Sunday, December 30, 2007

Preparatory Reading

For those of you who are getting started with the course reading, the first text -- Rudyard Kipling's Stalky & Co. -- is the foundation for our understanding of all the readings that follow. Read Stalky & Co. as a literary manifestation of the code of masculinity that was uniform in the British Empire to 1945.

Kipling is a very great author. The fact that he provokes intense emotional reactions from literati both for an against is a mark of his undeniable and peerless literary excellence. There is little worse than an author expressing views that you loathe with supreme literary genius -- and little better on the other side.

Be sure to engage the book on its own terms in the first reading, and try to gain sensibility for its aesthetic: Stalky & Co. had almost universal reach and its direct literary influence on English life & letters is practically impossible to overstate.

It is in many ways very contemporary: picaresque and crude, written in note-perfect sub-group vernacular, and a very rare inner-portrait of an under-culture by a legitimate member who happened also to possess the ability to express the reality in brilliant fiction.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Course Outline: Spring 2008

ENGLISH 342: Evening
"Among the Thugs: Masculinity and its Discontents
From End of Empire to Third Way."

A number of short but highly influential post-World War II novels share a common inspiration: the mutual and open aggression between the British social establishment and young men of the lower-middle and working classes. The succession of labels given by generations of order and authority to deride this type—stroppers, louts, mods and rockers, hooligans, yobs, punks, lads and, recently, chavs and hoodies—are eloquent testimony in language to the enduring antagonism. In the historical context, the novels will be read against the rapid decline of Britain after her pyrrhic victories in the two World Wars: the martial masculinity bred to build and sustain Empire at once devalued and feared in the post-Colonial Welfare state. In the literary context, we will examine the development from the “angry young man” novel to today’s “new laddism”: the latter genre containing the attempts by Martin Amis and Nick Hornby to write a “Third Way” form of British masculinity capable of being accommodated within the feminism and socialism of New Labour's social legacy.

Note: cinema and popular music also took inspiration from these issues and samples from “Trainspotting” and “Quadrophenia” to "The Football Factory" will illustrate our study.

Kipling, Rudyard: Stalky & Co.
Greene, Graham: Brighton Rock
Stillitoe, Alan: Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Burgess, Anthony: Clockwork Orange
Amis, Martin: Success
Hornby, Nick: High Fidelity

Lydon, Johnny: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs
Hornby, Nick: Fever Pitch

15% Class participation
10% Class presentation
20% Group polemical project
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 2000 words)
35% Final paper (approx. 3000 words)