Course overview

We will discuss four novels, published between 1954 and 1961, and think about whether they have stood the test of time. Much of this period has been labelled as the decade of The Angry Young Men. We will be thinking about what that means, and whether any of these four novels belong in that grouping as we look, in detail, at The Tortoise and the Hare, by Elizabeth Jenkins; Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis; The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark and A Severed Head, by Iris Murdoch. We will consider how these writers present society.

Course description

We will be discussing each of these books in their order of publication. These novels have been chosen with a view to examining the comedy of manners in novel. Is there such a thing? How neatly do these novels fit that criteria?

Our conversations will cover a range of topics. First, and perhaps most important, how do each of these novels fit in our personal twenty-first century libraries? After that we will consider a range of topics, with a general view to examining whether there are common threads. We will also consider how each of the novels reflect or connect with our own ideas of the period they were written in, and how the values and ideas they present reflect that time.

We will also consider some aspects of some of the author’s lives.

The aim is to allow our enthusiasm and curiosity for fiction to lead our investigation into what we are reading.

The tutor will supply a comfortable reading schedule on Canvas that will be used to guide our discussion.

We will begin with The Tortoise and the Hare. Please read to the end of Chapter Ten for discussion at the first session.

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