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Unit information: Tradition and Experimentation in Twentieth-Century European Fiction in 2016/17

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Unit name Tradition and Experimentation in Twentieth-Century European Fiction
Unit code MODLM2034
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Connor Doak
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This core unit in the MA programme in European Literature explores the challenge to the norms and conventions of the realist novel that underlies the evolution of much 20th-century European narrative. It will concentrate on experimental subversion and expansion of the contours of the classical novel, but will also consider more overtly traditionalist approaches to the revitalisation of the genre. The unit will be team-taught by specialists in several major literatures. Precise choice of texts will vary from year to year, but landmark works from the European tradition will be selected so as to enable maximally fruitful comparison of formal features and thematic preoccupations. The unit will evaluate a variety of critical approaches to prose fiction and literary dynamics. Emphasis will be placed on comparison and contrast of specific social, ideological and aesthetic contexts within different European cultures, with particular attention to the narrative strategies which shaped the development of 20th-century fictional forms.

Intended learning outcomes

  1. Knowledge and understanding of major strands of European thought, literature, history and culture
  2. Knowledge and understanding of the commonalities and diversity of European culture, broadly defined
  3. Students will be able to interpret and evaluate literary and other works and cultural/historical/intellectual trends
  4. Students will be able to synthesise information from a variety of sources, evaluate competing interpretations and make reasoned academic judgements
  5. Students will be able to compare the textual and other cultural products of different cultures, making fresh and imaginative connections between disparate material Students will be able to critically survey, analyse and interpret complex texts
  6. Students will be able to communicate effectively and present a cogent and comprehensive argument, both orally and in writing
  7. Students will be able to make appropriate use of information technology for research and presentation of work
  8. Students will be able to undertake research using appropriate source materials
  9. Students will be able to work independently and to deadlines, to an exacting scholarly level.

Teaching details

2 hour weekly seminar

Assessment Details

1 x 5000 word essay

Reading and References

The primary texts will change from year to year. The unit will be made up of a selection of a number of the following primary texts:

  • Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
  • Kafka, The Trial
  • Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
  • Duras, The Lover
  • Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
  • Laforet, Nada
  • Daeninckx, Murder In Memoriam
  • Saramago, The History of the Siege of Lisbon

General Introductory Reading

  • Forster, Aspects of the Novel
  • Kundera, The Art of the Novel