British Literature Since 1945


British literature is often described in terms of tradition and continuity. This course departs from a very different perspective to explore a literature energized by conflict, change, and remarkable variety. Reading across genres, we examine how the alleged consensus of the immediate postwar period gave way to challenging questions about the nature of Britishness itself. We consider the social and cultural effects of decolonization and of Cold War politics. We discuss literary responses to the women’s movement, the troubles in Northern Ireland, Thatcherism, the European Union, the rise of Scottish and Welsh nationalism, and the emergence of the modern multicultural United Kingdom. Why were Sam Selvon’s Caribbean Londoners so lonely—and what happened to their descendants? What was Belfast confetti? What did it take to be a “top girl” in the 1980s? When did North Britain become devolved Scotland? These and other questions direct our conversation. Possible authors: Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Muriel Spark, Jean Rhys, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Caryl Churchill, Zadie Smith, Salman Rushdie, and others. This is not your mother’s Masterpiece Theatre.