This list relates to the 2017-18 which ended on 18/08/2018
This list has a newer version. Click here to view
This list has been archived
  1. Case Study Set Texts 5 items
    1. Axolotl Roadkill - Helene Hegemann, Katy Derbyshire 2012


    2. My Brilliant Friend: Book 1: Childhood, adolescence - Elena Ferrante, trans. Ann Goldstein 2012


    3. Day of the oprichnik: a novel - Vladimir Sorokin, trans. Jamey Gambrell 2012


    4. The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde 2001

      Book  [Edition to be confirmed]

  2. Week 1: Introduction 2 items
    See the module booklet for further seminar preparation requirement Prof. Margaret-Anne Hutton
    1. Three moments of an explosion: stories - China Miéville 2016

      Book Essential Read the following chapters: 'Three Moments of an Explosion'; 'Syllabus'; Rules'; 'A Second Slice Manifesto'

  3. Week 2: Canon formation 13 items
    Dr Michael White
    1. Seminar Preparation 7 items
      1. Canon of literature - Meyer H. Abrams, Geoffrey Galt Harpham


      2. Canon - John Guillory

        Chapter  (In Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin)

      3. Canonicity - Wendell V. Harris 1991


      4. Why a Classic is a Classic - Arnold Bennett

        Chapter  In the Library and available online

      5. The Western canon: the books and school of the ages - Harold Bloom 1994

        Book  Read: ‘Preface and Prelude’; ‘An Elegy for the Canon’ and ‘The Chaotic Age: A Canonical Prophecy’

    2. Additional Reading 6 items
      1. On Literary Prizes and Awards:

  4. Week 3: Case Study 1 - Helene Hegemann, Axolotl Roadkill 28 items
    Please ensure that you have read the text in advance of the seminar. For those who read German, I have given the details of the German edition below. If it's of interest, Hegemann also released a film of the novel in 2017, which is on DVD as of December 2017, although this is not yet available in a version with English subtitles.
    1. Axolotl Roadkill: a novel - Helene Hegemann, trans. Katy Derbyshire 2012

      Book Essential

    2. Hegemann published Axolotl Roadkill in January 2010 to rave reviews. It wasn't her literary debut, but its treatment of a troubled young teenage protagonist losing herself in Berlin's hedonistic club culture immediately resonated. The press reception drew parallels to Hegemann herself, as a new iteration of the so-called literary 'Fräuleinwunder' (meaning 'girl wonder(s)') around the millenium, in which the works of young women writers were marketed and received in terms that highlighted the writers' gender, their youth, and often their appearance. Hegemann's own gender, youth and mental health problems were (and remain) at the centre of the book's reception.

      One month later, Deef Pirmasens exposed whole sections of the novel that had been lifted from Airen's novel Strobo, as well as other literary 'borrowings'. A plagiarism scandal erupted and the author was attacked for her use of other people's material without acknowledgement. The scandal exposed the importance of authenticity for the initial reception of the novel, brought it to international attention, and cemented its position as one of the most prominent works of German-language fiction of the early twenty-first century.

      I recommend familiarising yourself with some of the press coverage below, both German and international, particularly as there are limited works of secondary literature on Hegemann herself. You might also look at the 'Fräuleinwunder' as a literary market phenomenon and at some work on plagiarism and authenticity. We will consider these questions in the seminar.

    3. Axolotl Roadkill - Helene Hegemann 2010

      Book Optional German original for those who read German

    4. Axolotl Overkill - dir. Helene Hegemann 2017 (dvd)

      Audio-visual document Optional Note: German subtitles only

    5. Articles on the Plagiarism Controversy 11 items
      I have included articles in the English-speaking press that picked up on this controversy, and also the German articles from the furore. Don't worry about reading the German if you're not able to - the British and American press picks up on many of the most important themes. Articles below are arranged in date order to give a sense of the unfolding of the debate.
      1. Axolotl Roadkill: Alles nur geklaut? - Deef Pirmasens 2010

        Webpage Optional Original blog post identifying plagiarism. In German.

      2. Helene Hegemann spricht von "Hetze" - CLU/DPA/DINO 11 Feb. 2010

        Article Optional

      3. Sex, Drugs and Plagiarism: Did the New Star of German Literature Steal from a Blogger? - Tobias Rapp 17 Feb. 2010

        Article Recommended English article on the website of a German news magazine.

