Between the Acts

Course Outline:

The course will begin with writing that looks back to the First World War and end with writing that anticipates the Second World War. In between the students will explore and interrogate the inter-war ‘moment’ through close attention to a number of other texts. The course will focus on many of the great themes of the period such as exile, unemployment, Englishness, eugenics, militarisation, and political commitment, as well as many of the great cultural motifs of the period such as borders, radios, planes, cars, trains, cameras and telephones. Close attention will also be paid to many of the great intellectual debates of the period such as the nature of history, the role of the State in everyday life, and the place of literary experimentation in time of war. The course will not, though, be limited to what these texts are ‘about’ but will also attend to what these texts ‘do.’ In other words, we shall explore how inter-war writing both reflects the period and indeed participates in the period. The students will, then, be expected to understand the ways in which the texts under consideration exist not only ‘between the acts’ but are themselves acts – acts not only of mourning and warning but also agitation, provocation, resistance, despair, and even (therefore) hope.