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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Reality Hunger: Image and Appetite in Contemporary Fiction (ENLI10401)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe module will offer a wide-ranging exploration of contemporary literature through the framework of appetite, desire, and abjection. Appetite and artistry are closely linked in literary explorations, as Kafka's famously starving artist attests. On this course we'll look at a number of hunger artists, investigating bodily, sexual, and intellectual appetites which we explore here particularly in a post-#MeToo moment against questions of authority, consent, and power within the framework of desire.

The course is also intended to introduce and interrogate the construction of the contemporary and to follow shifts in literary schools and critical approaches over the last twenty years, where our starting point for conceptualising 'the contemporary' is the twenty-first century. Following the work of theorists such as Peter Boxall, Roger Eaglestone, and Rachel Carroll we will ask what it means to cultivate a contemporary sensibility or a sense of the contemporary and will explore questions of appearance, image, affect, and experiment.
Course description This course is designed to introduce students to the complications of periodising the contemporary using intimate frameworks to investigate questions of power, authority, and exchange. The module enables students to approach the legacy of theory in contemporary literature across diverse forms and to explore efforts to renew the reader-author contract in post-1990s literature. Students will be introduced to a range of theoretical schools such as affect theory, image fiction, New Sincerity, neoliberalism (as a mode of literary periodisation), and conceptual writing. Students who complete this course successfully will develop a knowledge and understanding of a range and variety of contemporary writing in a wide context considering an expansive model of 'contemporariness' over a nation-state based framework.

Students will be asked to read both literary and critical material each week. The course requires two pieces of written work: one essay to be completed during term-time and one essay to be written during the exam period. Written feedback will be provided on each element of assessment, and further oral follow-up feedback from the tutor will be available for anyone who would like it.

Section One: On Being in the Text
What A Boy Wants
Franz Kafka, 'The Hunger Artist' (1922)
David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (1999)

Authority, Appetite, Autofiction
Chris Kraus, Aliens and Anorexia (2000)

Celebrity and Self-Sacrifice
Jennifer Egan, Look at Me (2001)

Telling the Self
Roxane Gay, Hunger (2017)

Intimate Knowledge
Jenny Zhang, Sour Heart (2017)

Section Two: It's Not What It Looks Like
Plastic Needs
Alexandra Kleeman, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine (2015)

I. Really. Prefer. Roses.
Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister the Serial Killer (2019)

Slender Means
Sally Rooney, Normal People (2018)

Wanting Nothing
Anna Burns, Milkman (2018)

The Capaciousness of Desire
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (2015)
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) OR Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016) AND English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) OR Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  24
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Students will be asked to read both literary and critical material each week. The course requires two formal pieces of written work - one essay to be completed by term-time and one essay to be written during the exam period. Written feedback will be provided on each element of assessment, and further oral follow-up feedback from the tutor will be available for anyone who would like it.
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct original, clear and coherent arguments about the way in which contemporary literature explores the relationship between late capitalism and questions of desire, consent, and embodiment.
  2. Analyse literary texts using recognised methods of literary criticism to substantiate and illustrate those arguments.
  3. Evaluate and assess ideas from works of secondary criticism in order to bring them to bear on their own analyses of contemporary literature whilst developing a clear understanding of the scope and scale of critical responses to the question of the ┐contemporary┐ in the twenty-first century.
  4. Examine literary texts for evidence of new innovations in contemporary fiction, and illustrate their findings with examples from course materials.
  5. Present the results of research undertaken individually and as part of a small group, respond critically to such research undertaken by others, and critically evaluate the importance of such material for an understanding of the chief themes of the course.
Learning Resources
All primary texts as listed in module outline.

Indicative Secondary Reading (available online via university library):
Peter Boxall, 'Introduction,' in Introduction to Twenty-First Century Fiction (2013)
Lauren Berlant, 'Introduction: Affect in the Present' and 'Chapter One: Cruel Optimism' in Cruel Optimism (2011); see also 'Thinking About Feeling Historical,' Emotion, Space and Society 1:1 (2008), 4 - 9
Rachel Carroll, 'How Soon Is Now/Gendering the Contemporary,' in Contemporary Women's Writing 9: 1 (2015), 16 - 33
Paul Crosthwaite, 'Introduction' and 'Chapter 1: Market Metafiction and the Varieties of Postmodernism' in The Market Logics of Contemporary Fiction (2019)
Jack/Judith Halberstam, 'Introduction: Low Theory' in The Queer Art of Failure (2011)
Maud Ellman, The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing, and Imprisonment (1993) - also available online as PDF
Rosalind Gill and Shani Orgad, 'The Shifting Terrain of Sex and Power: From the 'Sexualisation of Culture' to MeToo,' Sexualities 21:8 (2018) 1313 - 1324
Phillip Brian Harper 'Introduction' in Framing the Margins: The Social Logic of Postmodern Culture (1994)
David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005)
Amy Hungerford, 'On the Period Formerly Known as the Contemporary,' American Literary History, 20:1/2 (2008), 410 - 441
Adam Kelly, 'David Foster Wallace and the New Sincerity in American Fiction' in Consider David Foster Wallace ed. David Hering (2010) (NB this can also be downloaded from
Ritty Lukose, 'Decolonizing Feminism in the MeToo Era,' Cambridge Anthropology, 36: 2 (2018), 34 - 52
Mark McGurl, 'Ordinary Doom: Literary Studies in the Wasteland of the Present,' New Literary History, 41: 2 (2010), 329 - 349; see also The Program Era (2009)
Lois McNay, 'Self As Enterprise: Dilemmas of Control and Resistance in Foucault's The Birth of Biopolitics,' Theory, Culture and Society, 26: 6 (2009), 55 - 77
David Foster Wallace, 'E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction,' Review of Contemporary Fiction, 13:2 (1993) 151 - 194
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserDr Patricia Malone
Tel: (0 131 6)50 8618
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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