Aftermaths: Literatures in English 1945-60

Aftermaths: Literatures in English 1945-60

This course looks at literature of the post-war period; all of which can be understood significantly, though not exclusively, in terms of responses to WW2. This is writing which reflects on the war and its prehistory and explores the kind of world that might be built afterwards, visions that could be positive and/or negative. ‘Aftermaths’ is therefore being employed in an expanded sense. This is a period of extraordinary variety and richness in literature which corresponds to new and developing national and international histories. From post-war reflection and expectation, through the emerging contours of the Cold War and the decolonisation of Europe’s empires, this is a period when writing explicitly represents and articulates social demands (as in very different ways do Arnold Wesker and Wole Soyinka) and seeks to develop appropriate new forms and aesthetics (Beckett, The Movement). As before, we’re going to look at writing literary and popular, famous and ‘forgotten’, and how it was published and produced to understand the preoccupations of this period.

Tutor:                    Rachel Malik

Time:                     Thursdays 10.30am – 12.30pm

Dates:                   Autumn term 2018: Sept 20– Dec 13 (half term w/c Oct 22)
                              Spring term 2019: Jan 10 – April 4 (half term w/c Feb 18)
                              Summer term 2019: May 2 – May 23

Venue:                 Gosling Room

Fees:                     £124 for a 12-week term

                               £41 for a 4-week summer term

As the time scale of the course is narrow, we will be able to develop a strong sense of the contexts which were shaping writing and other forms of cultural production at this time. In term one, we’ll look at some direct responses to the war and in particular its impact on London: Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair and Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness, before looking at two ways of exploring the post-war ‘settlement’.  Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, performed in London two years after its first performance in France is the first of a set of ‘alternative’ forms or aesthetics that are a critical part of this period, along with the ‘angry young men’ and new strains of realism in fiction and drama. In the Spring term, we’ll look at two other plays, Arnold Wesker’s, Chicken Soup With Barley and Wole Soyinka’s The Invention set in an imagined future – the year is 1976 when the apartheid regime is beginning to crumble – which seek to re-orient drama politically and expand its horizons. We will also explore Robert Lowell’s Life Studies, one of the key texts which introduce a new confessionalism into poetry and make a stark contrast with the poetry of The Movement that we’ll be reading in term one. Two novels which use a combination of realism and allegory to explore the pre-war past and contemplate the dangers of the future complete this terms texts: Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos. In the short Summer term, we’ll compare and contrast two novels of ‘domestic’ life that explore the constraints on women’s lives: Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women and Barbara Comyns’s The Vet’s Daughter.

This year, responding to the extended timetables of terms 1 and 2, we’re going to schedule some class time for comparative discussion, for viewing parts of the plays and for listening and discussing some of the extensive range of programmes about the texts we’re reading.

 

Autumn Term

Weeks 1 and 2 Graham Greene

The End of the Affair (1951)

Weeks 3 and 4

Rose Macaulay, The World My Wilderness (1950)

Weeks 5, 6 and 7

Robert Conquest ed. New Lines (1956). Poems by Kingsley AmisRobert ConquestDonald DavieD. J. EnrightThom GunnJohn HollowayElizabeth JenningsPhilip Larkin and John Wain aka ‘The Movement’. 

Weeks 8 and 9

Marghanita Lasky, The Village (1952)

Weeks 10 and 11

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (first performed in England in 1955)

Week 12

Comparative Reflection

Spring Term

Weeks 1 and 2

Arnold Wesker, Chicken Soup with Barley (1956)

Weeks 3 and 4

Robert Lovell, Life Studies (1961)

Weeks 5, 6 and 7

John Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) and Cold War science fiction

Weeks 8 and 9

Wole Soyinka, The Invention (1959)

Weeks 10 and 11

Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)

Week 12

Comparative Reflection

Summer Term
Weeks 1 and 2

Barbara Pym, Excellent Women (1952)

Weeks 3 and 4

Barbara Comyns, The Vet’s Daughter (1959)

See Also Two-day Short Courses: Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice, Charles Dickens Great Expectations, Dante The Divine Comedy in Translation, The Odyssey in Translation