English and drama

British Writing: 1945-1970

Module code: Q3165
Level 6
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module examines some of the major British novelists and poets of the interwar period as they responded to the events of the Second World War, from the mass bombing of European cities to the Holocaust. You explore the wide-ranging cultural, political, theological and metaphysical questionings inspired by such events. We also examine the work of some of the major novelists and poets who began their careers in the period and whose body of work constitutes some of the most significant, rewarding and demanding achievements in the literature of the contemporary period.

While exploring literary responses to the immense transformations of the period – from the establishment of the welfare state, increased social mobility, the birth of television and a new kind of consumer society to the ending of the British empire – we will trace the relationships between writing, the visual arts and developments in architecture and in music.

We will read the following authors on the module: T.S.Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, W.H.Auden, George Orwell, Doris Lessing, Anthony Powell, Muriel Spark, Philip Larkin, William Golding, Geoffrey Hill, Iris Murdoch, Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

Module learning outcomes

  • Have an understanding of a broad range of post-war fiction, poetry and drama.
  • Be able to evaluate the dialogue between post-war writers and their modernist precursors.
  • Be able to reflect on the interrelationships between the literature of the period and the visual and musical cultures of the period.
  • Be able to relate the writing of the period to contemporary debates in philosophy, theology and psychoanalysis.
  • Be able to interrogate the impact of violence and the threat of violence on the writing of the period.
  • Be able to define more fully the conceptual dimension of 'the post-war'.