ENMPR-Philip Roth

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Prof David Brauner

Email: d.brauner@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:
This module explores the career of Philip Roth, by common consent the most important living American novelist and one of the most significant figures in Anglophone post-war fiction. For so long an enfant terrible of the American literary world, Roth may now be considered one of its elder statesmen. He has published twenty-two full-length works of fiction in an oeuvre that spans high seriousness (Letting Go (1962)) and low humour (The Great American Novel (1973)), expansive monologue (Portnoy's Complaint (1969)) and elliptical dialogue (Deception (1990)), spare realism (When She Was Good (1967)) and extravagant surrealism (The Breast (1972)), historical fiction (the ‘American Trilogy’ (1997-2000)) and counter-factual narratives (The Plot Against America (2004)). He has won every major domestic and international literary award, with the exception of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and continues to publish prolifically and generate controversy well into his seventies.
The module will examine Roth’s fiction, alongside his non-fiction and the extensive body of critical work on him, in a number of different contexts: as part of a tradition of comic fiction that encompasses European modernists such as Kafka, Gogol and Schulz, as well as American contemporaries such as Bellow, Malamud and Heller; as a chronicler of, and commentator on, American post-war history; as a postmodernist author of ‘counterfactual’, (self-)deconstructive narratives context of debates; and as a self-consciously Jewish author, who has repeatedly explored questions of race and ethnicity.

•to provide students with detailed knowledge and understanding of Roth’s oeuvre, giving them a sense both of its rich diversity of its key themes and modes of writing.

•to provide students with detailed knowledge and understanding of a number of different critical, theoretical, social and historical contexts in which and against which Roth writes, and has been read

•to encourage students to analyse and interrogate their own and others’ critical methodologies

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module students will be expected to:
•employ skills of textual analysis to demonstrate understanding of the materials they have studied
•identify and engage critically with a number of different critical and theoretical discourses relating to contemporary American fiction
•evaluate and interrogate some of the ways in which the selected primary texts express and respond to contemporary social, cultural and historical conditions
•construct and articulate coherent critical arguments in writing

Additional outcomes:
The module will encourage students to: develop their oral communication skills through discussions in seminars; think critically both within and across disciplines; to interrogate their own assumptions and arguments, and those of others, including their peers and seminar-leaders.

Outline content:
This module examines the work of Philip Roth and how it engages with a range of social, cultural and historical ideas. Through detailed analysis of a number of key texts by Roth, and some of the contexts (literary-critical, ethno-racial, political) in which they were written, the module will explore the ways in which his work has shaped, and been shaped by, debates within the academy about, for example, realism and postmodernism, and, in the wider culture, about issues such as multiculturalism and the social responsibilities of the artist. The module will also consider the fluctuations in Roth’s critical reputation over the course of his career and his relationships, literary and extra-literary, with contemporaries such as Bellow, Malamud, Kundera and Levi, and pre-cursors such as Kafka, Schulz, Hawthorne and James.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module consists of eleven weekly seminars, each two hours in length. Each seminar will involve discussion of texts or special materials that have been set and prepared in advance. The module teacher will also be available for consultation with students on a one-to-one basis to discuss their work and the progress of the module as a whole.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 22
Project Supervision 1
Guided independent study: 177
Total hours by term 18
Total hours for module

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:
Not applicable.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
Aside from the set readings and questions for discussion, students must submit a 4000-word essay on a topic of their choice, in which they will respond to and develop upon an aspect of the material covered in the seminars. The specific title will be determined by the student in consultation with the module convenor.

Formative assessment methods:
Presentations with feedback.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:

Reassessment arrangements:
Re-submission of coursework.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 29 October 2019


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