2014 Prizing 'National Allegories'

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  • Time: Thu, 10:00 - 12:00
  • Venue: A01 0-006
  • Lecturer: Anna Auguscik
  • Modul: ang614 Genres: Cultural, Historical and Theoretical Perspectives
  • Course Description:

In 1986, literary critic Fredric Jameson published an essay on "Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism" in which he described its distinct characteristics. According to Jameson, all "third-world texts", and particularly the novel, are "national allegories": they portray public events, culture and society through the story of private individuals. A year later, another literary theorist, Aijaz Ahmad, responded to Jameson's article and criticized the simplifications and generalizations which ensued from combining the two terms of "third-world literature" and "national allegory" all too quickly. The exchange, which was given room on the pages of the literary periodical Social Text, laid the groundwork for a controversy between Postcolonial and Marxist theorists.

In our seminar, we will read and analyse two contemporary novels, JM Coetzee's Disgrace (1999) and Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach (2007) and discuss them with reference to the Jameson/Ahmad controversy. We will gauge if and how they work as "national allegories". In a second step, we will take a look at these critically acclaimed and prize-winning novels and test the question if awards, in particular the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, aim at recognizing titles which correspond with Jameson's concept. Finally, we will take a look at the historical dimension of novels as "national allegories" and discuss selected passages from one of the most popular historical novels, Walter Scott's Waverley (1814).

Please, make sure to purchase and read the two novels in advance (both will be made available at the CvO bookshop). Your reading of them is prerequisite to the course.

  • JM Coetzee. Disgrace [1999]. London: Vintage, 2000.
  • Ian McEwan. On Chesil Beach [2007]. London: Vintage, 2008.

In addition, you can obtain a copy of Walter Scott's Waverley [1814] (Oxford: OUP, 1998).

  • Registration via Stud.IP from 10 March 14, 17:00. For a preliminary seminar plan, see below.
  • Course Requirements
  • Requirements for 6 KP: regular attendance and a written/oral contribution in the form of a project, with a term paper of ca. 10 pp. based on the topic of the project.
  • Die aktive Teilnahme besteht aus folgenden Komponenten
  • regelmäßige Anwesenheit: max. 3 Abwesenheiten und gegebenenfalls Nacharbeit
  • Vor- und Nachbereitung des Seminarstoffs (z. B. Protokolle, Aufgaben, Vorbereitung/Lektüre von Texten)
  • Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Fragestellung aus dem Problembereich des Seminars, z.B. durch:
  • Übernahme von Impulsreferaten, Präsentationen, Kurzpräsentationen o.ä.
  • Entwicklung einer Research Paper Outline im Laufe des Semesters (die Zeitangaben verstehen sich als Empfehlungen): Wahl eines Themenbereichs (3.-5.Woche), Eingrenzung (ca. 8.-10.Woche), Abstract mit Fragestellung inkl. Forschungsbibliographie (RPO) (ca. 12.Woche), Vorstellung der Fragestellung in der letzten Semestersitzung.

Session 1 Thu, 24.04.2014

Part I: Close Reading

Session 2 Thu, 08.05.2014

  • JM Coetzee's Disgrace (1999): narration and characterization

Session 3 Thu, 15.05.2014

  • JM Coetzee's Disgrace (1999): themes and plot structure

Session 4 Thu, 22.05.2014

  • Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach (2007): narration and characterization

Session 5 Thu, 05.06.2014

  • Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach (2007): themes and plot structure
   [Specify research interest until 12 June]

Part II: Prizing "National Allegories": The Jameson/Ahmad Controversy and the Booker Prize

Session 6 Thu, 12.06.2014

  • "National Allegories" I – Fredric Jameson’s Offer for Debate

Session 7 Thu, 19.06.2014

  • "National Allegories" II – Ahmad's Response

Session 8 Thu, 26.06.2014

  • The Man Booker Prize for Fiction and National Allegories

Session 9 Thu, 03.07.2014

  • JM Coetzee's Disgrace (1999) as national allegory?

Session 10 Thu, 10.07.2014

  • Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach (2007) as national allegory?
 [Hand in RPOs until 17 July]

Part III: Discussion, History and Outlook

Session 11 Thu, 17.07.2014

  • Historical perspective and discussion
  • Please read: Chapter [tba] in Walter Scott's Waverley (1814)
  • course evaluation

Session 12 Thu, 24.07.2014

  • Outlook: Theory Revisited
  • Feedback on course evaluation.



Required Reading

Further Reading

  • cf. HANDAPPARAT (library), also:
  • English, James F. "Winning the Culture Game: Prizes, Awards, and the Rules of Art." New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation 33.1 (Winter 2002): 109-35.
  • English, James F. The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value. Harvard. 2005. [HA; esp. Chapter 9: "The New Rhetoric of Prize Commentary." 197-216.
  • Huggan, Graham. "The Postcolonial Exotic: Salman Rushdie and the Booker of Bookers." Transition (1994) 64: 22-29.
  • Huggan, Graham. "Prizing 'Otherness': A Short History of the Booker." Studies in the Novel 29.3 (Fall 1997): 412-33.
  • Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic. Marketing the Margins. London. Routledge. 2001. [HA]
  • Roberts, Gillian. Prizing Literature: The Celebration and Circulation of National Culture. Cultural Spaces. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2011. [HA]
  • Squires, Claire. "A Common Ground? Book Prize Culture in Europe." Javnost: The Public 11.4 (2004): 37-47.
  • Squires, Claire. Marketing Literature: The Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain. London: Palgrave Macmillian. 2007. [HA]
  • Strongman, Luke. The Booker Prize and the Legacy of Empire. Cross/Cultures: Readings in the Post/Colonial Literatures in English. 54. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi, 2002. [HA]
  • Todd, Richard. Consuming Fictions: The Booker Prize and Fiction in Britain Today. London, England: Bloomsbury. 1996. [HA; esp. Chapter 2: "Literary Prizes and the Media." 55-94.]

More Reading


Reading Tips

Some thoughts to support your reading experience (cf. narratology handout):

  • Literary studies routine questions: Who speaks? (narration), Who sees? (focalisation), Who is described by whom and how? (characterisation and character constellation)
  • What kind of discussions are triggered in the novel? What are the main themes? Pay attention to plot construction, repeated terms and concepts, etc.
  • Are there any intertextual allusions (explicit/implicit)? Do characters refer to any works of literature? Do they read? Are there any quotations or references? Is there an epigraph?
  • When/where and under which circumstances was the novel first published? Pay attention to cover, blurb, endorsements, and any description of the material at hand: genre descriptions, allusions to other titles, to previous novels.
  • What was your immediate reaction after/during your reading? Justified nomination for Man Booker Prize?
  • How did others react? Reviews, blogs...