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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2008

E 379S • Poets and Punks

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35590 MWF
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
BEN 1.126

Course Description

As part of our University-directed self-assessment project, the English Department has initiated an ePortfolio program for English majors. You will be asked to submit, in electronic form, two documents--a one page essay on the English major and a copy of your final paper for the seminar. Additionally, you will be asked to complete a brief four question survey. During the semester, you will receive details from your instructor or from the English Department on completing the survey and submitting the documents on your senior seminar's Blackboard website.

English Culture After 1945--
The postwar Age of Affluence elicited very different reactions in English literature and popular culture. The anger of the Angry Young Men, such as John Osborne, resulted in large part from their frustrated uncertainty over what was happening to the class structure. Was the working class really disappearing? In this respect the myth of Affluence seems to have befuddled the literary. As if to fathom the ostensibly new society, English writers turned to examination of popular culture as a historically unique extent, leaving an exorbitant, though largely hostile record. On the other hand, as the English field of "cultural studies" has shown, working-class youth subcultures, through an ensemble of commodities and musical allegiances, exposed quite successfully the limits of affluence. The very opulence of the Mods, for example, in Swinging London in the 1960's indirectly conveyed the irony of their dead-end jobs. When the punk subculture arose in 1976, as a confirmation finally in popular culture of the continuing existence of social misery and the working class, a new relationship with literature was struck by a radical bohemian avant-garde. Graham Greene was placed in the service of the Sex Pistols--to the considerable illumination of both.

This course in postwar English culture will concern the ways in which different types of cultural productions and activities succeed and fail to penetrate the veil of popular myths like "affluence." I want to raise questions about challenging authoritarian ideology in our own period, but my particular aim is to inject volatility into conventional notions of the hierarchy of high and mass culture. The postwar fiction, poetry, drama, and music studied in the course will lead on to an England far removed from traditional "literary landscape": the seaside amusements of Brighton, the sleazy Soho of Absolute Beginners, and the Carnaby Street that embraced Clockwork Orange (quite subversively, given the Tory pedantry at the core of the novel). Above all I want to raise the issue of what a truly radical, avant-garde practice involves, and what forms it might take. The realm of art, I will argue, can indeed be drawn into everyday life with progressive results. The course will be concerned with history, literature, music, criticism, popular culture theory, and sociology--the fields that have made up "cultural studies."

Grading Policy

Two 6-8-page essays (both to be revised); one 18-25-page term paper 90%
Attendance and Participation 10%


Fiction: Colin MacIness, Absolute Beginners
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
Graham Greene, Brighton Rock
Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Drama: John Osborne, Look Back in Anger
Edward Bond, Saved
Trevor Griffiths, Oi for England

Sociology: Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style


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