Faculty of Arts


The Modern Novel


What is modernity and what makes a novel modern? This course will pose and provide answers to this question through the study of novels from a variety of cultures and decades from the early twentieth to the early twenty-first centuries.

Including in our focus works from Europe, Asia and America, we will consider not only the stories novels tell about modernity but also the formal innovations of structure, style and voice novelists have made in their attempts to respond to a world undergoing rapid social, technological and political change.

Important foci and themes include the immigrant experience, loneliness and intimacy, and America as icon and agent of modernity. Our texts include examples of the graphic novel, the modernist novel, the twentieth-century bildungsroman, the thriller, the love story, the hybrid novel and the counterfactual or science fiction novel (so-called).

Aims and outcomes

The main aim of the course is to consider the fundamental features of the novel of modernity, using the early twentieth century as our starting point.

You will learn how:

  • To read novels closely (creatively and critically) and to test the value of your close readings in weekly group discussion
  • To elaborate and test larger questions about the ways in which novels are shaped by the significant social and technological changes occurring in industrialised and post-industrialised modernity, and more importantly, how they respond to and reconfigure these changes
  • To consider what might be unique to the modern novel as a form of participation in the modern world


Coursework only

Availability 2021

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Dr Eluned Summers-Bremner


Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr Ripley

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man 

Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

Franz Kafka, The Trial

WG Sebald, The Emigrants

Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun

Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union


ENGLISH 356: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage II in English



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