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. That right, sometimes leading to citizenship, was repeatedly reconfigured across the twentieth century and up to the Brexit-looming present, with its attendant anti-immigrant push. During this period, writers from British colonies and former colonies—from India to Hong Kong, Jamaica to Ethiopia, 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 Britishness. At the same time, Anglo writers asked themselves what it means to be British in the midst of imperial decline and an increasingly diasporic population from the (post)colonies, the E.U., and beyond. Moreover, writers descended from Britain’s immigrants have worked to reinvent Britishness in the long shadow of imperialism, immigration, globalization, and multiculturalism. We’ll use these multi-faceted forms of writing abode, or writing an extra-territoriality beyond abode, to frame our survey of post-1900 British literature. We’ll examine changing immigration legislation, socio-historical studies of immigration, and global literary and cultural criticism 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. 


Meets the MA LIT Modern and Contemporary Course Requirement