Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
20 August 2019
Requisites for this module
BA QQ23 English Language and Literature,
BA QQ24 English Language and Literature (Including Foundation Year),
BA QQ32 English Language and Literature (Including Year Abroad),
BA QQ35 English Language and Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA QRF9 Literature and Modern Languages,
BA Q2R9 Literature with Modern Languages
This module provides an introduction to one of the most distinctive developments in twentieth-century literature: postmodernism. Postmodernism is a notoriously difficult term to pin down, spanning as it does developments across virtually every area of culture, from architecture and painting to music and fashion.
In his influential book, The Postmodern Condition (1979), the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard famously defined the postmodern as ‘incredulity towards meta-narratives’, by which he meant an attitude of scepticism directed at each of the successive master-stories in terms of which western civilisation has made sense of itself. Postmodern literature is written in full awareness of the loss of faith in these meta-narratives – a condition which it sometimes laments but more often celebrates. Against totalising explanations, theories, and identities, postmodernism affirms the provisional, the particular, the anomalous, the multiple, and the fragmentary.
Allowing for considerable variation within the period, it is possible to identify a set of family resemblances across those authors and texts typically classified as postmodern. These resemblances usually include some combination of the following: the prevalence of irony, parody, and pastiche; a rejection of the conventions of realist fiction, as well as a radicalisation of the methods of the modernist writers of the previous generation; heavy reliance on allusion and intertextuality; self-reflexivity and an emphasis on the fictionality of fiction; a deliberate blurring of the boundaries between literature and reality; a collapsing of the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ (popular) culture; a rejection of inherited beliefs and values, including those of modernity itself; an attempt to work through the implications of the Holocaust for modern society; and close ties to a range of political causes, including second-wave feminism, the 1960s counterculture, and the gay rights movement.
This module aims to foster students’ cultural awareness and critical thinking by inviting them to consider the complex set of literary, philosophical, and political currents often grouped together under the heading ‘postmodernism’. The module focuses on nine key texts which, taken together, provide an overview of the phenomenon of postmodernism as it unfolds from the 1950s and early 2000s. Students will acquire or deepen their knowledge of a range of cultural texts, encompassing short stories, novels, poetry, and art history, each of which has been chosen as representative of one or more tendencies within postmodernism. Students will also develop an understanding and appreciation of the cultural and historical context in which postmodernism arose.
After successful completion of the module, students should be able to:
1. display a detailed knowledge of a representative range of key postmodern authors and texts;
2. analyse and theorize the cultural and historical context in which postmodern literature emerged;
3. evaluate both the immediate impact and longer-term cultural implications of postmodernism;
4. demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to engage in intellectual debates around postmodern literature;
5. plan, research, and write a critical essay.
No additional information available.
Ten two-hour seminars
Module materials will be available on Moodle
- (Sunday, 2 May 2010) Modern Masters: Andy Warhol: BBC1 London.
- Philip, Marlene Nourbese. (no date) Zong!: Wesleyan University Press.
- Ginsberg, Allen. (2009) Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems, London: Penguin Books Ltd.
- Spiegelman, Art. (2004) In the shadow of no towers, London: Viking.
- Thompson, Hunter S. (no date) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, London: Flamingo.
- Borges, Jorge Luis. (no date) Fictions, London: Calder.
- Ashbery, John. (1998) Selected Poems, Manchester: Carcanet Press Ltd.
- Lyotard, Jean-François. (c1993) 'Note on the Meaning of 'Post'', in The postmodern explained: correspondence, 1982-1985, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press., pp.75-80
- Winterson, Jeanette. (no date) Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, London: Pandora Press.
- Wiesel, Elie. (1974) Night ; Dawn ; The accident: three tales, London: Robson.
- Acker, Kathy. (no date) Blood and Guts in High School: Grove Press.
- Reza, Yasmina. (2005) 'Art', in Plays: one, London: Faber.
- (Saturday, 8 Aug 2015) The Matrix (1999): ITV2.
The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.
Assessment items, weightings and deadlines
|Coursework / exam
||Essay (3,000 words)
||Presentation in class
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Joanna Rzepa
LiFTS General Office – email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel 01206 87 2626
Prof Duncan James Salkeld
Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).
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