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The novel – how is it doing in the twenty-first century? Is it going out of fashion, the long prose read being too demanding in the age of social media text snippets? And what are twenty-first-century British novels dealing with? Without claiming to be representative, this seminar starts from the assumption that if we want to take a look at contemporary British novels we can start by reading recent Booker Prize winners: the 2019 winner Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and the 2020 winner Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. These two very different novels do not only come with their Booker prestige, they are also intricate and profound texts that deserve our careful reading and critical attention on a number of levels. We will also discuss the Booker Prize itself as well as the value and the problems of literary awards in general.
(NB: We will not discuss Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, which won the Booker Prize in 2019 together with Girl, Woman, Other. There are two reasons for this omission: It will be hard to deal with three complex novels in one semester, and Atwood is a Canadian writer, which serves us as an excuse to focus on the two excellent British novels. If you want to talk about The Testaments regardless, we can discuss this in the seminar.)
You must have read Girl, Woman, Other by the second meeting on 20 April.
Text (you must use the following edition):
Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other. London: Penguin, 2020. ISBN 9780241984994
(Shuggie Bain will be published as a paperback on 15 April 2021, just in time for us.)
Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain. London: Picador, 2021. ISBN 9781529019292
Other texts to be read will be provided via moodle.