English - Free topic B: Gender and the Novel since 1945 and Toni Morrison and her legacies

Course content

Gender and the Novel since 1945 (Charles Lock)

This course will look at novelists in the post-War period, none of them as well-known or as much studied as Virginia Woolf.  These novelists continue a tradition of observation and perception that Woolf and her contemporaries had shaped. In our concern with the prominence of observing and perceiving—of being conscious in a stream-like way—we shall be investigating the role of causality and its relative or even conspicuous absence. By reference to literary theorists from Aristotle to Bakhtin, and beyond, we shall assess the place of cause and consequence in traditional narrative forms (epic, folk-tale), and what happens to ‘explanation’ in the novel. Though most of the novelists are women this should imply no connection between sex and gender. Attention will be paid to linguistic questions of grammar, idiom, register, tone. Among the novelists to be studied (depending on what's in print) will be six or seven of the following: Jean Rhys, Henry Green, Edna O'Brien, Iris Murdoch, Christine Brooke-Rose, Anita Brookner, Jeanette Winterson, Alice Munro, Colm Tóibín, Edward St Aubyn, Ali Smith, Joseph O'Connor.


Toni Morrison and her legacies (Martyn Bone)

During my undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts, shortly after Toni Morrison became the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993), I took a course called “Toni Morrison and her contemporaries.” We read Morrison alongside other members of her generation of African American women writers (Alice Walker, Toni Cade Bambara, Gloria Naylor), and considered the influence on this generation of Zora Neale Hurston. A quarter century later, and in the wake of Morrison’s death in August 2019, this MA course will consider Morrison’s writing career and her now indisputable significance to American literature.


We will read a selection of Morrison’s major novels, ranging from her debut The Bluest Eye (1970) via her most celebrated works, such as Song of Solomon (1977) and Beloved (1987), to a sampling of her later and/or less studied books, such as Tar Baby (1980) and A Mercy (2008). We will also consider how, like Hurston before her, Morrison became a major influence on later African American authors (for example, Jesmyn Ward and Colson Whitehead). Furthermore, we will assess Morrison’s major impact on scholarship via her teaching and non-fictional writing, such as Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992).

This is an MA-level, seminar-based (rather than lecture-based) course, so class discussion and student participation is crucial. Please complete the required reading each week, and be prepared to participate in class discussion.

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline January 6th 2021
The course assessment will be based on a portfolio (the complete version of which must be uploaded in Digital Exam. The portfolio will consist of two essays: one for “Gender and the Novel since 1945,” and one for “Toni Morrison and her legacies.”
• “Gender and the Novel since 1945”: 10-12 page essay, weighted 50%. Deadline: with the final portfolio in January.
• “Toni Morrison and her legacies”: 11-13 page essay, weighted 50%. Deadline: Friday 18 December 2020.
Criteria for exam assessment

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5