      4. Helene Hegemann: Die alten Männer und das junge Mädchen - Iris Radisch 18 Feb. 2010

        Article Optional A defence of Hegemann based on the gendered nature of the controversy. In German.

      5. An meine Kritiker - Helene Hegemann 29 Apr. 2010

        Article Optional Hegemann's article in April on the controversy. In German.

      6. Publish and be damned: Young writer's ego dramatically punctured - Tony Paterson 19 Feb. 2010

        Article  One of the most comprehensive English summaries of the controversy's early stages.

    6. Secondary Literature on Hegemann 6 items
      Much of the literature on Hegemann is in German, so for those of you who are conversant in German, you can use either the library catalogue's journal article search function, Google Scholar, or the catalogue of the Staatsbibliothek to find useful material.
      1. Transnationalism in contemporary German-language literature - Elisabeth Herrmann 2015 (electronic book)

        Book  Read: Hester Baer, 'Precarious Sexualities, Neoliberalism, and the Pop-Feminist Novel: Charlotte Roche's Feuchtgebiete and Helene Hegemann's Axolotl Roadkill as Transnational Texts', pp. 162-86

      2. German women's writing in the twenty-first century 2015

        Book  Read: Carrie Smith-Prei and Maria Stehle, 'The Awkward Politics of Popfeminist Literary Events: Helene Hegemann, Charlotte Roche, and Lady Bitch Ray', pp. 132-53.

    7. Secondary Literature on the so-called 'Fräuleinwunder' 3 items
    8. Secondary Literature on Plagiarism and Authenticity 4 items
  5. Week 4: Concepts of the Contemporary 24 items
    Prof. Margaret-Anne Hutton
    1. Seminar Preparation 7 items
      1. What is an apparatus?: and other essays - Giorgio Agamben, David Kishik, Stefan Pedatella 2009

        Book Essential Essay: 'What is the Contemporary?'. You can also track this down online via Google search.

      2. Contemporary drift: genre, historicism, and the problem of the present - Theodore Martin 2017

        Book  Read and prepare Introduction: Theses on the concept of the contemporary

    2. Additional Reading 17 items
      1. Qu'est-ce que le contemporain? - Lionel Ruffel, Pascale Casanova ©2010


  6. Week 5: Case Study 2 11 items
    Dr Saaed Talajooy: Farkhondeh Aghaie, From the Devil, Learned and Burned: A Work of Fiction based on an incredible true story
    1. In this session we will examine the way a contemporary novel becomes a best seller in its national context by creating a space of political inquiry around the most pressing questions of contemporary life: economic deprivation, gender, ethnicity, religious fundamentalism, marginality and belonging. The 'real story element,' which triggers the readers' voyeuristic desires and diary style of narration creates loose a picaresque plot that engages the reader with the narrative identity of the protagonist. We will also explore the process of canon formation in contemporary Iran, paying particular attention to socio-political functions of literature as well as the relationship between the past and the present and intercultural literary exchange as important sources for the production of the contemporary canon.


      Farkhondeh Aqhaie is a leading Iranian novelist whose works are characterized by a high degree of verisimilitude and a detailed reflection of her protagonists' lived experience in a modern city. She began writing in the 1980s and with the intensification of women rights movements in 1990s Iran became a leading voice in Persian fiction. We examine the politics of national belonging, womanhood and ethnicity in pre- and post-revolution Iran and explore how inter-textual structural bartering and playing with the idea of reality to challenge contemporary cultural debates, lead to the critical and popular appeal of a work, the very success of which offers interesting questions about cultural production and reception. 

    2. Seminar Preparation 1 item
      Read the following novel and be ready for discussing the reasons why you think it has become important in its cultural context and if it is going to remain important:
    3. Additional Reading 9 items
  7. Week 6: World Literature 19 items
    Dr Silvia Caserta
    1. Seminar Preparation 6 items
      Please read and be prepared to engage critically with / give a short exposition of, the following short pieces (you should bring hard copies with you)
      1. Mapping world literature: international canonization and transnational literatures - Mads Rosendahl Thomsen 2008

        Book  Read: ‘World Literature: history, concept, paradigm’, pp. 1-32

      2. The Canon(s) of World Literature - Peter Carravetta

        Chapter  [Pp. 264-272 in the section 'The Theoretical Dimension'.] Available in the Library and as an e-book

      3. What is world literature? - David Damrosch 2003

        Book  Read:‘English in the World’ (pp. 209-230).

