SOAS University of London

Centre for English Studies, School of Arts

The Novel and its Others: 20th & 21st Century

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2

This course explores a range of responses to the ‘birth of modernism’ post-1900, with a particular focus on ideas of the metropole in novels and other artistic forms from Bloomsbury and beyond. While the focus is on the 20th & 21st centuries, the module looks both forward and back to earlier traditions. Considering the capaciousness of the novel as a genre and its innovations in both city-spaces and other terrains, the module offers a global exploration of the mediations between local and cosmopolitan literary activity: both in terms of writing and form, but also in terms of audience and reception.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate advanced skills in critical thinking and close reading
  • Show an awareness of the transnational dynamics of the novel as a genre, and of the importance of local context, audience, and traditions.
  • Actively contribute to seminar discussions through an inclusive range of oral and written exercises and activities


One 1-hour lecture and one 1-hour seminar per week.

Method of assessment

  • In-class test (10%)
  • One book review - 1500 words (30%)
  • One annotated syllabus (50%)
  • In-class participation (10%)

Suggested reading

  • Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place (1947)
  • Amos Tutuola, The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952)
  • Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
  • Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (1981)
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (1989)
  • Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
  • Desmond Harding, Writing the City: Urban Visions and Literary Modernism (2003)
  • Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart, eds., Restless Cities (2010)
  • Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (1973)
  • Richard Daniel Lehan, The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History (1998)
  • Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation (2006)
  • Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination (2002)
  • Simon Gikandi, Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism (1996)

Additional reading:

  • William B Warner, Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750. U of California P, 1998
  • Margaret Ann Doody, The True Story of the Novel. Rutgers UP, 1996
  • Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography. Harvard UP, 2014
  • Thomas G Pavel. The Lives of the Novel: A History. Princeton UP, 2013
  • Terry Eagleton. The English Novel: An Introduction. Wiley, 2004
  • Firdous Azim. The Colonial Rise of the Novel. Routledge, 1993
  • Peter Boxall, The Value of the Novel, 2016
  • John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel, 2006
  • Malcolm Bradbury & James McFarlane, eds. Modernism: 1830-1930 (1976)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules