Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

H1  7/6-8/12 MTWTH  12:20-2:10 PM  CAC  04311  BIGNALL  SC-106

Literary London in the Late Twentieth Century

At the beginning of the twentieth century, London served as the heart of an expansive empire. By the turn of the twenty-first, the city was a very different place. Soon after World War II, immigration, youth culture, and urban renewal began to change the face of the English capital, while the dynamics of imperial fragmentation and rapid globalization remade it at a larger scale. London today is a vital and diverse city, a space of intersection and interaction that is just as complex as the literature written in and about it.
This course will consider London's transformation from imperial metropole to global city by way of this literature. Beginning after World War II and continuing up to the present day, we will investigate how writers (and other artists) have taken up the question of what it means to imagine and inhabit London. What, for example, is a city? Who makes them, and who inhabits them? What does it mean to do either? Does the social density of London help us imagine an answer to what "English" literature might be in the present day? And can that literature in turn help us better understand important contemporary issues of community belonging and collective imagination?

Though we will look primarily at novels, the reading list will also include poetry, memoir, film, and other cultural forms. Potential readings include works by Monica Ali, Martin Amis, Louise Bennett, Anita Desai, Buchi Emecheta, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Hanif Kureishi, Colin MacInnes, V.S. Naipaul, Caryl Phillips, Salman Rushdie, Sam Selvon, and Zadie Smith. Likely topics of conversation will include immigration; sub- and countercultures; race, class, and gender relations; city planning; urban violence; sex and labor trafficking; street art; dialect and slang; and drug culture.
Requirements will include participation, brief weekly response writing, and two short essays.

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Statue of "Willie the Silent"