Bread Loaf in Santa Fe 2008                                    Suzanne Keen
The Moderns according to the Contemporaries

In recent years contemporary authors have turned to their earlier twentieth-century predecessors for inspiration and productive aggravation. Until recently, as Lawrence Rainey writes, "The modernists were giants, monsters of nature who loomed so large that contemporaries could only gape at them in awe." In the last years of the century, however, contemporary writers have overcome their reticence about these vigorous experimenters and originators, subjecting them to rewriting, revision, playful pastiche, and brisk updating. While it is a commonplace of postcolonial literary criticism to notice the vigorous revising of canonical Victorian texts by postcolonial contemporary writers (Jean Rhys taking on Charlotte Bronte, for instance), or to study how contemporary film adapts older fiction, less often do we consider how contemporary writers re-examine their immediate literary heritage. This course pairs writers: Michael Cunningham with Virginia Woolf; Ian McEwan with Elizabeth Bowen; Zadie Smith and Merchant-Ivory (British filmmakers) with E. M. Forster; John Le Carre and Mohsin Hamid with Joseph Conrad; and Aldous Huxley with David Mitchell. A close study of novelistic subgenres and narrative techniques will accompany the course readings.

Required Texts

Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris (1935)
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent (1907)
Michael Cunningham, The Hours (1998)
E. M. Forster, Howards End (1910)
Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2006)
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)
John Le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)
David Mitchell, The Cloud Atlas (2004)
Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)
Zadie Smith, On Beauty (2005)
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Suzanne Keen, Narrative Form

Film adaptations (on reserve)

Howards End (James Ivory, 1992)
The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002)
Mrs. Dalloway (Marlene Gorris, 1998)
The Secret Agent (Alfred Hitchcock, 1936)
Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973)

Web resources

The Complete Review Contemporary British Fiction Index Page:
British Council Index of Contemporary Writers in the UK.
Hyperizons hypetext website.

Individual authors:

Michael Cunningham's official website:
Mohsin Hamid official website:
John LeCarré official website:
Ian McEwan's official website:
David Mitchell (British Council site):
Zadie Smith (British Council site):