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

Undergraduate Course: Poor Things: Capitalism, Reification and 20th Century Literature (ENLI10178)

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) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course begins in the modernist area familiar from second year, tracing patterns of reification and personification as they appear in literary fiction - and extend later in the twentieth century into cyberpunk, science fiction, and perhaps some film - relating these to the nature and presentation of character and the self. These issues will be considered against a background of developing capitalist industry and technology, with some Marxist theory used where appropriate, especially in the first weeks of the course, to illumine the questions involved.
Course description The course will begin in the modernist area familiar from second year, tracing patterns of reification and personification as they appear in literature and film - and extend later in the twentieth century and beyond into cyberpunk, science fiction - relating these to the nature and presentation of character and the self. The main intellectual purpose of the course is to analyse the impact of reification - effects of the alienations of capitalism and commodification upon our consciousnesses and imaginations, upon our capacity to think and to feel. Reification makes us 'thing-like', that is, passive, inert, acted upon, while at the same time, things - commodities - acquire agency over us. The course examines how changing industrial practices and technologies in the early C20th forced on the working population, and to an extent the population more generally, new levels of mechanisation, rationalisation and consequent reification. The need to sell their working time forced workers to see themselves as commodities, and time itself - clockwork-time anyway - as a measure of disadvantageous commercial exchange (Surplus Value) and unwelcome control. The course also addresses the role of colonialism and imperialism in shaping and resourcing what is now a fully global capitalism system of finance and commodification.
These issues will be considered against a background of developing capitalist industry and technology, with Marxist theory used where appropriate, especially in the first weeks of the course, as well as other forms of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist thought, to illumine the questions involved with regard to modernity and reification as they pertain to the self, to human community and consciousness, and across the course to postmodern times in which thinkers like Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Zizek claim it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Reading for the course includes some longer novels and it would be worth getting ahead with some of these before it begins.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) OR English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) OR Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016)) AND ( Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) AND Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025) OR Scottish Literature 2A (ENLI08022) AND Scottish Literature 2B (ENLI08023) OR English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) OR Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements For students who took First Year courses prior to session 2021-22, a pass in English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) or Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016) is an acceptable equivalent to Literary Studies 1A and 1B.
Additional Costs Essential course texts.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesA MINIMUM of 4 college/university level literature courses at grade B or above (should include no more than one introductory level literature course). Related courses such as cross disciplinary, "Freshman Seminars", civilisation or creative writing classes are not considered for admission to this course.
Applicants should also note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission. In making admissions decisions preference will be given to students who achieve above the minimum requirement with the typical visiting student admitted to this course having four or more literature classes at grade A.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 2000 word coursework essay (30%) submitted mid-semester;
plus 3000 word final essay submitted during exam period (70%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
Students should gain knowledge or arrange of twentieth-century fictions, and of their significance - as reflections, symptoms, analyses, etc - of a range of key social and political pressures. They should gain knowledge of Marxist readings of these pressures, and of their literary transmutations, along with an ability to read literature within historical contexts, and as a revelation of their nature.
Reading List

Capitalism and the Imagination in the early twentieth century:-

T S Eliot, 'Rhapsody on a Windy Night'; Willa Muir 'Clock-A-Doodle-Do'; Modern Times (dir. Charlie Chaplin)
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent

Past and Future in the 1920s and 1930s:-

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Lewis Grassic Gibbon, A Scots Quair
Metropolis (dir. Fritz Lang);

Post WWII: Capitalism and Culture:-

Thomas Pynchon, V.
Alasdair Gray, Lanark
Slavery, Colonialism and Commodification
Karen Tei Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest
NourbeSe Philip, Zong!
Carl Rigby, Selected Poems (excerpts provided)
Juan Francisco Manzano, 'The Accelerating Clock' and other fragments (excerpts provided)

The Twentieth Century and Beyond: Technology and Cyborg Cultures:-

Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods
William Gibson, Neuromancer
Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott); The Matrix (dir. Wachowskis)

Other texts and theoretical and critical reading will be specified during the course.

An excellent place to start background reading would be with Georg Lukács's essay 'Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat' in Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness (London: Merlin Press, 1968). Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne, eds., Marxist Literary Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996) offers a good range of helpful essays, including another Lukács piece, 'The Ideology of Modernism'. James F. Knapp's LITERARY MODERNISM AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF WORK (Illinois: Northeastern University, Press 1990) is a useful study for some of the authors in early weeks of the course.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements Numbers are limited and students taking degrees not involving English or Scottish literature need the written approval of the head of English Literature
Additional Class Delivery Information one 2-hour Seminar per week;
plus 1 hour(s) per week for 10 week(s): attendance at one hour a week Autonomous Learning Group at times to be arranged.
KeywordsENLI10178 Poor Things,Capitalism
Course organiserDr Aaron Kelly
Tel: (0131 6)50 3071
Course secretaryMr Iain Harrison
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