and English, but at least one or two questions will have to be answered in English.
The final score is expressed in thirtieths; students may accept or reject the mark - in the latter case it will be recorded as "ritirato" and they will have to repeat the whole exam (all Units) in a future session.
Students with any disabilities are kindly requested to contact the teacher in order to agree on alternative examination methods, according to the current legislation.
The present syllabus is valid until February 2023.
Unita' didattica A
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Professor: Vescovi Alessandro
Unita' didattica B
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Professor: Vescovi Alessandro
Unita' didattica C
L-LIN/10 - ENGLISH LITERATURE - University credits: 3
Lessons: 20 hours
Educational website(s)
Wednesday, 15:30-18:30, either in person or on Teams. Please send me a mail in advance to make an appointment.
Piazza S. Alessandro 1, Anglistica; or Microsoft Teams Platform
Thursday between 9.00 a.m. and 12.00. Please use the form to reserve a position
Microsoft Teams. For a different arrangement please see the form