How to Do Things with Books in Britain, 1910-1960: Modernism, War, and After

Autumn 2019-2020


Zachary Hope

This course examines the many forms and functions of the common reader in British literary history. Beginning with a look back at the early life of this reader, and especially at the purchase their literacies afford them within a burgeoning material culture, we then consider how these literacies and their material dependencies—their reading habits, spaces, and objects—are imperiled as variations of this reader live through experiences of total war, women’s suffrage, interwar anxiety, Blitzing, unhousing, reconstruction, postcolonial displacement, and other moments of profound social change. Readings will include novels, short stories, and essays by Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Bowen, and George Lamming, alongside other contemporary cultural documents–magazines, films, Mass-Observation records—and select pieces of theory and criticism. Assignments include weekly posts, reading surveys, an autoethnography of your own reading habits, and a final paper. (Theory, Fiction, 1830-1940)