      4. Be prepared to discuss the following issues and questions:


        - What definition(s) would you give of 'world literature', both in itself and in relation to 'comparative literature'?


        - How would you explain the choice of the term 'world': could you see it as opposed and/or alternative to what other term(s)?


        - Why, do you think, has the term 'world literature' seen a renaissance in the 21st century?


        - How useful do you find the concept as defined in the readings above, and can you think of alternative concepts that would work better?


        - What might it mean to be for, or rather against, 'world literature'?


        - How do the concepts of the canon, the contemporary and world literature fit together?

    2. Additional Reading 13 items
      1. Literature and the global contemporary - eds. Sarah Brouillette, Mathias Nilges, Emilio Sauri 2017

        Book  Available in the Library and as an e-book

      2. Thinking literature across continents - Ranjan Ghosh, J. Hillis Miller 2016

        Book  Available in the Library and as an e-book

      3. Death of a discipline - Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak 2003


  8. Week 7: Case Study 3 34 items
    Dr Silvia Caserta: Elena Ferrante, 'My Brilliant Friend: Childhood, Adolescence'
    1. My Brilliant Friend: Book 1: Childhood, Adolescence - Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein 2012


    2. The Italian writer known under the pseudonym of Elena Ferrante has been a literary phenomenon on the international book scene, especially after the publication of her quartet of Neapolitan Novels translated by Ann Goldstein, namely My Brilliant Friend (2012), The Story of a New Name (2013), Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child (2015). While the author has undoubtedly enjoyed great popularity and critical acclaim within Italy, her literary success abroad, and particularly in the English-speaking world, has been astounding.


      In 2015, her "Neapolitan Quartet" books had sold 750 thousand copies in the U.S.A., 250 thousand in the U.K., and had been translated into 37 languages. In 2016, Time Magazine named Ferrante as one of the most influential people on the planet, while The New Yorker has defined her as "a genius" and "a titanic novelist". In 2017, HBO and Italian state broadcaster Rai have partnered to produce an international drama series based on the first novel My Brilliant Friend. Ferrante is certainly one of the few examples (together with male authors like Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco) of Italian writers who have managed to attract a mass American audience.


      Ferrante's Neapolitan tetralogy is, in a way, deeply rooted in Italian history and society. The starting point and main background of the story is the poor Neapolitan neighborhood (the 'rione') in which the two girls protagonist are born and raised, which provides a specific look at the wider context of post-War Italy. At the same time, however, the story of the lifelong friendship between the two girls has made Ferrante's work appealing to the larger, global world. But there might, or perhaps there must, be other reasons behind such an astonishing literary success.


      The author's mysterious identity seems to have particularly intrigued both readers and critics of her work. Caught in what has become the "Ferrante Fever", the author has chosen not to disclose her real identity, and her anonymous stance has sparked much debate on the role of the author in relation to the presumed autonomy of the work of art. While starting as a private stance, Ferrante's claimed anonymity has turned into a brand in the international publishing market, and has very likely contributed to reinforcing the audience's curiosity and fascination with both her figure and her literary work.

    3. Seminar preparation 1 item
      1. Please read My Brilliant Friend and familiarize yourself with the work of Ferrante (I would suggest you read for your own interest the whole quartet).

        Read the online articles below around the questions of Ferrante's literary success, of her anonymous stance, and on the huge controversy sparked by the Italian journalist Claudio Gatti's attempt to uncover the author's real identity.


        Please also come prepared to discuss the following questions/issues:


             - What do you think are the reasons that make Ferrante's work somehow "universal", arguably gaining her a place in the contemporary world literature canon?


             - What do you think are the aspects of the novel that resonate the most with a global audience?


             - What are, in your opinion, the elements of the novel that would make it (or not) a work of World Literature?


             - In what ways do you think the author's (assumed female) gender might have influenced her reception both in Italy and abroad?


             - What might have been the role of the translation(s), and of the translator(s), in the worldwide success of Ferrante's work?


             - To what extent has the debate around her real figure contributed, in a way paradoxically, to making her anonymous person so widely famous?


             - How do you think might authorship, anonymity, and pseudonymity affect the afterlife of a literary work?

    4. a) Ferrante in the press 19 items
      1. 1. On Ferrante's literary success:

      2. 2. On anonymity (and women's writing):

      3. 3. Ferrante Yes / No:

      4. 4. On Ferrante's book covers (and women's writing):

      5. 5. On the controversy around the attempt to disclose Ferrante's identity:

    5. b) Ferrante’s works 2 items
      1. Frantumaglia - Elena Ferrante, trans. Ann Goldstein 2016


    6. c) On Ferrante’s work 3 items
    7. d) On Anonymity, Women’s Writing, and Contemporary/World Literature (in/and Ferrante’s work) 4 items
    8. e) Articles in Italian on The Brilliant Friend 3 items
  9. Week 8: Case Study 4 18 items
    Dr Katie Jones: Jasper fforde, The Eyre Affair
    1. Jasper Fforde's fantasy thriller The Eyre Affair (2001) is the first volume in his bestselling Thursday Next series of literary crime novels. Set in 1980s Swindon in a parallel universe where the Crimean War never ended, and where canonical literature is the most popular form of mass entertainment, the novel follows the adventures of literary detective Thursday Next as she attempts to discover who has kidnapped the character of Jane Eyre from the first edition of Charlotte Brontë's novel. Using the conventions of a popular genre to engage with the enduring appeal and status of canonical literary fiction, Fforde raises questions about the nature of canonicity, the role of the reader, and the various forms of 'value' literature might hold in a late 20th and early 21st-century context. This session will engage with these and other key questions, including the status of the 'canon' in the 21st Century, its relevance to ordinary readers, and the inter-relations between 'high' and 'popular' forms of literature.

    2. Seminar preparation 3 items
      1. Please read The Eyre Affair and explore Jasper Fforde's website. You will find the suggested reading in the sections below helpful - alongside reading you have already done on notions of 'canonicity' and the literary 'classic' - in preparing the following points for discussion.

        1. Close reading: To what extent does Fforde's novel reaffirm or subvert the notion of the literary canon via its playful engagement with canonical texts and authors? Please consider:

        • the text's presentation of the author (e.g. notions of authorial 'genius', intentions and authority) vs. the role of the reader in creating the work of literature. What are the various types of reader presented in the text, and what is their significance? What is the role of the implied/real reader of Fforde's novel?
        • the relationship of genre fiction (hard-boiled crime fiction; speculative fiction) to 'high' literature.
        • what vision of the 'canon' emerges from Fforde's text?
        • to what extent must the reader of The Eyre Affair be familiar with the canonical works referenced in order to 'get' the novel?

        2. Broader context: who is this text for, and how would you situate it in the contemporary literary landscape?

        • what does Fforde's bestselling series and its marketing and reception tell us about contemporary reading habits?
        • what made the novel (and series) so popular? Could it be considered a contemporary classic, and why/why not?

      2. The Eyre Affair 11 April 2005

        Book Suggested for student purchase

    3. Works by and about Fforde 6 items
      1. The Thursday Next series 5 items
        1. Lost in a Good Book: Thursday Next Book 2 - Jasper Fforde 18 July 2002


        2. Something rotten - Jasper Fforde 2004


        3. First Among Sequels: Thursday Next Book 5 - Jasper Fforde 24 July 2008


      2. Secondary reading 1 item
        1. A breath of fresh Eyre: intertextual and intermedial reworkings of Jane Eyre - Margarete Rubik, Elke Mettinger-Schartmann 2007

          Book  Various articles on Fforde as well as other reworkings of Bronte

    4. Engagement with the canon 5 items
      1. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë, Richard J. Dunn c2000

        Book  Any edition: it's well worth reading Jane Eyre if you haven't already!

      2. Uses of Austen: Jane's afterlives - Gillian Dow, Clare Hanson 2012 (electronic book)


      3. Lily Cole & the Shame of The Brontë Society | Anne Brontë

        Webpage  Blog post which started a controversy about the appointment of Lily Cole as Creative Partner to the Bronte Society

    5. Approaches to genre 3 items
      1. Crime fiction - John Scaggs 2005 (electronic book)

        Book  Especially the chapter on 'hard-boiled' fiction.

