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The Doubtful Decade: British, American and Commonwealth Prose Fiction of the 1950s


Admission requirements



In this course we will read and discuss a representative but diversified selection of novels in the English language from the first full decade after World War II. It will be seen how the literature from this period reflects worldwide international themes: the desillusion about human civilisation as well as its reconstruction after an era of gruesome genocide and mass destruction; the crumbling of colonisation, resulting in new local and global conflicts, ‘Cold War’, mass migration and the onset of ‘multiculturalism’; as well as clashes between the generations, and ‘liberated’ and contested new notions about race, gender and sexuality.
h3. Course objectives
Based on the assumption that participants have already acquired the basic skills for the analysis of literary texts, this course aims to extend these skills both in terms of textual analysis (close reading) and contextual approach (cultural- and social-historical as well as theoretical). Students will be encouraged to share analytical and theoretical views on the assigned texts in class discussions, including weekly reading reports, and to focus research skills on a relevant subject of their own choice within the parameters of the course in the form of a final research paper.



Mode of instruction

Three-hour seminar

Course Load

  • Total course load: 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 13 × 3 + 1= 40 hours

  • Preparation of primary and (some) secondary literature: 200 hours

  • Final research paper: 40 hours

Assessment method

Oral participation in class (including weekly reading reports) and a written final research paper of ca. 5,000 words (deadline mid-June) each contribute for 50% to the final mark.
A final paper that has been handed in on time but which is not sufficient can be rewritten by mid-August; in case of more than two absences and/or insufficient participation in class, an oral examination on all or part of the reading material may be required by way of a (compensatory or full) resit, by mid-August at the latest.


Blackboard is not used for this course.

Reading list (in order of the programme)

J.R. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
Barbara Pym, Excellent Women (1952)
Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood (1952)
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (1954)
William Golding, The Inheritors (1955)
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
Gerald Kersh, Fowlers End (1957)
V.S. Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur (1957)
Patrick White, Voss (1957)
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958)
Colin McInnes, Absolute Beginners (1959)
Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King (1959)

Before the start of the course one should also be in possession of:
Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, Manchester University Press, 3rd edition, 2009


Enrollment through uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 527 2252 or e-mail.

When registering students of the MA Literary studies take priority. The deadline for registration is January 15. All other students should contact the Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.

Contact details

Dr W. Tigges, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 2.06B.

Literary Studies student administration Van Wijkplaats 3, room 002. Tel. 071 527 2251 or e-mail.

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.


Maximum number of participants: 20. No new participants will be admitted after the first meeting. This tutor does not supervise Master’s theses.