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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Centre for Open Learning : Literature, Languages and Cultures

Undergraduate Course: Fiction of the 1980s (LLLG07130)

Course Outline
SchoolCentre for Open Learning CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThrough this course we shall study a selection of novels written in the 1980s, exploring some of the key issues of the decade such as materialism, race, and duty. We shall examine newly translated literature from Latin America and consider its impact on literary culture, as well as exploring the way writers address societal changes, especially in relation to sexuality and the role of women in society.
Course description A student on this course can expect to explore key examples of fiction written in the 1980s. Although on the surface a decade seemingly defined by materialism, the fiction of this period is surprisingly diverse. Beginning with Jay McInerney's 1984 novel, Bright Lights, Big City, we shall consider the impact of materialism and hedonism, exploring the narrator's growing understanding of the vacuity of his position in society. Through Alice Walker's The Color Purple, we shall think about sexuality and Walker's depiction of the African American experience in the South. Walker's use of the epistolary structure as well as her shocking depictions of sexual violence will allow us to evaluate the reception fiction received at this time, and ask why this novel was considered so controversial. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera will inspire discussion about the importance of translated fiction during this decade and the impact of forms such as magical realism on writers outside Latin America. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day will continue our discussions on love and duty while also evaluating the role of the historical novel in this decade. Ishiguro's novel seems far removed from the materialism that drove the 1980s, but its engagement with the war and the driving factors of business on post-war British society link to concerns of its contemporary society. Our final novel is Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus which pushes the boundaries of the novel with its complex notions of time and interactions with literary conventions such as the fairytale and narration. Carter's penultimate novel is key to understanding issues of gender in fiction and caused some controversy when its approach was described as 'post-feminist'.
Lectures will provide a contextual overview of each novel, followed by a guided discussion on themes, characterisation, plot and narrative style. The course will be taught in a small seminar setting, where participation will be supported and encouraged.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Analyse and evaluate the characteristics of fiction from a specific decade through close reading, using recognised literary critical terminology and methodologies;
  2. Articulate knowledge and understanding of conventions used by writers of this period;
  3. Analyse contemporary responses and reactions to novels by evaluating and assessing ideas from non-literary texts such as criticism or journalism;
  4. Apply knowledge of cultural, political and socio-historical contexts in arguments;
  5. Construct, present and evaluate arguments coherently.
Reading List
Resources will be detailed via Leganto link.
Reading List for 2019/20:

McInerney, Jay., 2007. Bright Lights, Big City. London: Bloomsbury.

Walker, Alice., 2017. The Color Purple. London: Phoenix.

Garcia Marquez, Gabriel., 2007. Love in Time of Cholera. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Ishiguro, Kazuo., 2010. The Remains of the Day. London: Faber.

Carter, Angela., 2006. Nights at the Circus. London: Vintage.


Brooker, J., 2012. Literature of the 1980s: After the Watershed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh

University Press.

Miller, D.Q., 2018. American Literature in Transition, 1980-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

Horton, E., Tew, P. & Wilson, L., 2014. The 1980s: A Decade of Contemporary British

Fiction, London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Hutchinson, C., 2008. Reaganism, Thatcherism and the Social Novel. Basingstoke; New

York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Presentation and evaluation of evidence and argument;
use of different registers of language in discussion and written assessments;
independent autonomous learning to research;
produce written assessment work.
Course organiserMr Douglas Dougan
Course secretaryMs Kameliya Skerleva
Tel: (0131 6)51 1855
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