      2. Speculative Fiction - Marek Oziewicz 29/03/2017


  10. Week 9: Case Study 5 - Sorokin, Day of the Oprichnik 17 items
    Dr. Margarita Vaysman
    1. Day of the Oprichnik - Vladimir Sorokin, trans. Jamey Gambrell 2012

      Book  New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011 (Translation from Russian of Den’ Oprichnika, Moscow: Zakharov, 2006)

    2. Vladimir Sorokin's novel, Day of the Oprichnik, is set in Moscow in 2028. A wall has been erected between Russia and the West and Russian citizens have voluntarily burned their travel documents. 'Holy Rus' has been restored and state police monitors the morality and the loyalty of the Russian people. The novel describes a day in the life of an oprichnik Andrei Komiaga. Oprichniki were a brutal policing force that served a medieval Tsar Ivan the Terrible but they are very much at home in Sorokin's futurist Moscow. Their emblems in 2028, just as in medieval Moscow, are a head of a dog and a broom to signify their dog's loyalty to the Tsar and their duty to sweep away treason from Muscovy. 


      Anachronisms are central to Sorokin's poetics in a novel which many have read as a critique of contemporary (Putin's) Russia, its politics and anxieties. Sorokin's marriage of a futurist vision of Russia with historical detail from Muscovy of Ivan the Terrible and Stalinist Russia produces a disorienting text but also raises timeless questions about power and corruption, national identity and nationalism. Conflation of different temporal planes in the novel is mirrored in Sorokin's play with language in a text that borrows from medieval Russian and from modern writers such as Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and Tatyana Tolstaya.


      Variously described in the press as a 'living classic' and a 'monster', Sorokin and his post-Soviet fiction polarise both the critics and the public today. Shortlisted for the prestigious international Man Booker Prize in 2013 and winner of the Russian Booker in 2001, Sorokin found himself on an obscenity trial in Russia for his novel Blue Lard (1999) in 2002. His brilliant literary stylisation has been branded mimicry and parasitism by many critics. As such, Sorokin's fiction and its reception are at the very heart of debates surrounding the contemporary Russian literary canon.

    3. Seminar Preparation 15 items
      1. Although most material about Sorokin will be in Russian, there are also plenty of online sources in English. Conduct an online search of blogs, news items and websites dedicated to Sorokin and come to the seminar prepared to discuss the following (general) questions on popular and critical reception of his work:


        In your opinion, how do controversy and scandal shape literary reception? How would you describe Sorokin's international profile and how does it square with his reputation in Russia? What is the role played by the blogosphere as a virtual site for the discussion of contemporary fiction? Find out who sued Sorokin in 2002 and be prepared to speak about the significance of the space in Moscow chosen by his accusers to stage a protest against his work in the context of this trial. 


        Please also come prepared to discuss the topics and questions on Day of the Oprichnik listed below. You may find it helpful to note the page numbers of passages you found especially useful in addressing these questions to illustrate your points with examples from the texts.


        *        How are Russia and its relationship with the West and the East portrayed by Sorokin in Day of the Oprichnik? To what extent can the novel be read as a political satire of (contemporary) Russia?


        *        Sorokin's fiction is frequently accused of being pornographic. What is the role played by violence and obscenity in the artistic design of the novel? Do you find Sorokin's usage of violence excessive and gratuitous or artistically justified and necessary?


        *        How are the different temporal planes integrated in Day of the Oprichnik? In your opinion, why does Sorokin borrow from Russia's past to comment on its future?


        *        Discuss the significance of the narrative perspective in the novel.


        *        How are class structures and national economy imagined in Sorokin's depiction of Russia? Give examples from the text.


        *        Analyse the portrayal of the opposition to the Russian state in the novel.


        *        To what extent are Komiaga and the other oprichniki depicted as the custodians of public morals? Who defines and upholds societal and moral norms in the novel?

      2. Additional reading 14 items
        This is a list of works that you will find useful for general background reading. Not all of the works on this list are concerned with Vladimir Sorokin. You may find it helpful to consult some of these texts for surveys of (Russian) post-modernism, post-Soviet literature and its thematic preoccupations. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, and there are many other studies that you will find illuminating.
        1. Russian writers since 1980 - Balina, Marina, Lipovetskii, M. N. 2004


        2. Russian postmodernist fiction: dialogue with chaos - Lipovetskii, M. N., Borenstein, Eliot 1999


        3. Vladimir Sorokin's languages - Tine Roesen, Dirk Uffelmann 2013


All rights reserved ©