ENGL630 - Readings in 20th Century English Literature. Becoming British: Writing the Right of Abode

The legal ability to remain in the United Kingdom is defined by the right of abode and that right, sometimes corresponding with or leading to citizenship and sometimes not, was repeatedly reconfigured across the twentieth century. During this period, writers from British colonies and former colonies—from India to Hong Kong, Jamaica to Nigeria, Sri Lanka to the United States—immigrated to the U.K. and concerned themselves with the problems of becoming British, including the possibility of resisting becoming British. At the same time, “natural-born” citizen writers too asked themselves what does it mean to be British in the midst of imperial decline and an increasingly diasporic population. Moreover, writers descended from Britain’s (post)colonial immigrants, both in the twentieth century and since, have worked to reinvent Britishness in the long shadow of imperialism, immigration, globalization, and multiculturalism. We will use this multi-faceted idea of writing abode or writing an extra-territoriality beyond abode, to frame our survey of post-1900 British literature. We will examine changing immigration legislation, socio-historical studies of immigration, and theories of citizenship, nationhood, and dwelling alongside the writings of modernists such as T. S. Eliot, Jean Rhys, and Virginia Woolf; mid-century writers such as Samuel Selvon and Una Marson; and contemporary writers such as Timothy Mo, Hanif Kureishi, and Bernardine Evaristo. Assignments will include a conference-style presentation and response, several short analyses, an annotated bibliography, and either a 15-page paper or a teaching portfolio for two courses in post-1900 transatlantic, British, Anglophone, global, or postcolonial literature.