Modern British Literature | Department of English | SIU

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Modern British Literature

The Modern British Literature area at SIU Carbondale focuses on British and Irish writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and encompasses multiple approaches to literary studies including critical theory, culture studies, gender studies, literary history, and performance theory. Beyond the core undergraduate survey courses in English literature, courses and seminars in this area alternate regularly among those that focus on a single prominent author, that that survey a genre and its development and trends, and those that explore specific topics of inquiry.

Recent Courses

Professor Bogumil's "Modern British Drama," which focuses on situating plays within relevant historical, political, social, critical and literary contexts. Specific text and topics change semester by semester. A sample set of plays include the following: Caryl Churchill, Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?; Andrew Bovell, After Dinner; Patrick Marber, Closer; Harold Pinter,Betrayal; Conor McPherson, Four Plays; Martin McDonagh, The Pillowman; Bryony Lavery, Frozen; David Hare, My Zinc Bed; Iain F. MacLeod, I was a Beautiful Day.

Professor Molino’s seminar “The ‘Great War’: Literature, Culture, Politics, and Propaganda of the First World War,” examines various texts—literary, autobiographical, theatrical, visual, and musical—created in response to the war by those who directly witnessed the brutality of trench warfare, those who observed the war from a greater distance, and those who tried to shaped the public’s attitude to the war. One of the goals of the course is to understand the dramatic changes in English, and European, society that occurred between 1914 and 1918. For example, in 1915, the spirit of optimistic, even romantic, patriotism was articulated by Rupert Brooke in the rhetorically efficient opening line of his sonnet “the Soldier”: If I should die, think only this of me:/That there’s some corner of a foreign field/That is forever England.” After the Battle of the Somme, a mere eighteen months later, the sentiment concluding Wilfred Owen’s most famous poem was already commonplace among soldier authors: “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/To children ardent for some desperate glory,/That old lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori.”

The goal is to understand how such a change occurred first among the soldiers in the trenches and then to the rest of the culture by the 1918 Armistice. Was there, for instance, a clear divide between the bitter irony articulated by writers and poets at the front versus the unfettered jingoism expressed those at home? To explore such questions, the course involves a study of such topics as: consent and descent in battlefield poetry, the influence of the war on modernist literary practices, the role of the literary writer in political propaganda, gender and class at home and in the trench, the visual arts and public policy, the relationship between period literary texts and their contemporary literary cousins.

Professor Molino’s "Representing the City," is a course that focuses on novels, spanning the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries, that present the city of London as a visual text and treat the city as a space to be experienced. The contrast between the material city of streets, buildings, and monuments with their attendant history and iconic status and what Michel de Certeau calls the “migrational, or metaphorical, city” affords intriguing ways of reading a city that at once possesses a distinct identity based on its status as the seat of, albeit fading, imperial power but also represents a sprawling metropolis comprised of districts, vestries, and virtually autonomous and unevenly governed areas and people that cannot be explained by what Certeau calls “a universal and autonomous subject which is the city itself.”

These novelists bring different aspects of urbanization and urbanism into view⎯providing particular interpretations of the city’s events, architecture, geographic and urban configuration, history, class system, ethnicity, crime and terrorism, myth, and, of course, its array of citizens. This course will explore both aspects of urban life and design along with aesthetic practices of representation as they appear in various London novels.

Professor Molino's Pro-Seminar on Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which was not primarily a study of Joyce's novel, but rather the research methodology involved in writing a critical or scholarly article on a sophisticated literary text.

Professor Molino's seminar on “The Roots of Modernism,” a study of the artistic schools of thought that acted as forerunners of modernism: impressionism, symbolism, decadence, and aestheticism and their impact on modernist poetry, fiction, painting, and sculpture.

Professor Molino's Modern British Poetry course introduces students to the wealth and diversity of twentieth and twenty-first century British and Irish poetry. As such, the course entails an overview of many poets and selected readings of their poetry rather than an extended study of a few major poets. We begin with early modernists Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Hardy and move to the World War I poets, both the battlefield poets and their experiences in the trenches as well as the female poets and their experiences at home. We will spend considerable time with both William Butler Yeats and T. S. Eliot and the poetic practices of modernism.

From that point, we move quickly in decades, focusing on Auden and his circle, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin and the Movement poets, and onto post-war poets such as Stevie Smith, Basil Bunting, Geoffrey Hill, and others. The Irish poets, other than W.B. Yeats, will be discussed as a group: Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, Thomas Kinsella, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Paul; Muldoon, Eavan Boland, and Medbh McGuckian. We end the semester with an array of poets, including members of such movements as the British Poetry Revival, New Generation Poets, and Next Generation Poets.

Professor Molino’s seminar on Virginia Woolf entails a careful and detailed examination of all Virginia Woolf’s novels, beginning with the aptly titled The Voyage Out and ending with Between the Acts. Punctuating this chronological study of Woolf’s fiction, we shall read many of Woolf’s important critical pieces, such as A Room of One’s Own, along with her unfinished collection of autobiographical reflections, Moments of Being.

Our goal in the course will be to understand and appreciate Woolf along several lines: 1) as a writer dedicated to modernist narrative practices, 2) a woman deeply invested in the role of women in the arts, and 3) a person confounded by the vagaries of personal memory and the psychic disruptions of trauma. To understand Woolf in so many iterations, we shall accompany our readings with selections from her letters, essays, and diaries; review what might be considered a sub-genre of Woolf studies, conflicting biographical portraits of Woolf; and allot ample time to noteworthy examples of Woolf scholarship.

Recent Ph.D. Dissertations

  • David Kelly, "Eolas to Ma: Construction of Postnational Space in the Interstitial Visions of Heaney, Carson, and Morrisey," major adviser Michael Molino, 2014.
  • Ashley Green, "Trauma Inscribed on the Body in Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy," major adviser Michael Molino, 2012.
  • Mustafa O. Duman, "Satire and Melancholy: Representation of Islam and Nationhood in the Novels of Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk," major adviser Michael Molino, 2011.
  • Jennifer Rea, "Adventure on a Windswept Island: Children's Literature, Adolescence and the Possibility of Irish Culture in the Works of Eilis Dillon," major adviser Michael Molino, 2011.
  • Jennifer Parrott, "Ghostly Faces and Liminal Spaces: The Theater of Marina Carr," major adviser Mary Bogumil, 2010.

Recent M.A. Theses

  • Jonathan Patterson, “Transforming Quotidian Landscapes: The Ecological and Vertical Dimensions of Daily Experience in the Poetry of T.S. Eliot, Peter Riley, and Andrew Crozier,” major adviser Michael Molino, 2013”
  • Brian Baillie, "'Pass Round the Consolation. . . Elixir or Life': Reading Trauma in Joyce through the Ameliorative Binary of Alcohol and the Church," major adviser Michael Molino, 2010.
  • Melanie Hanson, "Mother/Daughter Dyads: Female Identity Construction in Three Contemporary Female Bildungsromane," major adviser Michael Molino, 2008.
  • Brian Stone, "McDonagh's The Lieutnant of Inishmore: Sentimental Mythology, Terrorist Violence, and The Impossibility of a National Literature," major adviser Mary Bogumil, 2008.