English and drama

Twenty-First Century Literature

Module code: Q3167
Level 6
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module asks how far we are able to identify a new phase in the history of literary production, emerging in the new century.

We begin with an account of a range of literary and critical movements that mark the close of the 20th century. This account suggests how the languages of late capitalism, globalisation, and postmodernism might collectively register a fin de millennial mood. From this account of late cultural forms, we ask how new political and cultural formations are reshaping our sense of literary possibility.

With changes in the contexts offered by global culture – and the apparent waning of the cultural dominance of postmodernism – the relationship between literature, politics and history is currently in a state of rapid transition. We will follow the work of a number of emerging writers, film makers and visual artists, to ask if we can start to sketch the outlines of a 21st-century literary culture.

The module draws both on literary and visual texts, and on cultural theory.

Module learning outcomes

  • Have an understanding of a range of theoretical, political and cultural developments, associated with the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first centuries.
  • Have a knowledge of a range of literary and artistic practices that are emerging at the beginning of the new century, across a number of genres and media.
  • Have explored the relationship between creative and critical writing, in the context of the production of literature in the new century.
  • Have thought about the possibility of novelty in the new century, and have a critical understanding of questions of originality and cultural transformation under twenty-first century conditions.
  • Have developed skills of close reading that are peculiar to works that have been written very recently, and for which there is not an existing body of critical work.
  • Have developed an understanding of what we mean by the contemporary, in the context of twentieth century global culture.